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									            Child Welfare in Ontario:
  Developing a Collaborative Intervention Model


    Excerpts from a Position Paper submitted by the
           Provincial Project Committee on
       Enhancing Positive Worker Interventions
     With Children and their Families in Protection
     Services: Best Practices and Required Skills

                T o r o n t o - March 2006


TABLE OF CONTENTS ................................................................................................. 2
LIST OF FIGURES .......................................................................................................... 3
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ............................................................................................. 4
SECTION 1: INTRODUCTION .................................................................................... 5
      Project Mandate and The Main Goals of the Intervention Model for Ontario. ......... 5
      List of Participants...................................................................................................... 6
SECTION 2: A COLLABORATIVE INTERVENTION MODEL ............................. 9
      Introduction................................................................................................................. 9
      A Historical Perspective on Collaborative Casework .............................................. 14
      Collaboration: A Theoretical Framework for the Client-Worker Relationship ....... 17
      What Parents Bring to Collaboration ....................................................................... 20
      What Youth Bring to Collaboration .......................................................................... 24
      What Workers Bring to Collaboration ...................................................................... 28
      What Supervisors Bring to Collaboration ................................................................ 34
      What Workers, Children, and Families Need To Do Together to Improve
      Collaboration ............................................................................................................ 37
      Can Workers Build Partnerships with Parents When Litigation is Involved? ......... 41
      Authority and Collaboration ..................................................................................... 43
      Summary of Collaboration ........................................................................................ 46
      Incorporating Agency Awareness of Aboriginal Child Welfare Issues .................... 48
      The Ethics of Child Protection Services for People From Diverse Ethno-Racial
      Backgrounds ............................................................................................................. 49
      Towards Improving Child Welfare Services to Adolescents ..................................... 52
      Advocacy for Social Justice ...................................................................................... 55
      The Need for an Increased Acceptance of Feminist Practice Within Child Welfare 58
      Anti-Oppressive Practice .......................................................................................... 62
      Social Inclusion ......................................................................................................... 65
      The Influences of an Agency Code of Conduct and Social Work Code of Ethics ..... 67
      Conclusion Regarding Collaborative Organizations ............................................... 69
SECTION 3: DEVELOPING COLLABORATIVE PRACTICE .............................. 70
      Introduction............................................................................................................... 70
      Surveys of Worker and Manager Responses to the Issues Raised By The Position
      Paper On Enhancing Client-Worker Relationships and Collaboration: The Attached
      Manual ...................................................................................................................... 71
      Enhancing Worker/Client Relationships................................................................... 71
      The Provision of Child Welfare Services to Native Children, Families and
      Communities ............................................................................................................. 73
      Focus Group Minutes................................................................................................ 73
SECTION 4: THEORY TO AID COLLABORATION ............................................. 75
      Attachment, Separation and Loss ............................................................................. 76

       A Theoretical Framework for Working with Adolescents......................................... 81
       Ethno-Cultural Families and Children ..................................................................... 89
       Working with the Community and Child Welfare ..................................................... 95
       Collaborative Work With Foster Parents ................................................................. 99
       Trauma Counselling................................................................................................ 101
       Crisis Intervention Model ....................................................................................... 102
       Narrative Therapy ................................................................................................... 103
       Brief Therapy .......................................................................................................... 104
       Reality Therapy (Choice Theory)............................................................................ 105
       Family Theory ......................................................................................................... 108
       Family Systems Theory ........................................................................................... 109
       Behaviour Therapy.................................................................................................. 111
       Ecological Theory ................................................................................................... 113
POSITIVE CLIENT OUTCOMES ............................................................................. 116
       Improving Child Protection Assessment in Ontario ............................................... 116
       Challenges Involved With Forming Child Welfare Service Plans .......................... 118
       Recording and the Issue of Social Inclusion ........................................................... 119
       Coordination of This Project With Differential Response ...................................... 119
       The Kinship Model of Service and Collaboration .................................................. 121
       Looking After Children (LAC), Resilience and Collaboration ............................... 124
       Family Group Conferencing and Collaboration .................................................... 127
       Clinical Supervision in a Child Welfare Context .................................................... 131
APPENDIX 1: NOTES FROM THE YOUTH FORUM.......................................... 172
CHILD WELFARE? .................................................................................................. 180


    STILL ENSURING CHILD SAFETY ................................................................................ 10
    STRATEGIES FOR PROTECTING CHILDREN .................................................................. 14
FIGURE 3: PAPERWORK - PEOPLEWORK BY OPSEU/SEFPO ............................................. 16
FIGURE 4: ACCOUNTABILITY BY OPSEU/SEFPO.............................................................. 29
FIGURE 5: ROOT CAUSE ANALYSIS .................................................................................... 32
    ................................................................................................................................... 36
FIGURE 7: THE HOPES AND FEARS OF PARENTS AND WORKERS ........................................ 37
FIGURE 8: COLLABORATIVE PLANNING ............................................................................. 38

FIGURE 9: THE STEPS OF CHANGE FOR PARENTS ............................................................... 41
FIGURE 15: ELEMENTS OF COMMUNITY ............................................................................. 97
FIGURE 16: CRISIS WINDOW FOR CHANGE....................................................................... 138
FIGURE 17A: BUILDING COVEY’S QUADRANT 2 FOCUS ................................................... 139
FIGURE 18: MOTIVATION, MASLOW, AND CLIENT ENGAGEMENT .................................... 142
FIGURE 19 CRISIS INTERVENTION MODEL ....................................................................... 196

*It is recommended that the pages for the list of figures be duplicated separately on a
colour printer and then used to replace black and white photocopies.

Please Note:
The Manual entitled Surveys of Worker and Manager Responses to the Issues Raised By
The Position Paper On Enhancing Client-Worker Relationships and Collaboration (July
2005) is considered part of this Position Paper and can be found in electronic format on
the accompanying CD. The CD also includes many of the references and the PowerPoint
presentations used in development of this project. It also introduces the viewer/reader to
the Project itself. Robert Price, an I.T. coordinator at the Brant CAS designed the CD.

A number of individual committee members and others in the field developed topics in
this Position Paper. As a result, their important contributions are recognized individually.
However, many parts of this paper are the culmination of many hours of group discussion
and written submissions by all 30 committee members.

This paper and the child welfare model it develops remains the intellectual property of the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid
Societies, the paper editor and the Project Committee members. This project was significantly enhanced through the contributions of
faculty from various Schools of Social Work in Ontario and non-sector presenters. Where a named author has contributed sections of
this paper that author retains the copyright of those contributed parts. This paper (and the ideas contained within) may be freely
copied and reproduced in its entirety as long as the original author and copyright information is retained.


Project Mandate and The Main Goals of the Intervention Model for Ontario.

