Staff Spotlight: Patricia Phillips, Strengthening Families Coordinator

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Patricia supports families and fathers at VACFSS.

Tell us about your background.

I am from the Tobacco Plains Indian Band located in Grasmere, B.C., which is close to the USA and Alberta borders. I always knew I wanted to work with First Nations people, but in what capacity I wasn’t sure. Moving to Vancouver, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to travel to many First Nations throughout BC with my husband, and in visiting these different communities I learned I wanted to help Indigenous families in the social work or health field.

I went to school and took studies in A&D Counselling and Aboriginal Health Administration. After that I earned certificates in both fields, I worked with Native Courtworkers in Vancouver to support Indigenous families in the justice system through the social and economic impacts of colonial legislation.

It was in this position that I learned about VACFSS and the innovative work they do to support clients. I put in my resume shortly after to work with their Family Preservation and Reunification team! The rest is history – I’ve been with the agency for 11 years.

Tell us about your role at VACFSS.

As the Strengthening Families/Fathers Coordinator, I think I have the best position at VACFSS—I love my job! I get to meet and know so many Indigenous families. I’ve probably met with over 500 families and I have the honour of hearing their story and to share their pain, their hope, their hopelessness, and to be a part of their life and support them in their journey.

“I think that because of my background as an Indigenous woman who has spent many years working with Indigenous families and communities, that our clients at VACFSS understand I have no judgment and that I believe in them, and that I see their strengths.”

I coordinate our Strengthening Families and Strengthening Fathers programs, both which support prevention programs for families, education, guidance, and cultural practice to heal. Developing a relationship with the families I work with so that they know they can talk to me at any time gives me the greatest pleasure. I think that because of my background as an Indigenous woman who has spent many years working with Indigenous families and communities, that our clients at VACFSS understand I have no judgment and that I believe in them, and that I see their strengths.

What’s been a highlight of work at VACFSS?

Last fall, we had 9 fathers and they had 12 children in our Strengthening Fathers Group. It was our biggest cohort ever, and to see the interactions of the fathers supporting one another was amazing. The Strengthening Fathers Group was a program we developed in 2012 at VACFSS when we realized we needed to find a way to invite fathers into the family healing process, and it has really taken off and been very successful.

I love that I get to know and support the fathers in this group as they seek to grow their parenting confidence and help each other as peers. I get to provide the material for the group meetings, support them and be their advocate while they are engaged with VACFSS programs.

“I love that I get to know and support the fathers in this group as they seek to grow their parenting confidence and help each other as peers.”

I also have a wonderful team that I work with to deliver these programs including Elders and knowledge keepers. I couldn’t do it without them and working with them is definitely a highlight that I reflect on every day

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

I am an avid golfer, hiker, and rodeo enthusiast. I have a daughter who continues to do rodeo competitively. I also have two wonderful grandsons who are becoming adults and exploring their own future endeavors.

I come from a big, very close family and I am close friends with my brother and sisters. We thank the upbringing of our parents who instilled in us that family is everything and that without family you have no connection to who you are or your land, identity, traditions or culture. This philosophy underpins all my work with families – that by strengthening them, we are restoring the links to strong Indigenous identities. I am exactly where I need to be at VACFSS.