Kelly Ettagiak came a long way to heal her family.

Kelly and her three children made the journey from the Northwest Territories to Regina in hopes that the Family Treatment Program (FTP) would be able to help them.

“I really had no idea of what to expect at the beginning, but social services said I had to do something, or they would take my kids,” she explained bluntly.

“Something” turned out to be 17 months in Ranch Ehrlo’s Family Treatment Program.

Kelly and kids Kelly and two of her children - photo courtesy of CBC Nichole Huck

FTP is an in-home service that works to either prevent the placement of children out of their home or to assist families to unite after having a child in care.

Before coming to Regina, Kelly had a conference call with FTP director Patti Petrucka who explained the program set up – she and her children would have their own home, and staff would work with them to set and achieve goals, both personal and family-related.

“The program is tailored to your family’s specific needs, instead of just being a set program that’s the same for everyone,” Kelly said.

Still, the first days in the program were lonely.

“I felt isolated because I was put in a new city and a new home, and I didn’t know anyone.”

It was also difficult to let the staff into her family.

She explained, “It was a long hard process, but the workers helped me. At first, I was like, ‘who are you to tell me what to do with my kid’. It took a long time to realize that they were trying to help me.”

Kelly soon adjusted, and with the help of her FTP therapist Rikki Gusway, emerged herself fully in all the program had to offer. She participated in all the therapeutic groups offered by the FTP and dove headfirst into supporting her children at school and daycare.

“Kelly’s desire for adventure, spontaneity, and fun made tough moments in treatment much smoother, as she was able to self reflect and come up with creative but possible solutions,” said Rikki.

Working together, Kelly and the FTP staff identified her strong skills in organization, housekeeping/cleaning, and leadership. Keeping her strengths in mind, as her time in the program drew to a close, Kelly was provided with employment opportunities within the program and at Ehrlo Sport Venture. She was instrumental in helping set up new FTP homes in the communities of Moose Jaw and Fort Qu’Appelle.

Kelly was officially discharged from the Family Treatment Program in mid-April but continues to live in Regina, close to the house where she and her children lived for the duration of their time in the FTP. Her mother made the move down to Regina to be closer, and the family is slowly adapting to life beyond the FTP.

“Life without Kelly for me has certainly been an adjustment. She reaffirmed for me as a therapist the work we are doing is real, raw, and so important. At the FTP we get to do heart work. Heart work is hard work, but heart work is why we choose to do what we do,” explained Rikki.

For new families in the program, Kelly has simple advice: “You have to stick through it. It is lonely. It’s going to be hard. You are going to want to quit - but it is worth it. What better life to have than a successful one, with your children?”

“Kelly always provided me with the hope that the treatment process is possible for all families,” Rikki concluded.