In 2004, the Local Directors Section and Zone Chairs for Ontario Children’s Aid
Societies approved a provincial project to examine and recommend improvements to
child welfare practice within the province. The need for this project emerged from a
recognition that the Ontario child welfare system needed to be transformed.

The project has attempted to provide guidance in the area of worker – client collaboration
as a basic underpinning of successful and humane child welfare intervention. Having
acknowledged human interaction as the conduit to change, we have shown that
improvement in the ability to foster a collaborative relationship affects every area of child
welfare. Roch articulated the vision of the Ministry for child welfare as “a high quality
system, which protects children who have been identified at risk of abuse and neglect.
Services are responsive, based on best practice research, delivered by highly trained
individuals and integrated with other support services for children.” (Roch, 2003) We
predict that the ability to manage conflict within the tension of the worker – client
relationship will positively affect family group conferencing, alternative dispute
resolution, kinship care and other significant objectives of the Transformation of Child
Welfare Services currently being developed by the Secretariat of the Ministry of Children
and Youth.

We have recommended a child welfare policy and practice shift in Ontario toward what
we have called a “collaborative intervention model.” This has already been expounded in
a larger Position Paper which has already been distributed to all CAS agencies along with
a reference CD. In this Worker Practice Handbook, we have taken sections from the
original paper that pertain directly to worker and supervisor intentions. We will show
evidence that children are better protected when child protection agencies work in
partnership and “collaboration” with families as well as communities. Use of a
collaborative model does not prohibit child protection agencies from acting
independently and unilaterally to protect children when needed - in fact the ability to do
so remains essential in child protection work. The model involves, however, child
protection agencies and workers utilizing, wherever possible, social work skills to engage
families and communities into collaborative intervention processes focused on the safety
and well being of children.

List of Participants

Project Team Members
Anne Bester, Director of Services,                          Susan Carmichael, Director of Services,
Bruce Children’s Aid Society                                The Children’s Aid Society of Simcoe

Ariel Burns, Social Worker,                                 Gerald de Montigny, Associate Professor,
The Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa                        Faculty of Social Work, Carleton University

Gary C. Dumbrill, Assistant Professor and Chair of          David Gill, First Response Supervisor,
Undergraduate Studies, Faculty of Social Work,              Niagara Family and Children’s Services
McMaster University

Phil Howe, Branch Director,                                 Bea Kemp, Executive Director,
The Children’s Aid Society of Toronto                       The Catholic Children’s Aid Society of

Rick Lang, Director of Services,                            Phyllis Lovell, Director of Services,
The Children’s Aid Society of the District of Thunder Bay   The Children’s Aid Society of Owen Sound
                                                            and the County of Grey

Nancy Macdonald, Quality Assurance Manager,                 Nancy MacGillivray, Director of Services,
Algoma Children’s Aid Society                               Halton Children’s Aid Society

Kim Martin, Supervisor, Ongoing Protection Service,         Greg Moon, Director of Service,
The Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Hamilton             The City of Kingston and the County of
                                                            Frontenac Children’s Aid Society

Michael Mulroney, Senior Social Worker,                     Darlene Niemi, Supervisor,
The Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa                        The Children’s Aid Society of the District of
                                                            Thunder Bay

Michael O’Brien, Supervisor,                                Rocci Pagnello, Director of Services,
Renfrew Family and Children’s Services                      Leeds-Grenville Family and Children’s

Juanita Parent, Family Services Worker,                     Jolan Rimnyak, First Response Supervisor,
Native Services Branch, Brant Children’s Aid Society        Niagara Family and Children’s Services

David Rivard, Executive Director,                           Bernard Smith, Executive Director,
Sudbury-Manitoulin Children’s Aid Society                   Bruce Children’s Aid Society

Marilyn Sinclair, Intake Supervisor,                        Susan Verrill, Intake and Family Service
The Children’s Aid Society of the District of Thunder Bay   Director, Dilico Ojibway Child and Family
Lori Watts, Director of Services,
Dilico Ojibway Child and Family Services

Champion                                                    Project Facilitation

David Rivard, Executive Director,                      Janice Robinson, Director of Services,
The Sudbury-Manitoulin Children’s Aid Society          Haldimand-Norfolk Children’s Aid Society


Gary Dumbrill, Assistant Professor & Chair of          Winnie Lo,
Undergraduate Studies, School of                       ,Academic Research and Editing Assistant
Social Work, McMaster University

Project Manager                                        Project Support and Copy Editor

Andrew Koster, Executive Director,                     Paula Loube, Executive Assistant,
The Brant Children’s Aid Society                       The Brant Children’s Aid Society


Rhonda Hallberg, Director of Intake Services           Louise Leck, Director of Education,
The London-Middlesex Children’s Aid Society,           The Ontario Association of Children’s Aid
Member of the Differential Response Project

Anna Mazurkiewicz, Policy Analyst,                     Bruce Burbank, Director of Family Services
The Secretariat, The Ministry of Children              The Children’s Aid Society of Brant
and Youth                                              Family Group Conferencing and Mediation

Raymond Lemay, Executive Director                      Susan Carmichael, Director of Services,
Prescott-Russell Services to Children and Adults       The Children’s Aid Society of Simcoe
Looking After Children                                 Kinship Care

Contributing Guest Speakers/Authors

David Gill, First Response Supervisor,                 Bruce Leslie, Quality Assurance Manager,
Niagara Family and Children's Services                 The Catholic Children’s Aid Society of

Peter Dudding, Executive Director,                     George Savoury, Senior Director including
Child Welfare League of Canada                         Child Welfare, Government of Nova Scotia

Elizabeth French, Council,                             Judith Finlay, Chief Child Advocate for
The Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa                   The Office of Child and Family Service
                                                       (Assisted by a Youth Coordinator, and four
                                                       Youth in Care)

Katharine Dill, Doctoral Student in Social Work,       Gerald de Montigny, Associate Professor,
University of Toronto                                  Faculty of Social Work, Carleton University

Emmanuelle Antwi, Family Services Supervisor,          Michael Ansu, Family Services Supervisor,
Peel Children’s Aid Society                            Peel Children’s Aid Society

Judith Wong, Family Services Worker,                     Greta Liupakka, Family Services Worker,
Peel Children’s Aid Society                              Peel Children’s Aid Society

Sarah Maiter, Associate Professor,                       Bill Lee, Associate Professor,
Faculty of Social Work, Wilfrid Laurier University       Faculty of Social Work, McMaster

June Ying Yee, Associate Professor,
Faculty of Social Work, Ryerson University


Protecting children is the primary objective of child welfare intervention. The Ontario
reforms were a needed reminder of this imperative and they enhanced the ability of the
child welfare system to focus on child safety and to remove children when their safety at
home could not be assured. The reforms brought many benefits including:

   o A reminder that child safety must always be paramount
   o A system that ensures workers pay attention to safety issues and are accountable
     for doing so
   o Increased supervisory involvement in case decisions
   o Training that ensures staff have knowledge about pathology and indicators related
     to the abuse and/or neglect of children
   o Higher forensic investigation standards
   o Staff who scrutinize the effectiveness of their interventions and do not personalize
     the need for their clients to be successful
   o An awareness that in some forms of worker-parent relationship can be ineffectual
     and in fact increase the possibility of abuse
   o Better documentation and record keeping systems

There is, however, a need to build on the reform initiatives by enhancing the ability of the
of the child welfare system to protect children in their own homes and communities. The
model we propose for building on reform is one of “collaboration.”

