FVACFSS – Winter 2018 Newsletter


Fraser Valley Aboriginal Children & Family Services Society

Winter 2018 Newsletter

Message from the Board of Directors


Left to right: Sheradon Roberts, Angelina Gosselin, Judy Douglas, Marion Mussell, Tammy Bartz, Dianne Garner, Paula Olmstead. Helen Joe, Peter John. Missing: Helen Joe.


Welcome to the Winter 2018 edition of our quarterly newsletter. We would like to wish our stakeholders, partners, staff and the families we serve a beautiful holiday season as we honour our winter traditions and celebrate generosity and family during this special time of year.

The past few months have been busy for the Board. A priority focus was the planning and preparations for the Society Annual General Meeting (AGM) that was held at Tzeachten Hall on Oct 24th.  Approximately 80 people (FVACSS members and staff) gathered for the annual reporting of the year’s activity, society financials and programming highlights.

This year one Board seat was up election. Billy Jo Pike from Cheam First Nation completed two consecutive terms and during those terms carried out Board work with commitment and informed dedicated service.  We acknowledge and are grateful for Billy’s exceptional work as Secretary and as a Board member. We wish her the best in her future endeavors.

Judy Douglas from the Cheam First Nation was elected by the membership to serve on the Board. The Board welcomes Judy who brings to the Board a wealth of knowledge and experience and in addition is well versed about community needs and aspirations.  She brings decades of experience working with Aboriginal children in care, as both a caregiver and as a social worker.  

At a recent training event for staff the statement by Kevin Campbell was noted: “There is no Agency. There is only family, community“.  This reminds us that we all work to provide timely quality services in the context of professionalism, healthy boundaries, sensitivity, understanding, and kindness.  The focus about the importance of family community and positive relationships has translated into an expansion of the Development of Family Cultural Connections Team, Youth Transition Coordinators and Family Preservation Counsellors.

In the past two years we have grown from 132 to 200 staff. The Board acknowledges the commitment and good work of our staff in the roles and tasks they fulfill. 

In the coming months the Board will continue work towards the completion of our goals, to perform oversight responsibilities, and strengthening communication and engagement with our membership and stakeholders.

If you are interested in the work of the Board and would like to us to do a presentation on our activities, we would be delighted to visit with your group. Please call or email Jill Hammond, Executive Assistant, at 604-858-0113, [email protected] to arrange a time.

Thank you to all our staff, stakeholders and partners in the community for their ongoing support.

Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year!

The Board of Directors
Fraser Valley Aboriginal Children & Family Services Society

Orange Shirt Day


Orange Shirt Day is a day to remember that ‘Every Child Matters’ and to honour the story of Phyllis, a child who on her first day at residential school had her orange shirt taken away from her. While this day stems from Phyllis’s story it has expanded to include honoring all the children who were taken from their homes and spent time at residential schools, many of whom never returned home. It’s also a day to show your support for a reconciled future.

 Xyólheméylh staff recognized the day by wearing our Orange Shirts on Friday, September 28 and Saturday, September 29.  Staff joined in community events in Abbotsford, Mission and Chilliwack. In Langley on Saturday morning from noon to 2 pm, the Elders and Staff of the Lower Fraser Valley Aboriginal Society and the Fraser Valley Aboriginal Children and Family Services Society-  Xyólheméylh recognized the day with a light lunch and bannock as well as children’s activities.

Caregiver appreciation night


Xyólheméylh said a heartfelt thank you to our caregivers on October 17 with an evening of food, dancers and speeches.

Herb Joe, speaker for the event, told the approximately 70 caregivers who attended, “Hopefully by the end of the evening you will see how much we appreciate you.”  Elder Arlene Heese led a prayer and Semiahmoo Chief Harley Chappell spoke about the importance of culture and Dan Ludeman spoke about the upcoming Visions and Voices forum for youth.

Dan also explained how he came to receive the honorary name of Xyólheméylh. In 1993, when the Agency was first started, the chiefs of the nations felt it was important for a person to embody the name of the organization and gave Dan the name of Xyólheméylh, which means the relationship between someone who gives care and someone who receives care.

