Principle 3

Healing support for families: Invest in parent, caregiver and Elder resources.

Parents and caregivers need tailored resources on opioid use prevention, harm reduction and treatment to support themselves and the young people in their lives. Indigenous families have experienced historic and ongoing disruption to family kinship systems, caregiving practices, and relationships through the imposition of harmful policies, such as dislocation from traditional territories, the boarding school system and racism within the child welfare system. In response to this disruption, there are widespread efforts within and across Indigenous communities to enhance traditional parenting practices, reconnect extended kinship networks, and learn about cultural child rearing practices. Such work must include support for family members that use opioids and their relatives, and should include information, tools and resources on healthy relationship building between relatives so that family members can both connect with and set boundaries with relatives that use opioids. Parenting and family support programs and initiatives, including parents, grandparents, and other relatives, are critical to healing intergenerational trauma, and the tribal opioid settlements can support the growth and creation of these programs.

“We are on a healing journey together: The path of the healing journey has been started and we are changing for the better.”

– Indigenous Advisory Committee Member

Many Elders and grandparents hold deep knowledge of the Indigenous communities they are from, and community members may turn to them for support and guidance. Elders may also serve as caregivers for their grandchildren in circumstances where parents require support (Eakins, 2022), including  parental substance use which Indigenous parents may be further impacted by due to limited resources and punitive drug policies (Meinhofer, et al., 2020). It is essential that Elders and grandparents are included and supported when creating resources, services and programs related to opioid use, although there is currently limited information on education and programming specifically crafted for Elders.

The Seven Directions ‘Tailoring Opioid Overdose Prevention for Diverse Groups within Tribal and Urban Indian Settings: A Toolkit for Providers and Community Organizations Serving American Indian/Alaska Native Communities’ (p.36-38) includes communications considerations, provider planning strategies to ensure inclusive services, and provider implementation strategies to take into consideration when creating services specifically for Elders.

How can tribes adopt this principle?

1. Direct funds toward parent, caregiver and Elder resources centered on opioid use prevention, harm reduction and treatment.

Resources may include education, workshops, print resources and training. For more examples, please see this list.

2. Support parenting and family support programs.

Given the impacts of intergenerational trauma and the impacts it has on opioid use amongst AI/AN people, Indigenous parents and caregivers need support to care for family members impacted by opioid use. To help alleviate these issues, we can support, invest in and create specific programming tailored toward supporting our future generations.

3. Create opioid-related education and training specifically for Elders.

As Elders may be sought out for information by community members, or may themselves be a caretaker for a family member, Elders need information about opioids to fulfill these roles. This may include bringing together Elders and youth, to co-learn together about life experiences, culture, language and technology.