A move toward collaboration is not a move away from a focus on child safety nor is it a
move toward formulating unviable safety plans with reluctant families. Rather, a
collaborative model retains child safety as the prime directive of intervention but it
expects child protection workers to utilize social work skills in assessing a family’s
openness to protect their children and to then employ intervention skills and strategies to
help the family bring about the required protective change.

A shift toward collaboration, therefore, does not send child welfare practice in a
completely different direction but it does adjust the field. The need for adjustment has
been seen for some time. A paper put forward by the provincial Directors of Service in
2001 called for the rebalancing of child welfare priorities “to enable a viable client
centered protection service” (Provincial Directors of Service, 2001). This statement
embodies the focus of our project and is also portrayed in figure 1.

 Figure 1: An Opportunity for a Pendulum Swing Towards the Middle While Still
                             Ensuring Child Safety

                             An Opportunity for a Swing towards the Middle?
                                                     Child in Need of
                                                    Protective Services
                                       The Grab
                                       1960’s to
                                        Mid 70’s
                                                                           Family Preservation
                                                                             1980’s to 2000

                                 2000 to 2005

                                                                             Blind Faith or Optimistically
                 Risk Reduction,
                                                                                   Naïve Approach
              Inspectoral Approach                     Transformation        Either “Trust us we are the experts” or
               Think Dirty, Deficit-based,               2005 +…?             “They are oppressed by Society, it is
             Liability focused, Adversarial &                                not their fault” & we then ignore signs
                         Formulaic                                              of safety & enable further harm

                                  Research-Based, Collaborative Best Practice
                                      Outcome focused, Evidenced based, Collaborative
                                                Relationships with Clients

                                            Figure by Rocci Pagnello, 2005

Figure 1 shows the ways child protection policy and practice swings back and forth
between family preservation and child safety. This oscillation between family
preservation and child safety is an internationally recognised phenomenon in child
welfare policy and practice (Editorial, 1996; Finholm, 1996; Gardner, 1996; McLarin,
1995; O'Laughlin, 1998; Paterson, 1999; Reder et al., 1993; Seebach, 2000; Watson,
1997). When the pendulum is fully extended toward family preservation, working “with”
families and maintaining children in their own homes takes precedence over child safety.
Work in this phase is marked by a reticence to remove children from their homes and
avoidable child deaths may result. Public outcry over child deaths (Bloom-Cooper, 1985;
Coyle, 2001; Gelles, 1996; Gove, 1995; Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies
& The Office of the Chief Coroner of Ontario, 1997; Sanders et al., 1999; Tesher, 2001)
creates a momentum that pushes the direction of child safety and eventually this focus on
safety narrows to the extent that intervention becomes inquisitorial. Afraid of making
fatal errors, agencies are quick to remove children from families rather than engage in
casework intervention to reduce risk. In this position the practice principle used is a
cavalier application of the rule, “when in doubt take them out” (Finholm, 1996, p. A1).

An inquisitorial system eventually fails, whether due to increased numbers of children in
care (Gardner, 1996), or due to the eventual inquests into the intrusive ways child
protection workers use authority (Brindle, 1995a, 1995b; Cleaver & Freeman, 1995;
Clyde, 1992; Department of Health and Social Security, 1988a; Home Office et al., 1988;
Martin, 2005). With such failures the pendulum is pushed back in the opposite direction
and the cycle begins again.

The pendulum in Ontario (and other parts of Canada) is currently in a risk reduction and
inspectorial position. In seeking to enhance and rebalance the child welfare system, the
committee took stock of the present state of social work practice as it related to the
worker-client relationship in child welfare. Particular attention was paid to the current
system’s capacity to use casework methods to bring protective changes within families.
We became aware of a continuum of perceptions within the field regarding the need and
desirability of casework in a child protection setting. On one hand, Child Welfare
Reform is seen by some as worrying because it narrows intervention to focus on
identifying and investigating potentially dangerous parents. This can limit our ability to
help poorly functioning families provide adequate care and protection for their children
(Survey on Staff Retention, Metro CAS, 2001). At the other end of the continuum,
reform is seen by others as bringing a healthy delivery of a forensic investigation,
regulatory intervention and risk management in a way that allows workers to focus on
child safety without the constraints of having to try and help change families. As a
consequence of this latter view, several agencies no longer see a need to hire staff with
social work degrees or a helping background.

The committee regards the position at each end of this continuum as problematic. At one
end children are harmed and placed at risk by workers leaving children in families where
there is little chance of protective intervention being successful. At the other end,
children are separated from their families and communities; are placed into an
overcrowded foster care and group home system; and workers are not given an adequate
opportunity to use casework methods to reduce risks in families that are or could be
capable and open to making protective changes. The committee regards the mid-point as
the most viable position—the system must retain its forensic capacity and focus on child
safety, yet it must also develop the ability to deliver change bringing casework
intervention where families have the capacity to care for their children safely and

To center the pendulum requires an understanding of the dynamics that drive it. The
pendulum moves back and forth in reaction to fiscal or public opinion crises. Seeking a
“quick fix,” simplistic solutions to complex problems are formulated with both policy
makers and practitioners shying away from the type of practice that caused the last crisis
to arise. Such reactive responses formulate the entire mode of intervention as erroneous
(e.g. family preservation or child removal) rather than its application in a given case.
Such oversimplification is akin to mandating angioplasty and prohibiting heart bypass
surgery cardiologists make errors of being to intrusive and later mandating heart bypass
surgery and prohibiting angioplasty when it becomes obvious that in some cases surgical
intrusion is needed. Society would never design a medical system in this manner and
should never design a child welfare system in this manner either. The key to a balanced
and effective child welfare system is not to swing back and forth between delivering
intrusive or non-intrusive intervention, but to match intervention to the specific needs of
each child and family. We suggest this matching can be achieved through the
collaborative model we develop in this paper. Turnell and Edwards point out that:

       The challenge is to create a structure and models of child protection practice that
       address the seriousness of alleged or substantiated maltreatment while
       maximizing the possibility of collaboration between families and workers.
       (Turnell & Edwards, 1999, p. 27)

We need a structure in which families can collaborate with workers. Such a structure will
increase the likelihood of an accurate assessment being completed and the right
intervention being delivered to the right cases. In instances where collaboration is
contraindicated because parents are unwilling to cooperate or the nature and level of risk
are too high, the broader collaborative components of this model we have developed will
assist the worker in developing a protection plan. Collaboration characterized by kinship
care networks; relationships with the child’s religious, racial or ethnic communities;
relationships with schools, mental health agencies and other community resources will
help the child protection worker tailor a to each child’s needs.

