Reconciliation in child welfare – touchstones of hope is a new innovative approach that actually engages frontline workers to foster parents youth and care and parents in designing a new child welfare system that makes sense to them.
The starting point isn’t about what are all the problems in our community but the starting point is
What is a healthy child and family in our community?
How do we redesign the whole group of children’s services in order to make the best difference for our community in our unique context and culture?
The Major Reasons for Reconciliation in Child Welfare:
The major reasons for reconciliation in child welfare are why we need to do this is that there has never been a time in our history of child welfare where there’s been more.
- First Nations children in child welfare care than there is today three times the number then we’re in care the height of residential schools more than we’re in child Whopper occurring to sixty scooped.
The only good news is that we know just what to do to reverse that First Nations and Inuit children are not over-represented in child welfare because of abuse its neglect.
But what is neglect is it just when parents fail to implement the resources and parenting skills they have available or is it the parents find themselves in a situation where they cannot rely on the resources that every other Canadian parent takes for granted.
Well what we know with First Nations children is that the only factors explaining the over-representation are poverty poor housing associated with poverty and care for substance misuse that can be linked back to residential schools.
All of this is made very difficult to address by inequities in funding or lack of culturally based funding for services on and off reserves in Canada.
- Now on a positive note poverty, poor housing and substance misuse are things we could all do something about and we really could use the touchstones process in a way to guide us.
For example, in first steps one of the things we could do is help train social workers to differentiate between things that parents actually create risks for their children and can do something about versus what are those things that are often embedded in structural policies of government and other things that parents can’t address but we as social workers in doing child protection could organize ourselves to address.
So things like being poor things like having an equitable service or lack of culturally based services that actually target the needs that we have i.e. poverty and substance misuse.
We could use programs like the Grameen Bank which is a Nobel laureate program that has been used to lift persons multi-generational families out of substance.
Misuse out of poverty in communities like New York and in the southern United States, their general approach is that let’s close down to payday loan operations.
Let’s people invested in their dignity, let’s give them an opportunity to be employed the other thing that we can do is train social workers on substance misuse and its effects on parenting trained social workers on poverty and its effects on parenting and then give them real tools that address those problems.
I did Child Protection work for so many time and even though you get pretty good at guesstimating substance misuse.
I never felt confident and I sure didn’t have the resources to address it was frustrated time and time again by the long waitlist in different treatment facilities or the lack of family support even if you do get that person into treatment.
So with this process what we’re hoping is that we reconceptualize child welfare in ways that truly get at what is presenting at the line level.
- Another thing that’s a challenge for the system is we need to take the fear out of the child welfare system as a driver too much of our child welfare system is driven by the fear of social workers or policymakers getting into trouble when a child dies.
Now the deaths of children are tragic but there is no evidence that suggests that these unique cases should be driving policy for the entire child welfare system the cases thankfully where children die as a result of often physical abuse or extreme neglect are rare.
What the better approach is is to randomly select cases from the provincial government and then analyze them the ones that have been a success because of the good work of workers in foster parents and service providers and those families that are presenting for lesser forms of abuse.
If we collected information that way and drove our system would have more much better outcomes for families.
- And finally, there’s the important thing about culture and context. Sometimes we only think of that is something that we do at the end of our investigation or an assessment but the reality is that all the research shows that we’re may embed our process in a world that’s reflective of those that we serve the outcomes for children are so much better.
In a case of Aboriginal children that means communities drive the system they define it for us they help engage us as assets in their world in terms of keeping children safe.
Many of the world’s top scientists now are winning Nobel prizes for knowledge that Aboriginal people have known for centuries and my hope is with the touchstones a whole process not only can we uplift the potential of Aboriginal children.
But that we can uplift the potential non-Aboriginal children who have not been served to the best potential either in the child offer system this is an opportunity for big reform driven from the grassroots you.