2017 was an exciting year for the VEGA Project! See what we were up to in our latest blog post featuring our Year in Review.Update on our progress since the Fall 2017 Newsletter:
Finalizing the Child Maltreatment Reviews and Guidance – Update from Geneva Meeting:Harriet MacMillan, Chris McKee, and Jill McTavish participated in the December 2017 WHO guideline development meeting for health sector responses to child maltreatment, where Harriet acted as co-chair, and Jill presented some of the findings from the VEGA Evidence Review Group meeting and systematic review. The meeting was a great success, and VEGA staff are working to ensure coordination across WHO and VEGA guidance, where appropriate and meaningful to do so.
The partner perspectives feature offers insight into various components of the VEGA project, as well as the ways in which different health and service providers approach recognizing and responding to family violence within their own practice areas. The Knowledge Mobilization team would like to thank Darlene Birch for her valuable contribution to this edition.
Darlene Birch (RM), National Aboriginal Council of Midwives (NACM)
Tell us about yourself and your work.
Hello, I am an Indigenous midwife of Metis descent from the Winnipeg, Red River area of Manitoba. I began midwifery practice at a time of transition from traditional practice to a legislated profession. I was privileged to receive inspiration and teaching as a young woman from traditional midwives and healers, two of whom were my Maternal grandmother and Great Grandmother, and from the courageous birthing women who reclaimed this essential relationship. I went on to further my education and become a registered midwife in Manitoba. I have actively practised for 35 years. I am honoured to co-represent the National Aboriginal Council of Midwives (NACM) on the VEGA Project, along with my friend and colleague, Carol Couchie.
In my early career, I was instrumental in developing midwifery legislation in Manitoba that was inclusive of Indigenous midwives. I was also a founding member of NACM, and worked in the creation of the Aboriginal Midwifery Baccalaureate Program at the University College of the North where I developed curriculum and instructed in this uniquely community-based program. In the later years of collaborative practice, I mentored midwifery and medical students.
I have worked in Norway House, a First-Nation community in a semi-remote area North of Lake Winnipeg, since 2006. My passion since 2000 has been the repatriation of birth and preservation of midwifery knowledge and practice in Aboriginal communities. I retired from clinical practice in October 2017 to pursue inspiration and further learning, participate in research opportunities, and support the reclamation of Indigenous midwifery practice.
Please share with us the impact of your work.
I believe that the overall health and wellbeing of an Indigenous community begins with the reintegration of values and teachings that reflect the cultural identity of the people, and give hope and self-respect. The core values of NACM honour these traditional approaches to care. They are: healing, respect, autonomy, compassion, bonding, breastfeeding, cultural safety, clinical excellence, education, and responsibility.
Midwifery care encompasses the childbearing year but as an Indigenous woman, I place the event of birth in the context of the woman’s life, the life of her family and community, and the history of her people. It is about ceremony, healing, growth, and relational ties. Just as childbearing is seen in the Indigenous view as a sacred responsibility, midwifery is understood to carry a similar responsibility.
Midwives, as many other professionals represented within VEGA’s work, work in a relationship-based model of care. Women and families arrive daily with complex lives that are ripe for change. They are often enmeshed in generational patterns of abuse. The way that Indigenous midwifery serves a community is a catalyst for a positive change at a susceptible time, a guardian of sorts, and a witness to creation. In many ways, the care midwives provide is the opposite of institutionalization, which has been the demise of culture.
Much of my work involves advocacy for clients who live in poverty and substandard conditions. The communities are underserved and under-resourced. One result of successful advocacy was the announcement in 2017 by then-Health Minister Philpott that women travelling away from home to give birth can now have a funded escort.
What are three practical tips that you would give to people in your field regarding care of adults and/or children who have experienced family violence and its impact?
VEGA appreciates the dedication of our partners in bringing their unique practice and lived experiences to our collective work. Thank you for these insights, Darlene.
This new section of our newsletter highlights some of the important work that VEGA NGIC partners are undertaking to both bring the issue of family violence to the attention of their stakeholders, as well as feature VEGA’s work. We invite all NGIC partners to share the work they or their organizations are doing in this area and talk to Harriet or Nadine about opportunities for collaboration to share VEGA’s work.
The Child Welfare League of Canada (CWLC) has held two events providing important opportunities to both showcase VEGA work, and address the links between various forms of family violence. In October 2016, Harriet and Nadine gave a joint keynote presentation to more than 400 attendees at the Domestic Violence & Child Welfare: Collaborating Across Provinces and Territories conference co-hosted by CWLC and the British Columbia government. In October 2017, Harriet was an invited Plenary Speaker at the National Forum on Innovations in Infant, Child, & Youth Mental Health in Calgary, AB. The VEGA Project was presented to health and social service providers and policy actors from across Canada, with particular attention to linking practice and policy with evidence around children’s exposure to intimate partner violence. Innovations in child maltreatment curriculum delivery were also discussed.
In February 2017, representative of the Canadian Psychological Association and VEGA NGIC member, Dr. Kerry Mothersill, both showcased the VEGA Project, and presented briefs on PreVAiL IPV and CE-IPV, at Calgary’s 5th Annual Psychology Day. Sponsored by the psychologists of the Calgary Zone of Alberta Health Services, the event was an important opportunity to introduce this work to attendees spanning a range of disciplines, including psychologists, social workers, occupational therapists, psychiatrists, and nurses.
In November 2017, Harriet presented Addressing Trauma: The Violence Evidence Guidance Action (VEGA) Project at Mental Health Innovations in Canada in Washington, DC. VEGA’s participation was arranged by both the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) (a VEGA NGIC member) and VEGA’s funder, the Public Health Agency of Canada. The event was hosted by the International Initiative for Mental Health Leadership (IIMHL) and The Embassy of Canada, in partnership with MHCC. Harriet’s keynote highlighted the relationship between family violence and mental health; international representatives included those from the United Kingdom, United States, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands and Sweden.
We are very excited to be working with two of our NGIC organization partners on upcoming knowledge mobilization activities.
This annual forum brings together leaders from over 20 dental, medical, and allied health organizations with an interest in oral health. We are very excited that this year’s Roundtable will focus entirely on family violence, and feature VEGA. Nadine Wathen, Harriet MacMillan, and our Canadian Paediatrics Association partner, Michelle Ward, will participate throughout the three-hour session, which will include interactive scenarios and group work, as well as previewing VEGA resources. Thank you to CDA Knowledge Mobilization lead, John O’Keefe, and NGIC representative, Kevin Desjardins, for inviting VEGA to this important event.
VEGA and our Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA) partners will be presenting a workshop at the 2018 CPHA Conference in Montreal, titled “Reducing Stigma through Trauma-and Violence-Informed Care (TVIC): Practical Applications in Family Violence, Sexual Health and Harm Reduction”. Vega team members Nadine Wathen, Marilyn Ford-Gilboe, and Colleen Varcoe will present the VEGA approach to integrating TVIC and other equity-oriented care principles into our family violence guidance and curriculum, while our CPHA partner, Rachel McLean, will discuss its application to sexual health. Thanks to Rachel and NGIC Representative, Greg Penney, for inviting VEGA to partner with them at this key national event.
McTavish JR, Kimber M, Devries K, et al. Mandated reporters’ experiences with reporting child maltreatment: a meta-synthesis of qualitative studies. BMJ Open 2017. Doi:10.1134/bmjopen-2016-01394. Published in BMJ Open, available here.