Embedding of child protection in multiple layers of collaboration will help policy
makers, practitioners, and communities understand and respond to the complexities
involved in child protection practice. In such an environment when errors occur, the
likelihood of simplistic solutions being imposed on complex problems will be reduced,
and the system will be much more likely to fine-tune its response and increase its ability
to ensure that the correct intervention is delivered to the correct need.

Achieving the middle position requires workers to have clinical social work skills. In
taking this position the committee makes no judgment regarding Ontario workers and
supervisors who do not hold social work degrees. The field has numerous examples of
staff without a formal social work education demonstrating an ability to engage clients in
effective change processes. Conversely, there are also examples of social workers who
cannot effectively transfer academic learning to their CAS work performance. Having
said this, in relation to collaborative casework, it is recognized that those holding a social
work or other degree that teaches the theory and skills involved in bringing effective
change within families and individuals will have a head start in this work. It was also
recognized that enhanced the OACAS New Worker Training curriculum would also
enable other staff to acquire and refine these skills.

Such social work skills are crucial because the ability to collaborate with parents in
protecting children hinges on developing a casework relationship. Indeed, relationship is
the foundation of client- worker collaboration. There is a consensus in the field that “the
quality of the helping relationship is one of the most important determinants of client
outcome” (de Boer & Coady, 2003) and research has consistently shown the worker-
client relationship to be a key component in change processes. Indeed, Trotter
summarizes research into effective child protection practice by stating:

       The research suggests that effective child protection workers make use of
       collaborative problem-solving processes (sometimes referred to as working in
       partnership). They help clients to identify personal, social and environmental
       issues that are of concern to them. They then help their clients develop goals and

       strategies to address these issues. The more effective workers tend to work with
       the clients’ definitions of problems rather than their own (the worker’s) definition
       and they deal with a range of issues which are of concern to the client or client
       family. The workers take a holistic and systemic approach and focus on the issues
       that have led to the abuse or neglect, rather than the abuse itself. (Trotter 2002, p.

Trotter’s (2004) own research involving in-depth analysis of 247 protection cases in
Australia adds support for the effectiveness of child protection workers developing
collaborative and helping relationships with parents in cases of child abuse and neglect.
When workers built collaborative casework relationships with parents, Trotter found
improved outcomes along several dimensions including cases being closed (because
protections concerns had been resolved). Workers using these effective approaches
focused on family strengths but also focused on the child safety concerns they had come
to address. Such workers made it explicit to parents that action to reduce these concerns
was not negotiable—it had to occur—such work represents a balance at the pendulum

In an attempt to refine best practices in clinical service, the lens must be applied to the
casework relationship because this is the vehicle in which primary collaboration and
change takes place (this will be discussed more fully below). The casework relationship
and the possibility for collaborative intervention that flows from it, is the primary focus
in this project. This is not to ignore the other essential roles of the social worker within
child welfare including investigative techniques and knowledge, advocacy, group work,
mobilization of multi-disciplinary community supports, the connection to the community
itself, and the ongoing contention that predominant social inequities that lead to children
at risk need to be eradicated on a macro level.

Collaboration is not only at the heart of casework relationships that bring change; it is
also at the heart of other changes to the child welfare system. Figure 2 shows the ways
collaboration is an essential part of a number of current child welfare initiatives. Indeed,
a number of scholars and practitioners are calling for research collaborations between the
field and academia (Leslie, 2005; Trocmé, 2005; Vandermeulen et al., 2005;
VanWilgenburg, 2005) and some researchers call for service users to be included in this
collaboration (Dumbrill, 2003a; Dumbrill & Maiter, 1997). As well, Provincial initiatives
such as kinship care, alternate dispute resolution, permanency planning, community
partnerships, staff retention, open adoption and family group conferencing all include
collaborative components. In these initiatives and in the changes suggested by this
project, collaboration is not seen as simply something that workers and parents do
together to protect children, but something that the broader community and other social
service providers engage in. Indeed, an old proverb already familiar to many social
service networks in Ontario, asserts, “it takes a village to raise a child.” In Africa the
high context (Hall, 1976) culture and community collectively (Battle, 1997) ensures that
people understand that the reason villages can raise children is because within them
people “collaborate.” This meaning can be lost in individualistic western societies,

consequently to understand the proverb we have to emphasize that, “it takes a village
‘that collaborates’ to raise a child.”

   Figure 2: The Importance of Client Collaboration in Combination with Other
                       Strategies for Protecting Children

                           Differential    Partnerships      Kinship Care
             Staff                                                          Permanency
             Retention                                                       Planning

         Open Adoption                                                       Lower Legal

           Financial Re-                          Child                      Family Group
           investment                          Protection,                   Conferencing
           Opportunities                                                     and Mediation
           More complete                                                      Positive
           Assessments                         Enhances…                     Outcomes

              Perspective                                               Client Cooperation
            On Case Practice                                             in Research and

                   Perspective on                                      Consistency with
                  Cultural and Case                                      Institutions
                       Practice                                           Educating
                                             Community more           New Staff
                                           responsive to Position
                                            Papering abuse and

                                   Figure Rocci Pagnello, 2005

A Historical Perspective on Collaborative Casework
Collaborating in child protection is fraught with challenge. For instance, parents’ and
caregivers’ right to choice and self-determination must often be overridden to keep
children safe. Child safety needs may dictate that change occur at a different pace than
caregivers are prepared for and at times workers may have to mix collaborative and
coercive interventions. The need and legislated ability for workers to sometimes use
coercive intervention means that workers and families do not share equal amounts of
power in their relationship. As noted by de Boer:

       Child welfare workers, by virtue of their agency connection and their child
       protection role, are in positions of authority. They hold the power to assess
       parental ‘fitness’, enforce voluntary and involuntary agreements, withhold ECM
       monies, and apprehend children, if necessary. (de Boer & Coady, 2003, p. 14)

A worker’s power can increase a parent’s defensiveness, which ultimately works against
the establishment of a positive working relationship. Relationships between workers and
families are often “mandated relationships,” which are sometimes beginning with
intrusion and then maintained through the application of formal and/or legal agreements.
De Boer summarizes the impact these issues have on collaborative relationships:

       First, child welfare work almost always involves challenges to the development
       and maintenance of good helping relationships. Thus, it affords opportunities to
       examine how contentious issues can be dealt with productively. Second, child
       welfare work is frequently viewed much differently than other more ‘clinical’
       types of social work. When the social control function of child welfare work is
       emphasized, there is a tendency to downplay the viability and importance of
       developing good helping relationships with parents. (de Boer & Coady, 2003. p.

