What's New

15 August 2018

Pilot program has potential to improve developmental outcomes for children in First Nations communities

An innovative partnership is delivering important developmental services including speech therapy, physiotherapy, and occupational therapy to children and youth resident on Aamjiwnaang, Walpole Island, and Kettle & Stony Point First Nations. Developed through a collaboration of these communities with Pathways Health Centre for Children in Sarnia and five local industry partners, the pilot launched last November, delivers services at various locations on each of the three First Nations by Pathways therapists working alongside indigenous health, social service, education, and therapy support staff.
Minister of Community and Children's Services Lisa MacLeod recently visited the Aamjiwnaang First Nation and Pathways Health Centre for Children in Sarnia to talk about the program. From left to right: Chris Plain, Chief of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation in Sarnia, Hon. Lisa Macleod, Sarnia-Lambton MPP Bob Bailey, and child support worker Rachael Simon.

Photo courtesy of Sarnia-Lambton MPP Bob Bailey

The need for service in each of these communities is much greater than evidenced by the small numbers of First Nations families who have access to transportation and feel comfortable bringing their children off reserve for therapy in locations where Pathways provides service. The children’s treatment centre serves families in an area that is home to an indigenous population that is a higher percentage than the Ontario average; in Lambton County 4.2 per cent of the population self identifies as indigenous.
Many families are reluctant to access services off reserve due to challenges like transportation, unfamiliarity with the environment, lack of a culturally safe setting and prior history with institutional types of settings. For these reasons, the children of these families are left behind.
The community linkage is essential to building trusting relationships between families, children and youth, First Nations education and social service supports, and therapists. Each of the three First Nations designed its own community-driven model of care to be delivered together with Pathways therapists. This involved arranging locations for service delivery, facilitating connections with their own health, social service and education services staff, and providing logistical support to establish and integrate these services into the daily pattern of life on the three communities.
Suncor, Esso, Shell, Nova Chemicals, and Arlanxeo provided $100,000 in startup funding for the pilot and are now into the second year of support.
Conversations with each First Nation ensured program delivery provided for their unique desired elements, including the language to be used to describe the different elements of assessment and intervention, the location and type of services offered, caregiver and extended family engagement, the opportunity to make changes based on feedback received, and to participate as part of existing programs where families gather.
The program also builds capacity by creating employment opportunities and on the job training for indigenous therapy workers on each First Nation, who gain experience and encouragement to pursue a career in a related field. Indigenous scholarship programs offered by local businesses may be extended to support students pursuing studies in allied health programs.
The pilot aims to serve 75 children and youth and train three indigenous therapy support workers in the first year. And each First Nation has expanded the service provided by Pathways with funding through Jordan’s Principle.


“First Nations children and families face numerous barriers and challenges in obtaining culturally safe health and social services. The Aamjiwnanng Health Centre has experienced great success with services when they are delivered on the First Nation and designed in a way that truly meets the needs of our community.”  -  Chief Chris Plain, Aamjiwnaang First Nation
“Bkejwanong is committed to supporting our children and ensuring that they continue to receive these much-needed services on-reserve. If families receive appropriate types and levels of service throughout the child’s lifetime, they will be far better prepared for the difficult transition to adulthood.”  - Chief Daniel R. Miskokomon, Walpole Island First Nation, Bkejwanong Unceded Territory
“Our partners at Pathways have been persistent in pursuing and securing funding support for the delivery of speech and language, occupational therapy and physiotherapy on First Nations to children in need of these services and we have been delighted to partner with them in this new, innovative initiative.”  - Chief Jason Henry, Chippewas of Kettle & Stony Point First Nation

“Working with indigenous communities to build capacity to co-develop and deliver culturally appropriate service involves not only education but cultural change in how we at Pathways do business. We’re learning from them how to communicate, engage with families, plan care, collaborate on meaningful performance milestones, and determine factors for success in policy and governance moving forward across our organization.”  - Jenny Greensmith, Executive Director of Pathways Health Centre for Children