Ai’aoksiikowaata is pronounced “eye ox EE go WA duh.” It is a Blackfoot word that means “providing guidance to youth.” Ai’aoksiikowaata describes the nurturing and direction that youth traditionally received from ceremony and other traditional parenting practices.
Our childhood experiences provide the basis for living a good adult life. All children have the right to receive nurturing and guidance that comes from a loving, supportive, and stable family. We know that people coming out of child welfare often have not received this kind of care and are thus more likely to become homeless, fall into poverty, and experience subsequent health problems. What we don’t know is just how many people continue to struggle or how many are able achieve their goals after they age out.
The goal of this project is to make improvements to Alberta’s child welfare system so that young people who are growing up in government care can receive all the guidance and support they need to successfully transition into independent adulthood. To achieve this goal, we need to understand where the gaps are and how it affects people’s lives. For this reason, we have created two research studies, a survey and a storytelling project, to learn about youths’ experiences with the system.
The project is open to people from all backgrounds. However, because Aboriginal children and youth are especially affected by the child welfare system, this project was inspired and guided by Blackfoot knowledge holders.