Tahnee Hoff, a social worker who supports children with disabilities at St.Amant, first heard of Jordan’s Principle in the last year of her social work degree. Named for Jordan River Anderson, a First Nation child born in Winnipeg with complex medical needs, the principle ensures that all children have the right to receive the health and wellness supports they need in their home community.
“Jordan lived in a hospital every day of his life,” Hoff explains. “He was deemed medically able to leave the hospital to return to Norway House, his home community, but he needed adjustments to his home and special care. The provincial and federal governments fought for two years over who was responsible for those costs. Little Jordan passed away at age five without ever having spent a single day in his family home.”
As Hoff was learning about Anderson’s life and the policies that sprang up after his death, she was working as a direct support worker in a group home. “Here I was supporting these women who were teaching me so much,” Hoff continues. “But I was learning about these policies and I’d go to work and see the direct impact of not having better services available. It was really, really tough.”
While Jordan’s Principle was first enacted in 2007, its scope was so limited that it was subject to a human rights complaint that eventually found in favour of those seeking supports. In 2017, It was determined that the federal government had not done enough to ensure true and equitable care for children and they were ordered to create true accessibility.
At the same time, Hoff was graduating from university and looking to work with children. An advertisement for a position with the Jordan’s Principle team at St.Amant caught her eye, and she’s worked with the group ever since.
“As a First Nations woman, this work is really important to me and it keeps me really motivated,” she explains. “I didn’t grow up on a reserve, so my experience of healthcare was different. I’ve never had to deal with inequal access to services based on where I lived, so this is a way for me to give back and to serve my community.”
Hoff is also aware of the difference it makes for Indigenous people to receive services from other Indigenous people. “I think representation is so important, and we need more First Nations social workers,” she shares. “This speaks to a larger systemic issue of accessing education. The communities we work with are doing great, but we could go farther together. I’d love to work myself out of a job someday. I want these communities to not need us anymore because they have all the skills, capacities, and resources they need.”
Hoff is thankful for the experiences she’s had in her career so far. “The kids motivate me so much,” she shares. “Getting to hear all these different stories and meet all these people I never would have known means a lot to me. I get to help make a small, positive change in their lives, no matter how long we work together. That feels really good.”