Who We Are
The Indigenous Child and Family Services Directors represents the 24 First Nation, Inuit and Métis Delegated Aboriginal Agencies (DAAs) in British Columbia. For decades, we have been advocating for the resumption of support and care for our children and youth.
Since the very first contact between Settlers and Indigenous Peoples, paternalistic colonial child welfare practices have had destructive impacts on the well-being of our children and families. This long history has contributed to the over-representation of our children in the child welfare system and poor outcomes for these children and their families. It’s time for that to change.
Mission, vision and guiding principles
We work to support culturally based child and family services in the communities that Indigenous Child and Family Services Agencies operate in. Our mission is to support Indigenous Nations’ visions for jurisdiction and self-government pertaining to the well-being of their children and youth.
The Indigenous Child and Family Services Directors Forum was developed by child and family service advocates including Nita Walkem, a trailblazer for Indigenous child welfare in her own community and across the province. Read our creation story and learn how the Indigenous Child and Family Services Directors Forum came to be.
Meet the dedicated Indigenous Child and Family Services Directors who meet collectively as the “Indigenous Child and Family Services Directors Forum.” Together, they advocate for the best interests of our children and youth.
Maaxswxw Gibuu / Gitk’san and Carrier from Takla Lake First Nation
Carrier Sekani Family Services
Mary is Gitk’san and Carrier from Takla Lake First Nation, and is a proud member of the Luxgaboo Wolf Clan. She is the Executive Director of Child and Family Services at Carrier Sekani Family Services (CSFS) where she oversees the provincially delegated programs, youth services, family preservation, maternal child health, and the Highway of Tears Initiative, as well as violence prevention programs.
Mary holds the Hereditary Chiefs name Maaxswxw Gibuu (White Wolf). She has been raised to live her culture, customs, laws and traditions. Mary has long espoused that in order for nations to be revitalized; nations have to heal from the atrocities that occurred through colonization. She maintains that all services, programs and initiatives developed to benefit First Nations have to be built on a cultural foundation.
Mary holds an Executive MBA, Indigenous Business and Leadership from Simon Fraser University and received the Dean’s Convocation Medal for being in top five percent in her class. Mary is Chair of the Directors Forum.
She is a relentless advocate for human, Indigenous, and women’s rights and has served on various provincial, national, and international committees. She represents BC on the Board of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada and has acted as a Steering Committee member of the First Nation Early Childhood development Council. She has been a member of the Provincial Ministers Advisory Council on Aboriginal Women, and works tirelessly to inform people about the Missing and Murdered Indigenous women in Canada.
Gitxsan Child & Family Services Society
Cheryl Williams is Gitxan and serves as the Executive Director of Gitxsan Child & Family Services Society. Over the past 7 years as Executive Director Cheryl has grown the organization to assume a much larger role in design and delivery of culturally appropriate programs and services.
Cheryl holds both a Bachelor and Masters Degree in Social Work.
Yataltenat / Squamish Nation
Ayás Méńmen Child & Family Services
Kelly is a member of the Squamish Nation from the village of Eslha7n on the shores of North Vancouver, British Columbia in the traditional territories of the Coast Salish peoples. She is the Granddaughter to the late Harry Newman and Florence (nee John). Her Mother is the late Yataltanault Carole Newman.
Kelley is the Director of Ayás Méńmen Child & Family Services Department where she leads over 70 staff to fulfil the mandate to provide proactive prevention and education strategies to Nation families; negotiate family service, voluntary care and special need agreements with families in need; provide guardianship services to children in care; and to represent Squamish interests.
As Director she is responsible not only for the Administration of programs, but also for the care and well-being of Squamish Nation children. Together with the staff and community, Ayás Méńmen works to exercise Squamish inherent right to take care of thier own and bring peace to children.
Kelley notes that recognizing the inherent strengths of our community regardless of the challenges we face means were are more able to meet the needs of our members in positive healthy ways. This means being grounded in our Squamish values, culture and traditions.
“Our people are guided by awareness that the ways of our ancestors created balance within home, family and community. The foundation of this way of life was having the ability to Guide, Protect and Provide.”
Surrounded By Cedar Child And Family Services
Jennifer Chukry has worked for Surrounded by Cedar Child & Family Services (SCCFS) since for nearly 20 years and currently serves as the Executive Director. Of Cree ancestry from Saskatchewan Jennifer has made her family in southern Salish territory.
At SCCFS provides service to urban Indigenous children, youth and families who belong to Nations throughout BC and across Turtle Island.
Jennifer is passionate about urban Indigenous people, communities and issues and works to create space for urban Indigenity. She celebrate the strong sense of community that has been created in urban centres which brings Indigenous people together, to gather, to meet, to hold each other up, to love each other.
Jennifer believes that many of our children, youth and families are working through disconnection from their ancestral territories, their cultural identities and their sense of belonging. SCCFS practice is firmly rooted in the belief that connection to spirit and identity through familial, hereditary and cultural linkages are the strongest protective factors in promoting safety and well-being amongst Indigenous people. We know that children are that most sacred gift given to our people by Creator and we work hard to honour their well-being with the highest regard.
I have great admiration for the brilliance of our people, our beliefs, our teachings, and our ceremonies, and wherever possible, I believe that we need to rely more on our own knowledge and less on westernized approaches. The kids we work with, their little spirits are so fragile. We need to plan for our children as if our lives depend on it … that’s how gentle and cautious and sacred our approach needs to be.
Métis Family Services
William (Bill) Yoachim
Snuneymuxw First Nation
Kw’umut Lelum Child & Family Services
William Yoachim – Sqwulutsutun – is the son of the late Ivy Wyse, and grandson to Eva and Alfred Wyse. Bill completed his BSW at the University of Victoria and has worked in Indigenous Child and Family Services since 1998. A proud member of Snuneymuxw First Nation in Nanaimo, he has served as Executive Director of Kw’umut Lelum since 2008.
His early career in youth outreach and social work, along with the snuw’uy’ulh imparted on him by his family and community, gave Bill the foundation to lead the agency through expanded levels of delegation, to provide the full range of services mandated by the Child, Family and Community Service Act to all of its nine Member Nations.
Bill is exceedingly proud of the culturally-informed and compassionate services offered by Kw’umut Lelum’s 85+ staff. Coast Salish teachings and values guide every aspect of practice, but the guiding principle of the organization is nutsumaat shqwaluwun – together with one heart and one mind.
Under Bill’s leadership, the agency’s unique approach has resulted in significant decreases in the number of children coming into care, and their focus on family unity means that many of their children and youth remain within their family systems and tied to their community and culture.
The Indigenous Child and Family Services Directors Forum works with federal and provincial governments through a formal Partnership Forum table. We work together in mutual respect with a collaborative approach to identify challenges, build on strengths and develop solutions to provide ethical, proactive and accountable services to children and families based on their cultural values. We collaborate on building and enhancing child and family service delivery, addressing common interests, identifying resources, and creating committees to support the work of the Partnership Forum.Read more
Find an Agency
Indigenous Child and Family Service Agencies across British Columbia have been providing child welfare and support services for our children — in over 120 First Nation communities — for over 30 years.