Saturday, February 20, 2010

For Love and For Justice / Part 116 / Zabeth and Paul Bayne


What is the potential for parents to create social change in British Columbia’s system of child protection? In a system of child protection like ours which is a mandated design based on power differentials against parents, wouldn’t it be an extraordinary step for parents to be given a voice in reforming what we have? If it were possible to create a research team comprised of parents as co-researchers with professionals associated with child protection, the results might be more beneficial than any of us can imagine. This collegial approach would represent an elevation of the parental voice in the reform process and at the very least would predictably adjust how the child protection group views parents, as more of a resource rather than an obstruction. A transformation seems assured in my ideal world when parents could be seen as colleagues in such a project.

Wouldn’t this make an attention-grabbing study team? Wouldn’t it be a step in the right direction if parents in British Columbia became involved as co-researchers in pivotal decision making steps to enrich the performance of various levels of child protection in our province?

What advice might parents give for crafting a less bureaucratic system of child protection? How might professionals engage in working with parents to effect recommended changes? If you were one of the appointed parents what changes would you seek to make to the child protection system?

A study group of this composition was actually assembled in Ontario. A full description of the rationale, the methodology, the findings, the limitations, a discussion of the implications and a summary are available here, on a site called Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies Journal. The article is called ‘Adjusting the Lens: Parents Create Change in Ontario’s Child Protection System.’ The account of this study was written by Dr. Betty Gallagher who is the Director of Education Services at the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies. I have used some of her phrases to write this blog post.

“Parents were qualified to participate in the study: (1) If they had previously been ordered to participate in child protection services through a court order known as a supervision order. (2) If the supervision order was six months in length or longer. (3) If the family file was open after the amended Child and Family Services Act, 2000. (4) If they had maintained a one-year period free from child protection services. In total eight parents participated in the study.”

“Parents suggested eleven recommendations, all of which were supported by the professional participants. These findings suggest that parents and professionals in this study are like-minded in terms of making changes to the child protection system. Further, the study findings suggest there is a need for social workers and parents to continue their discourse about the protection of children.
Parents made the following recommendations for change to the current child protection system:

1. Have two social workers assigned to a case to avoid prejudiced perceptions about parents.
2. Compile a Parent’s Rights booklet.
3. Engage in cultural diversity training for social work staff.
4. Hold fathers more accountable for family issues.
5. Locate extended family quicker when looking for foster care placements.
6. Design a program to help teen parents and their parents raise children together.
7. Educate young girls early about self respect to prevent involvement in violent relationships.
8. Teach parents about life skills.
9. Put a package together that outlines all of the support programs available to parents and highlight the ones you expect parents to take.
10. Develop a support group so parents can meet to discuss their experiences with other parents.
11.Create safe chat rooms where parents, children and youth can communicate with others who have similar situations.

This was a study and only a study. Did it go anywhere? Ahh, there is the snag.
To have legs, something like this must have the authorization and ownership of the legislators that put the present system into operation.

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