ELLSWORTH, Maine, April 9, 2015 – The Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC) invites the public to a series of five forums to discuss its recommendations, beginning Thu., April 30, in Bangor.
As part of “The Mandate and Beyond: Recommendations of the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare TRC,” the commissioners and staff will make visits across the state to talk about the process, review lessons learned from their research findings and offer their recommendations.
They will be joined by members of Maine-Wabanaki REACH, a cross-cultural collaborative that both created the TRC and will be ensuring that the Commission’s recommendations are considered and implemented. REACH will discuss the findings and identify ways people can get involved in continuing the work of truth, healing and change.
Attendees will be invited to make comments and ask questions during these forums, being held:
- Thu., April 30, 5:30 p.m.
Richard E. Dyke Center for Family Business
Husson University, Bangor
Wed., May 6, 4 p.m.
Campus Center, Aroostook and St. John Rooms
University of Maine at Presque Isle
Wed., May 13, 11:30 a.m.
Science Building, Room 102
University of Maine at Machias
Wed., May 27, 5:30 p.m.
Portland Public Library, Portland
Mon., June 1, noon
Cultural Building Atrium
State House Complex, Augusta
The events lead up to the official release of the TRC’s report during the “Closing Ceremony of the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare TRC: Moving Forward with Truth, Healing and Change,” on Sun., June 14, 2 p.m., at the Morgan Hill Event Center in Hermon. It marks a return to the site where the work officially began on Feb. 12, 2013, with the Seating of the Commissioners: Matt Dunlap, gkisedtanamoogk, Sandy White Hawk, Carol Wishcamper and Dr. Gail Werrbach.
The Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare TRC represents the first truth and reconciliation effort within U.S. territory that has been collaboratively developed between Indian nations and a state government. The goals of this process are:
- Truth: Uncover and acknowledge the truth about what happened to Wabanaki children and families involved with the Maine child welfare system
- Healing: Create opportunities to heal and learn from the truth
- Change: Collaborate to operate the best child welfare system possible for Wabanaki children and families
The TRC Mandate was signed on June 29, 2012, at the Maine State Capitol, by five Wabanaki Chiefs and Governor Paul LePage, commencing this cross-cultural, collaborative effort to examine what happened, what is happening and what needs to happen with the Maine child welfare practices that affect Wabanaki people.
The idea for this Tribal-State truth and reconciliation process originated within REACH, formerly the TRC Convening Group, comprised of individuals from Maine Tribal Child Welfare; Maine State Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Child and Family Services; and staff from the Muskie School of Public Service; American Friends Service Committee; and Wabanaki Health and Wellness. REACH promotes best child welfare practice, healing and deeper understanding for and between Wabanaki and Maine citizens, communities and governments.
Through a collaboration of more than 15 years, the work of Wabanaki and State representatives has improved and will continue to improve the child welfare system for Wabanaki children. Despite this progress, Maine’s child welfare history continues to impact Wabanaki children and families today. For this reason, the governments have acted together to unearth the story of Wabanaki people’s experiences toward fully upholding the spirit, letter and intent of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).
“The TRC is excited to have reached a landmark moment: we have gathered more than 150 individual statements from Wabanaki and non-Native participants who have bravely shared their experiences,” said Charlotte Bacon, executive director of the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare TRC. “What we have learned is galvanizing and powerful, and we are looking forward to describing these findings and our recommendations for improving child welfare service delivery for Native children in Maine at a series of events this spring.”
Esther Attean, co-director of REACH said, “After all that has happened since this journey began in 1999, this is a significant milestone. Everyone involved with REACH is filled with anticipation about hearing the findings and what needs to happen after the TRC process ends in June. In many ways for REACH, the work has just begun, and we can’t wait to start this next phase of bringing truth, healing and change to greater realization.”
The Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC) addresses truths of Wabanaki experiences with child welfare to promote healing and change. It’s the nation’s first TRC to address child welfare and Native people.
Maine-Wabanaki REACH is a cross-cultural collaborative that promotes best child welfare practice through reconciliation, engagement, advocacy, change and healing activities for and between Wabanaki and Maine citizens, communities and governments.