The Lives We Touch: Red Lake Nation12/17/2018 by Rebecca Toews
It is another early morning for George Head as he makes the 263 mile journey to Bloomington, Minnesota for the 2nd time this month. George is traveling to Bridging from Red Lake Reservation to assist families impacted by the opioid crisis get a fresh start.
This past year, the Red Lake Nation Family and Children Services developed a program to reunify families who are separated from one another when parents get help for addiction. George is in charge of the program and sees firsthand the good that something like a couch can do to help lift a person’s spirit and get them back on track.
“They give me hugs and the kids grab my legs, and say ‘thank you thank you!’ I think I’m going to have to start dying my hair gray because they call me Grandpa or Santa… it feels good to help.”
When a parent goes in to jail or rehab for their addiction, most times the children are placed in foster care, often this means siblings are split up as well. In order to return to the home, parents must show that they have a stable place to bring the children back home. Without the resources to pay for beds, dressers and basic housewares, even a gainfully employed parent coming out of the system has a difficult time getting their kids back. More than 500 children from the Red Lake community are currently in the system. Through this partnership with Bridging, George says, the community is working with the families to get the children reunified with their families.
On this December day, George and his group are helping get furniture for three families who live across northwestern Minnesota. He started his day at 5 a.m. to get to Bridging for his appointment.
“It makes them feel more secure. They move in to their new house and they wonder where they’ll get the money to buy furniture.”
Sixteen families that might still be separated are celebrating holidays together this year, largely George says, because of the Red Lake partnership with Bridging. Some can afford to buy an air mattress, but in order to get the kids home they need more than that.
“Right away some of the kids will jump on the bed, ‘I got a bed, I got a bed!’ or they’ll go plop on the couch and say, ‘Is this really ours?!’
There are few places in Minnesota where the opioid crisis has hit harder and more concentrated than the Red Lake community.
“If you take a drug addict and put them in jail and release them to the same environment, what’s going to happen? We [Red Lake Nation Family and Children Services] get to see them when they get out or before they are released and we give them resources. We tell them how they can help their kids and get their families get back together. Then we help them get housing and this furniture from Bridging, and give them the tools to find a job and get started again… we can help them break that cycle.”
The Red Lake nation is one of our network of more than 172 social services agencies throughout Minnesota. In 2017, Bridging added 20 new partners to this network. To learn more about how to get help or how to partner with Bridging, click on the Services tab.
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