Daniel Jr. with two of his nurses © Courtesy of Unique Get Together Society
“I’m the only person my son has in this world, so I would not trade him for anything,” said Daniel Isadore. “I grew up in the system, so I don’t want that for Daniel Jr. because I know firsthand what it’s like.”
Daniel’s story is a powerful and poignant tale of trauma, resilience, and the search for identity. It is a testament to the importance of healing ancestral trauma and the devastating impact of society’s failure to address stigmas and prejudices. Through his journey, we can gain insight into the ways in which we can move away from what does not work and toward what does, in an effort to resolve community issues.
Daniel was born on December 17th, 1985, in Edmonton, Alberta, the fifth of eight siblings. At the age of five, he was taken away from his mother and father and placed in a temporary foster home until his parents received treatment for their alcohol addiction. A few years later, however, his parents were once again unable to provide a safe and stable environment for their children, and all eight siblings were placed in a permanent foster home.
It was in this foster home that young Daniel’s downward spiral began. At the age of seven, he was placed in handcuffs by the police after becoming violent and expressing his desire to be reunited with his mother. He was then placed in a white foster home, where he and his siblings were forced to attend church every Sunday, with no regard for the religion they were raised with. It was here that Daniel began to act out and engage in misbehaviour as a way of coping with his trauma and anger.
As a teenager, Daniel’s behaviour led to multiple stays at the Edmonton Young Offender Centre, where he continued to spiral out of control. By 17, he had been deemed a lost cause by the foster care system and was placed in independent living. However, he only lasted a week before being kicked out with nowhere to go.
He found his way to the Boyle Street Co-op, where he was reunited with his older sister. Through her, he was able to reconnect with his mother, who was taking classes to become a Cree teacher.
Despite this reunion, Daniel’s peace was short-lived. To make money to survive, he continued down a path of crime and drug use, eventually landing in jail. While serving time, Daniel lost both of his parents, and he turned to drugs to cope with the overwhelming pain and grief he felt. Over the years, he continued to cycle in and out of jail, struggling with addiction and depression. In one of his darkest hours, Daniel nearly ended his life, saved only by his girlfriend at the time.
It wasn’t until he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and began to receive therapy that Daniel began to turn his life around. He learned about the importance of healing ancestral trauma and the ways in which the traumas and injustices faced by his ancestors had affected him and his entire family. Through therapy, he was able to come to terms with his past and work towards a brighter future.
During this process, Daniel welcomed a child into the world: baby Daniel Jr.
Due to the child’s mother’s active drug use, Daniel Sr. and his newborn son had to find somewhere safe to live. Daniel Sr. himself needed addiction treatment but was a few months away from receiving it.
Enter Debra Abraham, the founder of the non-profit Unique Get Together Society (UGTS), who was contacted by the Ministry of Children and Family Development to aid in the situation. Debra, with the help of Indigenous organizations, came up with a solution to prevent the removal of Daniel Jr. from his father. In just 24 hours, Debra, with the support of UGTS, was able to rent an apartment, hire 12 support staff, and apply for funding through Jordans Principle to house Daniel Jr. and his father for the next eight weeks until Daniel Sr. could enter the Willams Lake Family Treatment Centre.
“Everybody slept on the floor that first night while we waited for the furniture, except the baby in his travel bassinet,” recalled Debra. “None of us minded, especially Daniel. We were all so happy that Daniel and his baby were not separated. They would stare into each other’s eyes for long periods of time, and the love between the two was very apparent.”
The love between Daniel Jr. and his father is what makes this story so special. The two were able to stay together thanks to the efforts of Debra and UGTS. Daniel Jr. continued to be in good hands, cared for by a team of devoted professional nurses and a designated primary caregiver while his father got the treatment he needed for his addiction.
“When you have a team like ours, the baby’s emotional, physical and mental needs are all met,” explained Debra. “‘It takes a village’ is very true. We’ve all wondered how many foster homes this baby would have gone through had he been put in that system. How many foster parents would be equipped to effectively deal with all the challenges that come with caring for trauma babies?”
Daniel Jr. was born with a club foot, a common affliction in trauma babies, requiring special care and attention. Thanks to the care provided by UGTS, Daniel Jr.’s club foot has been successfully treated. Had he been placed into foster care, there is no guarantee he would have received the treatment he needed.
UGTS is committed to addressing the long list of motivated parents who want to get treatment but have no one to care for their babies while they are in treatment. UGTS is soon opening a 55-bed treatment centre based on the teachings of the Seven Grandfathers.
“It’s about how much we’re respecting reconciliation in everything we do, and giving back that which was stolen,” Debra said of the centre.
Daniel’s story is a powerful reminder of the importance of healing ancestral trauma and addressing the root causes of crime and addiction. It is a call to action for society to recognize the devastating impact of stigmas and prejudices and to work towards providing support and resources for those in need. With the efforts of UGTS and people like Debra Abraham, we can create a world in which everyone has the opportunity to heal and thrive.
Thanks to generous donations, UGTS can continue to provide these services. Donate at uniquegettogethersociety.com
At Unique Get Together Society, we see the value in everyone. We are dedicated to empowering Indigenous, marginalized and underserved communities, individuals and families.