Staying connected to her culture has helped Tara Michelle Bridge work through her own intergenerational trauma and continues to help her support children and families in her community.
Bridge, a child protection worker from the Kispiox First Nation, is one of the many front-line workers that Social Work Week recognizes and celebrates, March 15-21, 2020.
Growing up, Bridge says she relied on spiritual and cultural practices like singing, drumming and sports to help her stay mentally, physically and emotionally healthy. After 11 years with the Ministry of Children and Family Development, Bridge still relies on her connection to culture to help her, her family and the children and families she works with to overcome difficult situations.
“It’s important to understand that families dealing with intergenerational trauma often don’t realize that’s what it is,” Bridge said. “I bring in as many people as I can, the grandparents, aunts, uncles and the band representative, to start the conversation.”
Bridge said she is always “up front and honest” with parents and makes it clear “there is work they need to do,” but that she is there to help and support them.
One of the many reasons addressing intergenerational trauma is difficult, Bridge said, is because families often don’t want to talk about it. “They’re afraid their kids will be taken away,” which is why finding the right supports and cultural connections is important. Bridge works with parents and children to build a family plan, and then connects them with specific services through family wellness workers, counsellors and victim services so they can address the concerns.
When working with Indigenous children, “finding even one connection to their culture can make a big difference,” Bridge said. “I worked with two children in care who were homeschooled, and when I asked if they knew where they were from, they didn’t.”
Bridge worked with the parents and the band representative to develop a cultural plan, which included enrolling the kids in school where they could make new friends, socialize and connect to their community through various activities. It is a simple thing that Bridge said has made a huge difference.
“They smile so much more, and you can tell they feel connected to their culture by being involved in their community. Children should always know where they come from and feel like they belong,” Bridge said, explaining that a connection to culture can help children feel supported, like they are part of something larger, and can help their confidence and personal development.
Living and working as a child protection worker in a small community has its challenges. “I care about my community. My children are a part of it. It can be isolating though because people are wary of my work.”
With her husband and three children, Bridge said finding healthy, cultural activities helps keep her grounded and focused. “I do a lot of crafting, I make jewelry and I’m starting to bead. That connection to my culture helps me feel balanced.
“I’m basically a child advocate. I believe in the possibility of healing.”
- As of Dec. 31, 2019, there were a total of 3,408 employees providing front-line work on behalf of the Ministry of Children and Family Development.
- At Delegated Aboriginal Agencies, there are almost 400 front-line and administrative full-time equivalent employees.
If you think a child or youth (under 19 years of age) is being abused or neglected, call 1 800 663-9122 at any time, day or night.
Visit the BC Association of Social Work: https://www.bcasw.org/
For people interested in learning more about becoming front-line workers for the Ministry of Children and Family Development, visit: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/careers-myhr/job-seekers/featured-careers/social-work