Family Functions

Quality of life is impacted by family functioning including the way the offenders family communicates (Brown et al, 20095).

Still, one’s family is an organic entity and Aboriginal Justice Workers need to keep in mind that when any family experiences stress – like having a family member imprisoned, or any other adverse event, a traumatic event, or a life change (positive or negative), the family enters a period of adjustment.

During this adjustment period, the family system as a whole must adapt and change the way in which it functions (Olson & Gorall, 200311). This may be a consideration when presenting Gladue Principles to the sentencing court.

Families play an important role in determining who we are and how we perceive the world. Grandparents, parents, and extended family are often involved in teaching us about culture, values, family history, and where we fit in the greater world.  

There have been a number of significant events that have impacted Aboriginal families. Events such as Residential Schools and the 60's scoop have caused intergenerational disruption to the Aboriginal family unit.

The outcomes of this disruption is reflected in the continued over-representation of Aboriginal children in care, with some jurisdiction reporting this as high as 60%. In addition to intergenerational family trauma factors such as poverty, substance misuse and domestic violence further erode family continuity.

The impact on the individuals, both adults and children, can be profound leaving life long emotional and mental health problems. It is then vitally important for Aboriginal Justice Workers to explore the nature and quality of the relationship the offender has with their family. The Courts will gain valuable insight into the actions or behaviors of the offender when they are provided with the offender's family history and the impacts it has on that person's behavior.

Gladue Tip: providing insight into historical family trauma and current impacts is critical information to provide to the Court

documenting the family dynamics, including family flexibility, cohesion and family resilience are independent variables as to the quality of life and "who the offender is”

research the background on members of family of origin, grandparents, parents, or significant extended family members that may have been impacted by intergenerational trauma

identify family events or factors that contributed to the accused becoming involved (or not involved) in the justice system

report how the offender has adapted to family trauma from resiliency or thriving to depression, physical or mental health problems

address issues in intimate or adult relationships where the offender has exhibited; poor communication skills, inability to manage emotions or threatened or committed acts of family violence

report on the quality of the relationship with siblings within the offender's family; levels of support, companionship, rivalries, or intense conflicts

assess the relationship between offender and their children; bonding, ability to provide care, provision of financial and emotional support

report on the quality of relationships within the whole family and the extent of support and kinship offered to the offender