Connecting youth with their culture


By Wanda John, FCCW, Surrey

This summer, I was able to accompany five boys between the ages of 13 to 20, along with the Guardianship Social Worker, the caregiver of three of the boys and an adorable three-year old who was the daughter of the Caregiver. It started like a trip from National Lampoon’s Vacation movies, as nine of us met at the airport to fly to Winnipeg, Manitoba. One of the boys didn’t bring his identification so he ended up missing the flight. He and MCFD managed to figure out the ID issue and he was able to fly out later, while one tired child (the Caregiver’s three year old girl), four rambunctious boys, one home sick FCCW (myself) and one optimistic social worker waited at the airport eating greasy fries and hoping for free refills to continue a much needed sugar rush.

During the trip, we took the boys to a Sweatlodge ceremony where they received their traditional names. The boys, two social workers and myself entered the sweat lodge and were told, “Crawl in and crawl out. We crawl in like babies and when we leave we crawl out again like babies reborn.” As uncomfortable as it was to crawl because a lot of us don’t garden or don’t plan on taking it up any time soon, the boys had no problem finding a spot in the sweat lodge to sit together side by side. The elder explained to us the reason for red hot rocks, as they were carried in one by one to the center of the lodge. The boys watched and listened and for once I was not worried about ‘boys being boys’. They sat entranced by the motions, the smells of the sweetgrass, cedar, tobacco and sage burning in the middle as each new rock was carried in and acknowledged with traditional medicines. One of the social workers had never been to a Sweat lodge ceremony and wasn’t sure what to expect. With her entire being, she lasted all four rounds and coming from an Indigenous person, is definitely a warrior! Four rounds for a first timer is grand. The Caregiver also participated in the Sweat lodge Ceremony and was another first time Sweat lodge Warrior! They all slept like logs that night…

These boys set foot in their father’s, grandmother’s and their ancestors’ territory which will definitely stay in their minds as life carries them forward and others ask them, “Where are you from?”  The social worker and myself all got to know and talk to the boys as people. Sometimes being in an office doesn’t offer any space to be ourselves and just “be people.” It was clear that the boys were excited, happy and also a little cautious. Being a child in care leaves no room to trust anyone, especially with most of your hopes and dreams dashed by parents not being there when they should have been. It was endearing to see the connection of these five boys who have through thick and thin, stuck together even in different placements. The bond between these boys is a life-long connection; they are each other’s family.

The genogram doubled in size as the boys met other family members and actually saw resemblances to bio family like noses and eye color. The workers made sure to talk to people and gather more family information which is way easier to do face to face then it is receiving a cold call and trying to explain what you are doing years later. The initial face-to-face with the representatives, was a meeting to introduce the boys to ‘their’ band as well as get any information about family. We all got in the 12 passenger tour bus and drove both sides of the river as the Sagkeeng Nation is divided by a beautiful river. One way to introduce the boys home? Go on a tour with the band reps.

Treaty Days and their yearly Pow Wow was next to a Tim Horton’s which made it really cool according to the youngest boy with the most soulful eyes a child should ever have. Sagkeeng Nation has a Tim Hortons!, exclaimed one of the boys, as we waited for our coffees and specialty drinks made of pure sugar, but we were in a new province so sugar in copious amounts is forgivable.

The Pow Wow emcee, who was also the elder at the Sweat lodge Ceremony announced the boys over the mic and welcomed them home which was pretty special. The clouds in the sky stood big and tall, and emotions and thoughts swirled as the boys asked questions and sat to watch the Pow Wow under the arbor as the rain pelted the ground. Lucky thing they had hot chocolate! You had to walk in the mud to get it but at least we had our hot beverages! Never have the boys seen so much lightning! (and mud). I think the workers have made a mental note not to wear white to a Pow Wow.

We all stood in line to get the boys Treaty money payments and also to document their status numbers. Even the thirteen-year old stood in line to get his treaty payment and sign for it: his first signed document on home territory, pretty significant. We helped them with the whole process of waiting in line and answering the endless questions and helping the boys feel comfortable, especially in a place where everything is so different compared to the city they were mainly raised in.

I think one of the best moments, was when the boys found out that their cousin was in charge of the three bouncy castles! All five boys went in and bounced and bounced! I guess age doesn’t matter when you’re on the reserve and your cousin is the bouncy castle bouncer! We have pics to prove it! Bounce, bounce bounce like Tigger from Winnie the Pooh; Eeyore was no where in sight except when it was time to wake the boys up in the morning or maybe that was Jurassic Park?

