Cultural Connections: Homecoming Reunification Ceremonies

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There are many ceremonies grounded in diverse cultural traditions at Vancouver Aboriginal Child and Family Services Society, from Honouring our Sacred Bundles (Babies Ceremony) to Honouring the Journey of our Youth (Aging into community) – and in 2018 we are proud to again be facilitating Homecoming Reunification Ceremonies for the families we work with.

Homecoming ceremonies are an extremely important milestone to honour the work of families who are reunited with children or youth after a period of time in care. The ceremonies support and recognize the journey that a family has gone through to heal and come back together.  

The ceremonies belong to the families –they decide who is invited and what traditions are incorporated.

The ceremonies belong to the families –they decide who is invited and what traditions are incorporated. Surrounded by their supports, including family, social workers or community partners they have invited, the ceremony brings together the parents or guardians with their children in the centre of their support circle.

Family Support Elders Bruce Robinson, from the Nisga’a Nation, and Betty Clayton, of the Lax Kwa’laams and Nisga’a Nations, facilitate the sessions. They begin by brushing the family with cedar boughs, signifying a brushing of the past so they can be renewed in their journey as a family.

At a recent ceremony, Bruce explained the significance of this practice to the youth as she stood next to her mother in the centre of their support circle. “Feel the sticky and rough edges of the cedar? That is going to stick to anything negative and heavy and pull it away from you two.”

After the cleansing, members of the support circle bear witness and offer words of encouragement and acknowledgment of the journey the family has gone through to arrive this point. It is a powerful moment for the parents and guardians to be recognized by their support circle in a good way for the important work they’ve done to move forward.

It is a powerful moment for the parents and guardians to be recognized by their support circle in a good way for the important work they’ve done to move forward.

Their support circle, including social workers, Client Support Elders and others know the work that has gone in to the reunion and have in some cases have worked closely with the family over a number of years. “I know the important work that your mother has done to have you come home,” a social worker addressed to the youth through tears. “I want you to know how much your mom has loved you, cared for you and how important you are to her and have always been. I want you to always remember that.”

There is rarely a dry eye in the room by the time the ceremony closes and a meal celebrating the family is shared by their community.