Mediate BC Blog

All My Relations

Posted by Jereme.Brooks

There are some things in life that you consider but are never really options. Like when a kid says they want to be an astronaut or play professional sports – these things aren’t probable for most kids because the opportunities are limited, and the competition is high. But we’re young and we don’t really think about it, we just dream big and only accept the reality of limitation later on as adults.

I think a lot of us in the Human Services feel the same way. We take these jobs working in community, with families and children because we want to make a difference – and we find out over time that our impact is likely and unfortunately pretty limited.

Me in front of the Kamloops Indian Residential School where my Grandpa was required to attend and starting when he was 8 years old and tiny. My guess is that he’d have come up to around my waist, the stairs are about that high.

Photo by Shannon Taylor

For me, I started working with youth in New Westminster in 1995, and I had no idea what I was getting into or what I was doing – all I knew is that I wanted to do something meaningful. I knew that I wanted to be as good as the good youthworkers I’d met while I was a Street Kid, and I wanted to make it so that kids were protected from the people, places and things that seek to do them harm.

In all honesty, the best thing about that time was that because I didn’t have a clue generally, that meant I didn’t have a clue about the limitations either. I just went all in and did everything I could to do my job well.

Now after a while I did figure out that changing the world and making it a better place is somewhat unlikely, and let’s face it – there’s a lot of paperwork attached. All kidding aside though, change is tough to achieve. There are people and ideologies and policies and preferences and politics and last but not least, free will; and these things drive the decision-making process. There’s also centuries of reasons and history about how our Country, Province and Communities were created, and who created them and who they were really created to serve that colour our perception on what is right and appropriate, and help us define what constitutes a necessity for change.

The reality is that all of these things and more influence our decisions on the steps we take and who will take them on our behalf. The result is that, quite reasonably, we don’t make a lot of changes in our society and in our practices because there are systemic factors in place that help maintain the status quo. Simply put, as much as we recognize the need for change, it is rare that people who require or would benefit from that change are put in the positions to help make that change happen. I’ve said more than once, it’s difficult to see how to help those in need from the backseat of a BMW; and it's not about the intentions of those people - it’s about the limitations to decision-making that arise from a perspective and understanding that does not extend beyond the academic and theoretical.

The long and short of it is that I learned a long time ago that I’d probably never get the opportunity to make a real and lasting change for people like me and for the communities I represent because I just in no way fit the typical profile for who gets hired for the positions that get to do that type of work. I mean seriously, I am nothing if not self-aware and I know I’m not “insert name of any influential person in Family Law or Child Protection here” and I’m really okay with that.

I’m an Indigenous Mediator/Youthworker/Hubby/Father/Biker. I grew up living in and around the poverty line. I was raised by my proud and wonderful Okanagan Mom and her side of the family after she left my a*****e alcoholic Father when I was 4. I’m an old Street Kid and spent a lot of time doing all the many things that Street Kids do from the time I was 14 until I was 21. I dropped out of High School in Grade 12, got my Adult Dogwood at 22 and had a noticeably short and not terribly successful college stint at UFV. So, I am clearly neither middle class nor an academic; though I am quite fond of academics – you people are fun.

Now let’s be clear, I love me, I love who and where I come from and I appreciate everything it gave me – even the stuff that sucks. I didn’t have a head start but I found opportunities and I think I made the most of them; and let’s face it, I’ve been really lucky and I’m exceptionally grateful for all of that. But let’s be a little real here, you don’t look at my bio and think “This is the guy, this is who we need in a senior position” and that’s just the way it is – I get it.

So, with all that said, it is my great and surprising privilege to inform you that after 25 years working with Children and Families, and having spent the last 8 years helping serve those families as a mediator with the Child Protection Mediation Program; I am now the Program Manager for the Child Protection Mediation Program. More importantly, I am the first Indigenous person to serve in this position since the program’s inception.

I want to express my deep appreciation to everyone at Mediate BC for taking on this program and providing me the opportunity to serve in this capacity. I also want to thank the BC Ministry of Children and Family Development for continuing to support and promote Mediation and other forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution as a part of their work to assist Children and Families.

And let’s have some context on why I’m so thankful for this shift in practice by MCFD. I grew up scared of Social Workers, we were told you don’t talk to Cops and you don’t talk to Social Workers – but you really don’t talk to Social Workers.  So, when I started on the Child Protection Roster, the first question my Mom asked was “Do you get to talk to the Social Workers?” I kind of chuckled and said yes but it struck me that her experience was that there wasn’t the ability to have that type of discussion between Parents and Social Workers that we now see as standard practice, especially in mediation. This represents a huge shift in practice that we can reference back to and use to create hope for families moving forward by showing how things have progressed, and even with the knowledge that there’s still a long way to go.

Mediation in this area is absolutely progress and I’m thrilled and humbled to be in this role to help promote and facilitate the types of lasting changes that will allow kids like I was, and parents like my Mom, to not be as scared of Social Workers because they’re able to safely have the sometimes difficult discussions that help the two sides work together to ensure that kids grow up healthy, safe and well with every opportunity for success.

All my relations,

Jereme Brooks

Program Manager
Child Protection Mediation Program

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