What an amazing experience for everyone including the workers who walk side by side with the children when they first step onto home territory. It is a journey and a part of that child’s journey for future exploration and processing. Being in care already has a huge impact on the sense of identity and giving these children a place to start by bringing ‘them ‘home’ is beautiful, impactful and necessary. It is also an opportunity to reveal a piece of their identity at a young age which is integral to developing a healthy sense of identity. Their lives, being children in care, has not been easy, will not be easy, but the more connected these children are to family, community and culture; the better chance they have at standing in their truth, healing and thinking beyond the past. Honoring these children by doing these trips is saying they matter and that we do care what happens to them.

about our programs


FVACFSS is a fully delegated Aboriginal child welfare agency providing culturally appropriate and holistic services through strengthening, community development and child welfare programs. Our programs include:

Shxwhá:y Family Home

The Family Home is a live-in facility and resource for the entire family unit. Families struggling with parenting and other challenges may be considered for placement in the Family Home. The program is designed to facilitate family growth and development through a continuum of integrated and holistic services. Services are focused on the well-being of children, supporting families to be healthy, and ensuring children grow up in safe and nurturing homes.

Family Preservation

Aboriginal cultures encourage a holistic healing approach that focuses on physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. Fraser Valley Aboriginal Children and Family Services Society (FVACFSS) uses this method to assist individuals and families in a way that brings about positive growth in their lives.

We work collaboratively with families and communities to develop strategies in problem-solving, life skills, conflict resolution, and to develop or enhance parenting skills. FVACFSS facilitates and makes appropriate referrals to other services families may require, such as therapy, wellness circles and alcohol and drug services.

Risk Assessment and Reduction Planning

The Family Services Teams are responsible for the ongoing case management and the integration of services to families. The Family Services Social Worker uses a holistic and healing approach that assists individuals and families to bring about positive growth in their lives.

Services consist of individual support, modelling, providing information, advocacy, and conducting family circles and meetings. Families as a whole and/or their individual members can receive support in developing communication, parenting, problem-solving, home management and other important life skills.

FVACFSS supports keeping families together whenever possible. Supported connections is a program available at FVACFSS in Surrey that allows parents to spend quality time with their child-in-care. Supported connections provides a safe place where families can spend time together, cook meals, and play, with staff always on hand to provide support as needed.

Family Support

The Family Enhancement Team focus is to provide information, guidance and modelling to families at risk. Available to those who may have lost contact with their culture, extended family systems, natural supports and/or communities.

Supports include education, referrals, facilitating cultural identity. The goals are to preserve the family, facilitate self-sufficiency, improve parenting skills and help develop a strong sense of cultural identity.

Christmas at Xyolhemeylh

Xyólheméylh held Christmas parties for children in care on November 24 in Chilliwack and December 1 in Abbotsford. Approximately 500 children and caregivers attended both parties and had fun decorating cookies and decorations, drumming and visiting with Santa.

This year we also will be able to provide almost 100 families with Christmas food hampers and gifts and toys. These are families that receive services through our Agency. Thanks to all our staff, partners, religious communities and friends in the communities we serve for their generosity in helping to make the drive a success this year.


Upcoming Events


Community-Based Social Work Practice Forum

Please join us at a Community-Based Social Work Practice Forum

What are your community needs? What kind of support services and programs does your community need? Bring your ideas, thoughts and solutions!

Wednesday, January 16
9am – 4pm

Tzeachten Community Hall; 45855 Promontory Road, Chilliwack Refreshments and Lunch provided

RSVP: email Natalie.Brandon@ Xyolhemeylh.bc.ca or Call: 1.800.663.9393


Annual Aboriginal Family Forum

Xyólheméylh annual Aboriginal Family Forum is happening Friday, March 8 and Saturday, March 9, 2019 at the Neighbourhood Learning Centre in Chilliwack.

The weekend is free to attend and open to Aboriginal families and individuals. On the Friday evening, the keynote speaker and workshops. On Saturday there will be activities for the families.


Walking in the Sacred Teachings of Our Dear Elders: Achieving Family Peace

January 28 to March 11, 2019, Mondays 5-8 pm

102, 20644 Eastleigh Crescent, Langley Please send registrations to Julia McCaffrey via fax at (604) 533-8827 or via email to [email protected]

If you have any questions, please call Julia at (604) 533-8826 or text (604) 866-4076