Child welfare reform compounded the above difficulties. With child protection workers
and families already struggling with the power imbalance inherent in child welfare, in
1998, Child Welfare Reform refocused intervention on child safety and risk reduction.
Overall, Child Welfare Reform has provided the foundation of a more thorough,
standardized and professional child protection service, with greater awareness of
situations that could be dangerous for children. As mentioned earlier, the Reform
initiatives strengthened the front end of the system in terms of identification, (Eligibility
Spectrum), investigation (Safety Assessment) and assessment (Risk Assessment) and
documentation but little attention was given to whether the system was able to provide
sufficient helping services to address and reduce the risks identified (Ontario Directors of
Services, 2004).

Since 1998 the nature of child welfare work has changed. In an attempt to meet the
soaring increase in child protection referrals, there was a large influx of new workers into
the field. The majority of these workers are relatively inexperienced, yet charged with
making critical decisions for children and families. In addition, the child protection
worker’s time is consumed by process, consultation and documentation. The use of courts
has risen to an unprecedented level - further reducing a worker’s ability to provide direct
client services. During the same time period, the focus of the service manager was
redirected from a clinical focus to compliance, monitoring and auditing. The child
welfare system has also experienced lower job satisfaction rates for front-line staff,
higher turnover rates. One flyer distributed by OPSEU, which represents the front-line
staff at 17 CAS agencies demonstrates the frustration that workers experienced. It is
reprinted with permission.

                Figure 3: Paperwork - Peoplework by OPSEU/SEFPO

As a result of reform, there was recognition in the field and by government that there
needed to be a refocusing of child welfare services. In February 2004, the Provincial
Directors of Service established a committee to research differential response approaches
in child welfare and assess its application to the Ontario Child Welfare system. The
context of differential response models across North America was community based
partnerships and enriched family supports. In September 2004, a draft Ontario Model of
Differential Response was presented to the Local Directors and Directors of Service and
was approved in principle.

In order to move forward with the Differential Response Model in Ontario and other
proposed reforms, there will need to be an attitudinal and cultural shift amongst front-line
staff and the leadership within the field of child welfare. The proposed “Transformation
Agenda” will result in significant systemic change for child welfare in this province.
Implementation within Children’s Aid Societies will require additional training, skill
development and organizational transformation at all levels. The notion of a collaborative
model provides that way forward.

Fortunately Ontario has a unique child welfare system that can accentuate these efforts.
While some jurisdictions are more centralized and administer child protection services
from government offices, this has not been the case in Ontario since the inception of child
welfare late in the nineteenth century. The large diversity within the province’s fifty-
three child welfare agencies, both mainstream and Aboriginal, can ensure that

implementation takes place in a manner that meets the visions and missions that each
agency has for their respective communities. The presence of individual boards of
directors and executive directors can ensure that these ideas are interpreted and dispersed
throughout their organizations in ways that are unique and culturally appropriate.

Collaboration: A Theoretical Framework for the Client-Worker Relationship
Social workers are required to deliver services in a manner that respects human worth and
        Social workers believe in the intrinsic worth and dignity of every human being
        and are committed to the values of acceptance, self-determination and respect of
        individuality. (Canadian Association of Social Workers, 1994)

The social worker brings such values into being by forming genuine helping relationships
with their clients. Over the past century, irrespective of approach - whether diagnostic,
functional, problem-solving, systems, ecological, solution focused, or narrative - social
workers have recognised the centrality of the helping relationship for effective practice.
Gordon Hamilton an early proponent of a ‘diagnostic’ approach observed, “It is only in a
deeply felt experience in relationship that therapy can affect a person’s attitudes toward
himself and his fellows” (1949:11). Virginia Robinson, a proponent of a “functional”
approach in social work, provided the useful insight that, “the worker must come to an
identification with the function of the agency which from the beginning provides the
wedge of separation and differentiation between himself and the client, out of which a
professional rather than a personal relationship can develop” (1949:25). . The functional
approach for child protection practice has the advantage that social workers are obliged to
maintain a clear focus on agency mandate and on building professional relationships, not
personal relationships, when crafting their practice with clients.

Biestek, whose seminal work The Casework Relationship (Biestak, 1957) has influenced
succeeding generations of social workers, simply affirmed, “The relationship is the soul
of social Casework. It is the principle of life which vivifies the processes of study,
diagnosis, and treatment and makes Casework a living, warmly human experience”
(1957, p.v.). Helen Harris Perlman (1957) whose work, Social Casework: A Problem
Solving Process, was designed to bridge the diagnostic and functional divide and outlined
that casework process “consists of a series of problem-solving operations carried on
within a meaningful relationship” (Perlman, 1957, p. 5). Writing more than a decade
later Perlman went on to describe the relationship between client and worker as “the bond
that vitalizes, warms and sustains the work between helper and helped” (Perlman,
1970:137). Hollis, who introduced a generation of social workers through the 1950s to
the 1970s to a psychosocial approach advised, “The worker must accept the client by
having a commitment to his welfare, caring about him, and respecting him. Optimally,
this includes feelings of warmth for him” (Hollis, 1964). Ruth Smalley, who also used a
functional approach noted that the “value that is constant in the human dynamic of help –
sought and received – is the value of the relationship” (Smalley, 1962 page number

A caring and positive casework relationship is not only important because of its
compatibility with social work ethics, but also because of its correlation with positive
change processes. A constructive casework relationship is the framework in which a
worker-client alliance develops. Alliance is positively correlated with change processes
in almost every helping process. Horvath & Greenberg (Horvath & Greenberg, 1989)
conducted a meta-analysis of alliance research and concluded that the quality of the
working alliance is predictive of a significant proportion of therapeutic outcome. After
conducting a similar research review, Marziali & Alexander (1991), concluded that
regardless of the therapeutic approach used, alliance is one of the best predictors of
outcome. Dore and Alexander (Dore & Alexander, 1996) reviewed twenty years of
alliance research to reveal that positive alliance has been shown to lead to greater
compliance with disposition plans (Eisenthal, Emery, Lazare, & Udin, 1979) and
medication regimens (Docherty & Fiester, 1985; Frank & Gunderson, 1990; Waldinger &
Frank, 1989), not withdrawing prematurely from treatment (Eaton, Abeles, & Gotfreund,
1988; Frank & Gunderson, 1990; Gunderson et al., 1989) and as a basis for clients
“choosing” to work with a therapist (Alexander, Barber, Luborsky, Crits-Cristoph, &
Auerbach, 1993). Dore and Alexander concluded “across a broad range of therapeutic
technologies… alliance measures have proven to be one of the most promising within-
treatment predictors of favorable treatment outcome, with no single alliance measure
currently outperforming others” (Dore & Alexander, 1996, p. 352).

