Originally from the Poundmaker First Nation near North Battleford, Joanne Derocher married Richard Derocher and into the Flying Dust First Nation 26 years ago.

She began her association with MLTC first as a student in its Indian Child Care Program which took place from 1990 to 1993. This program was hosted by MLTC in partnership with the University of Victoria’s Child & Youth and the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies (SIIT).

“It was a great program that incorporated our cultures and languages,” Derocher says. “Elders played a major role of sharing their stories on different topics regarding child rearing. A book was produced during this time, of which I still have a few copies. I’m sad to say most of these Elders are no longer with us.”

Derocher recalls during her studies as a being joyful time.

“Our two beautiful daughters were in Grades 1 and 2, and I was expecting our son in August of 1993. And, we were also foster parents to a handsome three-year-old boy.”

Since 1996, Derocher has been fully employed with MLTC Health & Social Development.

“This May I will be celebrating 24 years,” she adds.

In her first three years Derocher was employed in the clerical pool as administrative support, then the MLTC Child Care Program coordinator assistant. 

“After that I made a lateral transfer – I became the MLTC Child Care Program coordinator,” she adds. “This was a challenge I was ready to take and it’s been a great learning experience.”

During Derocher’s employment she has continued her education with on-line classes in early childhood education and obtained a diploma in the field in 2010.

Juggling work, her education, the kids’ school and family life, refined Derocher’s sense of direction.

“It was a stressful time, but we learned to be economical in our efforts. My family was a great support and I couldn’t have done it without them,” she says.

Child care services on-reserve have come a long way, Derocher states, adding at one time there wasn’t any funding. The First Nations communities had to find existing buildings within their communities to provide child care services. Some communities had community members provide child care services in their homes.

“These were called family day homes,” Derocher recalls.

In 2018/2019, the Government announced a 10-year commitment to support on-reserve day care services by providing additional resources. It’s called the Indigenous Early Learning & Child Care (IELCC) funding. 

“This was great news because child care on-reserve is so important,” she adds. “The staff at these locations are very important people in the lives of these young children – they are the caregivers for parents who are unable to be with their child for most of the day.”

The priorities for the new funding are outdoor play space and equipment; minor/major repairs and renovations; vans/buses for day care program; wage enhancement; training in early childhood education (ECE) Levels II & III; program enhancement resources such as play materials/equipment; culture and language resources; laptops/computers; cameras; resources and services for children with diverse needs; planning mentorship projects; parent workshops; program management support such as program needs; additional support for administration/program; contractors and consultants. 

“Another part of my work as a second-level support, is to provide a licence and monitoring to day care facilities,” Derocher adds.

Currently, the MLTC child care program provides licence and monitoring to eight child care facilities on-reserve throughout the Meadow Lake First Nations.

“Fire, health and safety inspections are completed annually, therefore, coordination with MLTC’s environmental health officer and MLTC technical services is completed annually,” she adds. 

Most of the facilities use their first language (Cree/Dene) when speaking to the children and involve the Elders from within their respective communities. 

“We have a great opportunity to bring back our languages in the field of early childhood,” Derocher says.

She admits the reason she chose this field was to learn more about her own children.

“I was a young parent once too who didn’t have a clue about parenting,”  she says, adding she would like to continue her education in the future with a goal of receiving a master’s in early childhood education.

Derocher has enjoyed working alongside all nine MLFNs.

“It has been very rewarding. It’s a fun field and I enjoy working with the staff and learning along with the children,” she concludes. 

~ Meadow Lake First Nations News