Growing up healthy

MNO programs benefit young children and their families


Amanda Desbiens is part of a team of Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) staff who work in programs that make a difference in the lives of Métis children and their families.  She works in the MNO Healthy Baby Healthy Children (HBHC) program, which along with Canadian Prenatal/Postnatal Nutrition Program (CPNP) and the Community Action Plan for Children (CAP-C) are programs the MNO operates that provide assistance to mothers during pregnancy and families with children under six years old.

Desbiens has worked as a HBHC Coordinator since 2005 and in that time has been able to help Métis families live healthier and happier lives.

In her role, she provides cultural support, advocacy, information and prenatal and postnatal health intervention to families who are at risk.  Desbiens has many experiences with families that the program has helped support from pregnancy onwards.

“Families I have worked with have indicated that they are doing well and have fruitful happy lives,” said Desbiens. “A teenage mother who asked for help with parenting and coping with stress and anxiety worked with the program through participating in home visits, family wellness planning and peer support.  Currently, she is a functioning single mother, enrolled in university, has re-established key family relationships and indicates her daughter is doing well developmentally.”

The MNO HBHC program, funded by the provincial government is a prevention and intervention program for families in the prenatal period as well with children 0-6 years of age. The program is designed to support all families requiring holistic parenting and family support services by providing an environment for the healthy development of children through home visits, services coordination, advocacy and referrals. It includes preparation for birth, parenting, child development, safety, family health, breastfeeding, addiction, mental health and housing support. The role of HBHC workers is to provide educational opportunities so that families feel empowered to make informed decisions.  The program provides support for children at risk and is voluntary and open to any who requires or requests support.

“Growing up healthy is every child’s right and every parents dream for their children,” said MNO President Gary Lipinski. “The key to a successful future is a healthy beginning. The MNO’s wish is to provide Métis communities with culturally supportive health programs and services that help foster healthy and happy futures for Métis children and youth. This is what led to the development and the continuation of the HBHC program.”

The HBHC program provides many culturally appropriate participant based activities including Gestational Diabetes, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and healthy relationship building workshops.

“One great component is we are able to offer culturally appropriate activities for these children in order to enhance self-identity and self-esteem,” said Desbiens.  “The MNO North Bay office where I am located is very much involved with the Best Start Initiative to ensure that any Métis child being seen in the community is being referred to the appropriate cultural services if there are issues.”

Desbiens, who specializes in FASD, has seen many success stories from her clientele over the years.


“As a HBHC Coordinator I also provide direct support to families who may feel their children and/or grandchildren may have FASD,” said Desbiens. “Recently I was supporting a family through a process of acquiring diagnosis of FASD through our partnership with Motherisk. I was able to increases awareness of the child’s unique needs, both internally and externally which is why I view it as a success.”

The HBHC program also provides transportation for families with children to help get to medical appointments, provide a clothing exchange program and provide client supplies such as baby clothing, diapers and car seats.

“We also facilitate access to a cost-free provincial telepsychiatry program which is available to the public should they require support services for mental health,” stated Desbiens.

“HBHC is an amazing program that really helps our Métis families acquire support in times of need,” she continued. “The most rewarding part of my job is to see families use the tools they’ve learned to enrich their lives, as well as providing opportunities to them that they would otherwise not have the chance to participate in.”

The public can access the HBHC program and its services by self-referral or through referrals from external agencies. The MNO HBHC program provides assistance in a variety of means including in-office visits to an accessible building, home or community visits and telephone support.

Click here to learn more about MNO Healing and Wellness programs.

Service locations:

Services in this office: HBHC, CAP-C

Services in this office: HBHC, CAP-C

Fort Frances
Services in this office: HBHC

Services in this office: HBHC

North Bay
Services in this office: HBHC

Services in this office: HBHC

Sault Se. Marie
Services in this office: HBHC

Services in this office: HBHC

Thunder Bay
Services in this office: HBHC, CAP-C, CPNP

Services in this office: HBHC

Services in this office: HBHC

Services in this office: HBHC

Services in this office: HBHC