As noted earlier, Trotter’s (2002, 2004) research shows that a casework relationship is
also the basis of effective child protection work. It can be argued, therefore, that
wherever possible child protection intervention should be congruent with the social work
attitudes, values and philosophies that underpin the development of a constructive
casework relationship. Of course, ensuring the safety of a child should never be
compromised in order to develop a positive relationship with a parent. Neither should the
maintenance or existence of a positive collaborative relationship with a parent be allowed
to cause a worker to lose sight of child safety issues (Bloom-Cooper, 1985). Where
possible a collaborative relationship should be developed with parents because such a
relationship will provide the framework in which the worker will be able to effect
protective changes in a family. As shown by the research above, the casework
relationship is the primary vehicle for change

Two Ottawa CAS front line workers, Michael Mulroney and Ariel Burns, who are also
members of this Project Committee and co-lead a child welfare course at Carleton School
of Social Work, have called for the incorporation of a value that they call ‘Caritas’ -
critical listening love. This practice strategy allows for workers to stand with their client.
As such ‘Caritas’ is transparent, illuminating and participatory. Within this framework
they contend that holding clients ‘accountable’ is not the same as ‘blaming’ (Mulroney &
Burns, 2005).

The philosophical stances underpinning such work, inclusive of feminist, anti-oppressive
thinking, present the challenge of developing a relationship that is not skewed by a
fundamental imbalance of power. It is argued that social work itself speaks from a
location of dominance (Dumbrill, 2003a). The Australian approach described in Signs of

Safety (Turnell & Edwards, 1999) implies recognition of the power impediment to
establishing a helping relationship. Turnell and Edwards argue that we must step outside
the role of expert, abandon paternalism and focus on collaboration. We must approach
our clients with a genuine sense of respect and encouragement. In so doing, it is possible
to create a structure and model of child protection practice that addresses the seriousness
of alleged or substantiated maltreatment while maximizing the possibility of
collaboration between families and their worker. In true anti-oppressive practice, “the
underlying principle of service delivery is the assumption that any involvement in the life
of an individual should be experienced by that individual as supportive, helpful, least
intrusive and geared toward the strengthening of the individual” (Bernstein, Campbell, &
Sookraj, 1994).

Consistent with solution focused (Corcoran, 1999; Hoffman, 1992; Weakland & Jordan,
1990) and narrative approaches (Freedman & Combs, 1996; Freeman, Epston, &
Lobovits, 1997; Stacey, 1997; Michael White, 1995; M White & Epson, 1990) social
work intervention focuses on supporting the competencies and strengths of parents and
children. Stacey, when speaking of her work with children, outlines that a “desirable
approach … would be for the people involved in the lives of these young people to
engage in practices of language that generate stories of learning, success, and
competence, rather than stories of deficit, failure, and incompetence” (Stacey, 1997, p.
222). Solution focused and narrative authors agree that it is vital that a client envision a
better future and identifying their strengths and resources for achieving that future need
to be respected (Berg & De Jong, 1996). While at first glance, it may appear that child
protection is incongruent with or opposed to the social work values of client self-
determination and self-actualisation such initial impressions would be profoundly
mistaken. The work of protecting children, coupled with a drive to improve child
welfare, expresses a commitment to ensure that all children can grow up in environments
that allow them to achieve their innate capacities and talents. Child protection is rooted
in a fundamental commitment to ensure that children are able to become self-determining
and self-actualised adults. The support that child protection workers provide to parents
and to caregivers of children relies on a realistic assessment of “motivation, capacity, and
opportunity” (Turner & Jaco, 1996, p. 515) to promote the best interests of children.

Of course we have to use power to protect children at times, but this does not mean we do
this without understanding the impact of such action on families and strive for an
egalitarian partnership with our clients wherever possible. Magura and Moses implore us
to understand the significant relationship between poverty and child welfare. They speak
to the “pervasive and deleterious effects of material deprivation on children” (Magura,
1982). Within the context of this disadvantaged position, parents are powerless and
without recourse if they perceive the CAS worker or the agency to be unresponsive,
unfair or ineffectual (Magura, 1982). If the worker is able to understand their client in
this context and is further able to honestly identify the inherent power imbalance and in
so doing diffuse its potential impact, the stage may be set for the creation of a
collaboration between them.

The very nature of social work requires that front-line workers be able to “connect private
troubles with public issues” (Lecomte, 1990) which in turn suggests that they should be
attentive to broad social relations of power and inequality as they affect individuals. In
dealing with clients, recognising these broader societal issues means that casework and
collaboration must not be confined to micro practice. Our relationship and intervention
with families needs to consider and address social as well as family problems, political as
well as personal problems that impinge upon a family’s and a community’s ability to
parent children in a safe and appropriate manner.

What Parents Bring to Collaboration
It is important to reflect the unique input from child welfare clients in the relationship. It
addresses the notion that the client is an active participant in the process. Embodied in
the solution-focused approach, client input is seen as pivotal to the success of the
collaboration. Consideration will be given to actual involvement of clients in shaping the
work of child welfare (Dumbrill, 2003a; Dumbrill & Maiter, 2003a). Clients consistently
articulate their perception of “good workers” as those who showed them respect,
communicated openly, genuinely did not prejudge them and were calm in the face of
their anger (Drake, 1994). Clients bring to the collaboration their position as partner and
their role as experts in their own lives. In the process of involving clients in the
collaboration as contributors to their own outcomes, “power over” becomes “power with”
and the clients’ voice remediate the oppressive nature of the work (Dumbrill, 2003a).

There is a direct relationship between the strength of the "intervention influence"
(parental cooperation), and the likelihood of parents complying with child safety plans.
For workers to assess, gain, and strengthen the intervention influence, requires them to
understand the things parents bring to intervention. These things can be broadly divided
into hopes and fears.

