Sue has been a practicing inclusive caregiving long before it was a VACFSS policy.
Sue began her caregiving journey 40 years ago with the Ministry of Children and Family Development, then transitioned to Xyolhemeylh Child and Family Services and is now with VACFSS. In the first 17 years as a caregiver, Sue took care of a sibling group of three and nurtured them through adulthood. One of them who is now 27 years old, still lives with her.
Sue started caregiving when she was a mom herself. She was living on a 10-acre farm – the perfect refuge from the busy city life. It was however difficult for her two young children to have play friends close by, as the distance between neighbours was too far. So, she convinced her husband to foster. Within a short time, three children were placed in her home while she also raised her 9-month and 3-year-old children.
It was perfect. My friend could still visit her family everyday. We were practicing inclusive foster care without even knowing it.
Sue recently helped reunite one baby with his 19-year-old sister who is in the process of becoming his legal guardian. “She is the strongest young person I have ever met. I wouldn’t be able to do what she does at her age. She also wants to be a caregiver and help bring change – educate other caregivers and social workers on how Indigenous families can be best supported.”
When asked what lead her to be a caregiver, Sue explained it started when she was just 8 years old. She had a next-door neighbour who was also her best friend. They used to walk to school everyday and always played together. At one point, there were protection concerns in her friend’s family and the girl told Sue she would be moving to a foster home. “I told her, ‘you don’t have to move, come stay at my house!’ Without hesitating, my parents took her in until she could return home. It was perfect. My friend could still visit her family everyday. We were practicing inclusive foster care without even knowing it.”
Sue is very passionate about connecting Indigenous families to community supports after a child leaves care. “It’s a protective factor to avoid apprehension, unfortunately, the system is not set up that way. I have families that consider me ‘Nana Sue’ forever. The parents often contact me even after they have been reunited with their children for extra support and I couldn’t be happier to be there for them.’
Having the relationships with families is so rewarding – it’s a reason to get up everyday.
She has been an extraordinary role model to her own children. Her daughter followed and joined VACFSS’ circle of caregivers. It fulfills Sue to be able to help others. “Having the relationships with families is so rewarding – it’s a reason to get up everyday.”
Sue’s strong suit is caring for babies with complex needs. The Aboriginal Infant Development Office at the Fraser Region Aboriginal Friendship Centre Association shared this about Sue:
“Not only does Sue provide the best quality care in her home for multiple children, but she is their biggest advocate. She provides the best start at life that these children could ask for – that is, only second to being with their healthy biological family. In addition to meeting all the requirements from all the many appointments of the children, she is constantly seeking out other therapies, equipment, and supplies. Sue connects all the service providers involved with multiple children, doing visits with families, attending cultural events and activities.
Sue is exceptionally attentive and provides regular updates on the child’s developmental progress. She notices individual details about each child that would likely go undetected if she were not so hands-on. Sue truly believes in advocating for what is best for the child. She seeks out and initiates connections with many siblings and relatives of the children in her care and then shares the information with the social workers. Sue has done transitions for children moving placements and stays in contact with every person in case they need information or support. She is a cultural advocate and seeks out information from each child’s Nation as to how best to care for them.”
Child welfare is not an easy field to practice in, but there’s nothing more rewarding than witnessing a family succeed and lead healthy lives. Many of VACFSS’ successes would not be possible without amazing care providers like Sue. We raise our hands to the VACFSS’ caregivers who walk alongside families in their journey of healing.