Understanding VACFSS’ Indigenous Core Cultural Competencies


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In August 2019, VACFSS finalized a key initiative to formally recognize how Indigenous cultural ways of knowing and being are integrated into our policy and practice. While VACFSS has been weaving Indigenous cultural knowledge and practice into our programs and services for many years, the newly defined Indigenous Core Cultural Competencies (ICCC) are an important guide that clearly characterize how each employee at VACFSS can ground their work in relation to Indigenous knowledge. They will be incorporated into our staff selection and evaluation processes for every position within the agency.

What are the VACFSS Indigenous Core Cultural Competencies?

There are six ICCCs identified by VACFSS that define how we can incorporate Indigenous worldviews into our practice and work, which is an overarching goal of VACFSS. We know that when we are serving children and families in a culturally-informed way, our services are improved and our workplace is healthier, more diverse, and stronger. The six ICCC’s are:

  1. Resilience: This characteristic recognizes that Indigenous people have been resilient in the face of challenges; it is the ability to recover from colonial practices or adjust readily to change or misfortune and utilize a strengths-based approach, cultural reclamation and perseverance. These are healing pathways that are replicated in our practice.
  2. Emotional competency: The ability to maintain controlled emotional involvement in dealing with self and with others. This includes being grounded in traditional Indigenous values with self and others in dealing with persons served and other employees who are anxious or distraught. It also recognizes the importance of self-care and encourages staff to utilize personal and organizational resources, such as EAP, peer group support, massage and counselling, and other supports offered by the employer.
  3. Relational engagement: This applies the Indigenous concept of relational engagement to persons served, to other employees and to the land from an Indigenous world view. It emphasizes personal relations as the core for communication and engagement, encourages earth-based knowledge, and acknowledges the territories and peoples of the land in which we work.
  4. Indigenous leadership (Siiyamints): Utilizes Indigenous values and models of leadership which are entrenched in Indigenous leaderships views. It is communicating a positive future to persons served and employees and demonstrating and promoting Indigenous values of VACFSS.
  5. Collaborative problem solving and decision making: Utilizes collaborative approaches and consensus in analyzing and developing appropriate solutions to problems, evaluating a course of action and reaching decisions and modifying decisions.
  6. Indigenous cultural/spiritual expression: Recognizes the traditional role that culture and spirituality play in the everyday life of Indigenous people. It requires staff to familiarize themselves with the protocols, healing power and transformation that come from cultural spiritual practice.

What do Indigenous Core Cultural Competencies look like in social work practice?

For social workers, the ICCC’s are an important prompt to keep redirecting us to integrate culture into our practice with the children and families we serve. For (3) relational engagement, it means ensuring that families are connected to their community, extended family and land to support healing. For (5) collaborative problem solving and decision making, it could mean resisting the temptation to jump to conclusions without sufficient information despite pressure to act, and recognizing the rights of children and youth in the consultation process.

The ICCC’s go beyond the work with families and children and extend to how we relate to colleagues, teams, supervisors and community partners and keep redirecting us to do our best work in a good way.

What about for other employees?

At first it might seem like the ICCC’s apply mostly to social work, but they will be defined within every position at VACFSS. As an administrative or finance professional, it might mean that when a busy reporting or filing time hits, the employee models ICCC (2) emotional competency to recognize the stressful triggers of the situation and proactively utilize resources for themselves and their colleagues. It could mean taking advantage of the opportunities at VACFSS to attend culture camp or other ceremonies to learn more about Indigenous cultural and spiritual practices, and to encourage and champion these practices with colleagues.

Want more information?

More information about the ICCC’s is available to all staff on the intranet and will be incorporated into every position profile within the agency by Spring 2020. If you aren’t sure where to start, they are a good resource to discuss with your supervisor during restorative supervision to continue enhancing culture throughout all of our work at VACFSS.