Parent Hopes
Some parents hope that intervention will help them care for their children in an adequate
and non-abusive manner. Indeed, most parents who come to the attention of child
protection services struggle with a number of issues that impact their ability to provide
care for their children. The Partnerships with Children and Families Project undertaken
by Wilfrid Laurier University, examined the lives of sixty-one parents receiving child
protection services. They found parents dealing with problems including unemployment,
poverty, physical and mental health problems, abusive relationships with partners, child
abuse in their own past, and the impact of living in socially toxic neighbourhoods
(Maiter, Palmer, & Manji, 2003). When child protection agencies help or support parents
in gaining help with these issues, children are not only protected but parents also feel
satisfied. An in-depth study of thirty four child protection cases in the United States
found seventy per cent (70%) of parents Position Papering improvements in their families
as a result of child protection intervention (Magura, 1982). A later more extensive study
of two hundred and fifty parents found seventy per cent (70%) Position Papering a "mild
overall satisfaction" with child protection intervention (Magura & Moses, 1984). An
Iowa study of one hundred and seventy six child abuse cases, found seventy four per cent
(74%) of parents rating the protection services they received “as good to excellent" and

rating their workers highly on scales of being friendly, helpful, efficient, patient,
professional, concerned and knowledgeable (Fryer, Bross, & Krugman, 1990).

Although encouraging, these satisfaction findings must be treated with caution. Social
work clients are known to report satisfaction even when unsatisfied (Fisher, Marsh, &
Phillips, 1986; Rees, 1978; Sainsbury, 1975; Thoburn, 1980). Also, parents who do not
want their worker to return are unlikely to say that the problems causing their need for
service have not been alleviated. In such cases the "satisfaction" being measured might
be a parent's relief that their case has been closed.

Despite these methodological difficulties, there is little doubt that some parents want help
in providing better care for their children, believe that child protection services can
provide that help and feel satisfied when that help brings change in their family. A study
of parents undertaken by an Ontario Children’s Aid Society showed that parents often
want help and can collaborate with child protection workers to obtain that help (Dumbrill
& Maiter, 2003a). The Ontario Partnerships with Children and Families Project also
found that parents valued such service (Maiter et al., 2003). In another Ontario study, an
in-depth analysis of eighteen Ontario parents receiving child protection services found
several parents anticipating that they would be helped by intervention. Characteristic of
these views, a father Position Papered: “CAS is okay, they got a lot of good qualities...
they got a lot of good help out there. CAS has got a pretty good program out there to
help” (Dumbrill, 2003b, p. 108).

Usually, such positive hopes resulted from a parent having had some prior helpful
interaction with child protection services. Parental hope, however, could be dashed if
intervention was undertaken in a coercive and inquisitorial manner. A grandmother with
previous positive experience of child protection services sought help caring for her
grandson. Her first worker provided a supportive and collaborative service, but when this
worker left, her replacement took a directive and judgmental approach. The grandmother

       Believe me I stuck up for CAS when people would tell me how bad it was and
       how cruel it was and everything else, I'd say no you guys are wrong they're there
       to help you. I don't believe that anymore. (Dumbrill, 2003b, p. 110)

In the same way that the nature of intervention can dash a parent's hopes, it can also allay
a parent's fears. Intervention cannot and should not always allay parents' fears, but
wherever it is possible, the reduction of fear produces the possibility for increased
collaboration and more robust protection plans. To understand why fear reduction brings
such benefits, one must first understand the extent, nature, and consequences of the fears
parents bring to the intervention process.

Parent Fears
Parents' fears of intervention are substantial and are often overwhelming. For a parent
struggling with an array of life problems, being told they have to comply with
intervention they are afraid of, can be a stressor that ends their ability to cope and provide

adequate care for their children. In Dumbrill's (2003a, b) study, a mother barely coping
with issues of poverty, the physical disabilities of her partner, and a rebellious teenage
daughter, explained her reactions when the child protection worker arrived:

       My whole life had changed when she [child protection worker] showed up. It was
       like, holy, man I was scared to do anything like I didn't know where to go or what
       to do... s. [The worker] said 'I'm not here to scare you.' 'Well you are because you
       are scaring me right now- you're in my house. (Dumbrill, 2003b, p. 104)

This mother's fear is typical of many parents. Callahan, Field, Hubberstey and Wharf
(1998) undertook an in-depth analysis of 30 parents' experience with the British
Columbia child protection system to find parents afraid and believing, "one of their main
parenting tasks is to protect their children from the child welfare workers" (Callahan et
al., 1998, p. 20). A more recent study in British Columbia found through six focus
groups undertaken with mothers receiving child protection services that mothers felt
harassed by child protection workers and felt that workers did not listen to them or help
them gain access to parenting supports (Kellington, 2002). This finding was replicated in
Ontario by the Partnerships with Children and Families Study (Maiter et al, 2003). Also
in Ontario, McCullum (1995) found parents fearful that workers would take their children
and never return them. Dumbrill (2003a, b) recently replicated these earlier findings and
found that fear was not evoked simply by the power workers have to remove children, but
by parents lacking confidence in workers using this power in a responsible manner. Such
fear and lack of confidence, is particularly evident in Ontario Native communities.
Anderson (1998) examined the views of Native parents who had been involved with child
protection agencies to find feelings toward child protection services of, "anger, hate, fear,
despair, isolation, frustration, pain, guilt, distrust, betrayal, and worry" (Anderson, 1998,
p. 444).

Negative parental expectations or views of child protection services are not confined to
Canada. In the United States, Diorio conducted in-depth interviews with thirteen
involuntary child protection clients to find overwhelmingly negative views of child
protection services and claiming that workers were "inhuman" and had "no morals"
(Diorio, 1992, p. 228). These findings are likely explained by Diorio in a small sample of
involuntary clients, but in Britain, Cleaver and Freeman's (1995) in depth analysis of five
hundred and eighty three (583) child protection cases, found parents interacting with the
child protection system feeling trapped and claiming that, "everything they did or said
was given a hostile interpretation. They felt guilty until proven innocent," (Cleaver &
Freeman, 1995, p. 83). In fact, British parents' negative experiences of the child
protection system became so evident that the government sponsored studies into child
protection practice. These studies showed that child welfare intervention had become so
intrusive and inquisitorial that the system left parents feeling "angry, alienated and
bewildered" (Brindle, 1995a, 1995b). These findings were Position Papered in the
national media and a prominent daily newspaper published the comments of one parent
that captured the sentiments of the nation:

       They just said in didn't get myself together and they had any more phone calls
       about the children, they would go straight into care. There should be a more
       friendly way about things and offer some kind of help. (Brindle, 1995b)

