Connectedness and health for First Nation adoptees

Jeannine Carriere
Dept. of Human Ecology, University of Alberta
July, 2005


Qualitative studies that involve First Nation adoptees in a Canadian context are limited. Reports that focus on Aboriginal children in care of public agencies emphasize the importance of the child remaining connected to family and community. The literature on adoption describes connectedness as an attribute of self, which reflects our interpersonal relationship with the world. A sense of disconnection can be the underlying motive for unhealthy behaviours, mental and emotional problems and high-risk activities, which lead to a variety of health problems. The purpose of this study is to explore the relationship between connectedness and health for First Nation adult adoptees. The objectives are to: (1) describe how connectedness relates to health for First Nation adoptees, and (2) explore legislative, policy and program implications in the adoption of First Nation children. The Western theoretical framework that informs this research study is the Human Ecological Framework, which suggests that a variety of interrelated factors in our environment play a role in our health. Indigenous scientific theories also are applied in the analysis of the findings. Western qualitative research methods are utilized in concert with Aboriginal ways of sharing knowledge through ceremony, prayer, story and relationships. The findings suggest that, for First Nation adoptees, there is a causal relationship between connection to birth family, community and ancestral knowledge, adoption and health. A theory on spiritual loss that is unique to First Nation adoptees is developed by applying the grounded theory method. A secondary outcome is the advancement of human ecological theory from an Aboriginal perspective.