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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Local knowledge as praxis : a reflective critical narrative of child welfare practice and service to Aboriginal children and families Kozey, Stephen William


“The truth about stories is that’s all we are.” Thomas King (2003, p.2). This study is a reflective critical narrative by a non-Aboriginal practitioner whose professional practice has been associated with provision of services to Aboriginal children and families. The themes of the study include: my efforts to make meaning and theorize about my practice; illustrations of how Aboriginal epistemologies and worldviews have transformed my practice; and evidence in the literature, supported by my practice experience, that meaningful service change inclusive of ‘place-centered knowledge’ is necessary for transforming child welfare service and service delivery. My narrative draws on: stories and oral accounts of Aboriginal Elders and carriers of local knowledges; families engaged in Aboriginal Family Group Conferences; statements of Aboriginal community leaders and non-Aboriginal human service agency personnel including government officials. Some of the data is represented in the vignettes; from personal reflections of my participation in ceremonial work and Family Group Conference sharing circles. This reflective narrative responds to three questions: first; what knowledge and human service practice elements a non-Aboriginal professional service provider should possess in order to provide an effective service to Aboriginal children and families, second; what are the impacts of re-introducing local knowledge as the foundation upon which an alternative and effective Aboriginal child welfare service delivery system can be achieved, and third; what paradigm shifts in human services are necessary for the professional helping disciplines to become ‘facilitators of’ rather than ‘obstacles to’ changes that are required for the effective delivery of child welfare services to Aboriginal populations? I call for a service change that re-introduces local cultural practices including ceremony, healing, and sacred spiritual practices; and a general shift in relationships between professionals and families from a linear ‘results based’ approach that identifies with professionalism and Eurocentric knowledge to a relational and ‘process based’ connection and communication that is characteristic of Indigenous epistemologies. Such a transformation is necessary in order to engage the collective resources of Aboriginal extended families to help reduce the high rates of Aboriginal children held in Provincial protective care across Canada.

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