Native Child & Family Services

Tikinagan Program

Native Child and Family Services of Toronto (NCFST) is a multi-service urban Aboriginal agency providing holistic, culture-based programs and services for Aboriginal children and families. NCFST strives to provide a life of quality, well-being, healing, and self-determination for children and families in the Toronto urban Aboriginal community. We do this by implementing a culture-based service model that respects the values of Aboriginal people, the extended family and the right to self-determination. Established in 1986 by Elders, knowledge keepers, grassroots leaders, and community members, NCFST has supported Aboriginal children and families in Toronto for over three decades. In 2004 NCFST was directed by the Aboriginal community to accept a child welfare mandate to decolonize Aboriginal child welfare in the City of Toronto. NCFST continues to do this work by integrating holistic, culturally based prevention services that are child-centred, family-focused, and community-driven. Guided by the vision of providing holistic, culture-based integrated services with the guidance of the Aboriginal community, NCFST offers a full range of prevention programs, treatment and healing services, early years programs, youth programs, and cultural and recreational programs to all members of Toronto’s urban Aboriginal community.

Aboriginal people have long recognized the need for pre- and post-natal support for healthy families. At Native Child and Family Services of Toronto (NCFST), we are committed to beginning relationships with families early to provide prevention supports that stem the flow of families away from Child Welfare. We take a holistic and culturally based approach, working with other service providers in the community to deliver sustainable programming based on the needs of communities across Toronto.

Wrapping babies in moss bags and placing them in a Tikinagan (cradleboard) is a traditional practice that helps infants develop an awareness of self and learn about the world around them. These cradleboards were created by families and often passed down through generations. This is a ceremonial time during which a feeling of safety and protection is created. This womb-like environment minimizes insecurity and fear of the unknown.

Pregnant Aboriginal women, their partners and infants are often confronted by barriers when attempting to access culturally informed pre/post natal health care.  Native Child and Family Services of Toronto’s Tikinagan team provides a circle of care and case management for pregnant and postpartum mothers, their infants, and partners. Tikinagan is an integrated pre and post-natal team that offers culturally responsive, early intervention health and support services to nurture a healthy start for Aboriginal infants.

Our collaborative service delivery model utilizes a multi-disciplinary approach to address the service gaps in pre- and post-natal care. Tikinagan’s culturally grounded, trauma-informed practice is flexible, accessible, and mobile. Our team partners with midwives, Toronto Public Health nurses, nurse practitioners, doulas, elders, and knowledge keepers to provide a service wraparound that meets the needs of infants, mothers, and their partners. We accept individual, community and NCFST referrals and welcome all Aboriginal caregivers, parents, and their infants (0-6 months) to participate in our services.

We also offer a variety of in-house, group, drop-in and one-to-one counselling while providing access to opportunities that include cultural birth year teachings as well as Welcoming, Naming, Cedar Bath, and Full Moon ceremonies.

With Aubrey & Marla Dan Foundation’s (AMDF) support for our Tikinagan Program, we are working to support the street outreach component of the Tikinagan Program. The program offers mobile support to Indigenous caregivers before and after pregnancy (until the child is two years old), focusing on serving those dealing with homelessness and poverty.

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“By adopting an integrated and collaborative service delivery model, our Tikinagan Program has offered culturally responsive, early intervention health and support services to nurture a healthy start for numerous Aboriginal infants and their families in Toronto.”

Jeffrey Schiffer

Executive Director