Geneen Sparvier is a prevention social worker at Cowessess First Nation. Provided photo.

Cowessess family services meet pandemic challenge

by Nathan Mckay

When the country went into lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic, Cowessess First Nation needed to adapt their child and family services to the circumstances of the time.

“Some of the challenges we had were a lot of the families were scared of COVID and so they didn’t want to come to the office to do their counselling,” said Geneen Sparvier, a prevention social worker with the Red Bear Children’s Lodge. 

The Lodge launched a series of family-oriented services in the spring, such as youth photography classes, couples groups,  sewing  and women’s ceremonies. The demand for these services increased as families spent more time isolated together, and the agency needed to find ways to adapt and connect.

“We would get them to do online sessions so they would do it through Zoom and our counsellor was from out of province,” Sparvier said.

Cowessess plans to increase its support of families by taking over full delivery of child and family welfare services through the Miyo Pimatisowin Act. “We are in the process right now of getting our own child and family services agency and were waiting for the coordination agreement to be signed between Cowessess and Canada and the provincial government,” explained Sparvier.

Meanwhile, services provided throughout the pandemic have been helpful for the families of the community and will continue to help make a positive impact for the nation’s families.

Cowessess First Nation also created and provided care packages to assist their community members during the pandemic lockdown.  The nation gave the task of delivering these packages to the community’s peacekeepers, made up of a team of four officers to limit contact. To keep tracing simple, only peacekeeper members were allowed to drop food at houses.

They also created a system that would allow members with no phones or internet to communicate their needs from inside their homes while they were in lockdown.

“They had a color code system and so if they had a certain color out that means they needed food and so the peacekeepers would drive by the homes,” Sparvier explained.

The nation was also very adamant on keeping their community safe by restricting access to the reserve. They set up their border patrol while also maintaining a contact tracing system at the same time to ensure safety.

“We had in total four entrances that were being monitored and so whenever someone would come on to the nation or somebody would leave the nation, they had to fill out a sheet,” she said.

Sparvier and the Cowessess First Nation planned strategically to prevent the infection of COVID-19 in their community. The threat is still a reality and the Nation’s leaders and members remain vigilant.