Taking this message to heart, demands were made for policy makers and child protection
agencies to find a "more friendly way" to protect children (Brindle, 1995a). The need to
find a "more friendly way" was not just driven by a desire to be compassionate to parents,
but recognition that if parents bring feelings of fear and mistrust to the intervention
process, collaboration becomes more difficult and the ability to protect children is
compromised. Earlier British research had shown that child protection workers adopting a
"inspectoral" role failed to offer protection for the children and tended to lead to the
'drawing up of battle lines', and considerably increased [parental] anxiety," (Thoburn,
1980, p. 97). In such circumstances, rather than collaborate, parents comply by "playing
the game." This is where parents feign cooperation with intervention plans and safety
plans just to appease workers (Callahan et al., 1998; Cleaver & Freeman, 1995; Corby,
Millar, & Young, 1996; Howe, 1989; McCullum, 1995). Ontario parents routinely play
the game. McCullum (1995) found Ontario parents playing the game to appease workers
when they were frightened and disempowered. One parent observed that, "they've got the
only game in town and you play it their way or you do not play," (McCullum, 1995, p.
99). The parent added that if they had known these rules earlier, "I would have been
humbled a long time ago... I would have kissed their ‘arses’, bowed, whatever,"
(McCullum, 1995, p. 98). In British Columbia, Callahan and colleagues (1998) also
found that parents who they perceived workers as threatening played the game, which
they called "cat and mouse." The task of the game is for the mouse (parent) to outwit the
more powerful cat (child protection worker), even if it means lying.

Managing Hopes and Fears
If the fears parents bring to intervention can me minimized, and their hopes maximized,
the likelihood for collaboration increases. When parents are afraid, "playing the game"
occurs and although this gives the appearance of collaboration, it fails to provide the
basis for viable safety and protection plans. Children are either left at risk or have to be
unnecessarily removed from home.

Although efforts need to be made to reduce fear and maximize hope, workers must
recognize that there are times when a coercive and inspectoral role may be needed. There
will always be cases where parents are so resistant to collaboration, or risks are so high,
that coercive and inspectoral intervention is required. Such intervention, however, should
not be the standard operating procedure for a child protection system. If all intervention
to be coercive and inquisitorial by nature, this will neutralize the systems capability to
collaborate with parents in providing children with safety in their own homes.

Written by Gary Dumbrill, M.S.W., PhD; Assistant Professor, McMaster University and
a Project Committee Member.

What Youth Bring to Collaboration
The Project Committee invited Judy Findlay, the Chief Advocate from the Office of the
Child and Family Service Advocacy, to address the committee on the subject of
collaboration with youth in care. A youth coordinator and four adolescents in care
accompanied the Chief Advocate. She supported the direction of the draft report
especially its emphasis on such concepts as ‘social justice’, ‘anti-oppression’, and the
commitment to “social inclusiveness.”

The Chief Advocate also indicated that The Office of Child and Family Service
Advocacy supports the rights of children and youth to be heard. She indicated that her
office is committed to creating social systems that help youth achieve their full potential
as members of society. She emphasised the importance that collaboration with youth
proceed in a spirit of respect, dignity, equality, tolerance, association, participation, and
opportunity and that their capacity to contribute as active agents to the collaborative
process be acknowledged. She outlined that the importance of listening to, and acting on
the voices of youth is articulated the reports from her Office, which include Crossover
Kids – Care to Custody (August, 2003 need full reference) and Voices From Within:
Youth speak out (Finlay & Snow, 1998). The Chief Advocate reported at a Project
meeting that fifty three per cent (53%) of those involved in the youth justice system were
involved with the child welfare system, and that of those youth involved in both systems,
twenty per cent (20%) received their first charge while living in a C.A.S. group home

Crossover kids: Care to custody reported that the exercise of asking youth participants to
“describe chronologically, their progression through residential care placements” (p. 9)
allowed them to represent their ‘lifeline’ – a concept developed by Plaisant, Milash,
Rose, Widoff, & Shneiderman (1996). The opportunity to talk about their lives
(lifelines), with a focus on movements in care, and “critical life events” (p. 18) allowed
the youth to understand the connections between “movement in their lives and its
significance to their well being” (p. 20). The report advised:

       At the point of the first out-of-home placement, a youth centred model that builds
       on the meaningful relationships in a youth’s life is optimal. The placement of
       youth in care must enhance his life changes (Snow and Finlay, 1998). A single
       case manager is required to follow the youth from admission to care to discharge.

The Chief advocate observed that many youth believe “life happened to us.” They spoke
of the trauma of leaving home and of their deep sense of loss in their life. They spoke of
their need for help to make sense of the events in their lives. For example, when they
moved from their family to a group home, youth spoke of their sense of loss of identity
and belonging to a community, as their identity increasingly came from living in care.
Youth need someone, some adult, whom they often identify as their child welfare worker
to help them to understand and to negotiate through the traumatic events in their lives (p.
22). In addition, they wanted their workers to be their advocate.

The youth who were interviewed for the crossover project also talked about problems in
their relationships with their Child welfare workers. They complained that, “workers
were unavailable, changed frequently and did not listen to the concerns and wishes of the
youth. Youth described feeling hopeless and powerless to alter their life circumstances”
(p. 22). Not surprisingly youth reflected that in order to gain the attention of their
workers, they would purposefully engage in “provocative behaviours” (p. 22).

Youth made it clear that relationships and collaboration with workers are important to
them. The youth representatives who spoke to the committee provided their description
of what makes a good social worker and a good relationship.

Youth expect social workers to demonstrate genuine commitment and caring. They need
social workers who are prepared to provide congruent and honest support. Social
workers demonstrate their commitment to youth through simple acts - returning a
telephone call, meeting a youth for coffee, taking time to listen, responding to concrete
and material requests, and following through on promises. Building relationships of trust
with youth, especially youth in care who have experienced repeated betrayals and failed
commitments, require carefully deliberate use of interaction over time. Social workers
need the time to attend to youth in care on their caseloads and they need the time to
advocate and act on their behalf.

It is critically important that the voices of youth be heard. Accordingly the
recommendations from “Voices from within: Youth speak out” are reproduced below.
Additionally, the notes of the dialogue between the youth who visited the Committee are
contained in Appendix 8. Their comments reinforce the importance of a collaborative
relation between themselves and CAS workers.

Youth Recommendations
The following recommendations from Part III of the April 1998 paper Voices from
within: Youth Speak Out are reproduced with permission. The location of the youth is
provided in the square brackets [ ] regarding whether it was related to placement in child
welfare, mental health or in corrections.

1) Relationships Matter the Most
Youth identified relationships with staff as the single most critical factor for healing.
Respectful interactions, feeling cared for and not being judged, give youth a sense of
belonging and safety, which increased their ability to trust. These factors are the essential
building blocks for self-esteem and the ability to develop interpersonal relationships.
Staff role modeling allows youth to reciprocate and begin to achieve responsibility. The
ability of staff to deliver clear, consistent messages and spell out expectations is critical
to understanding the rules and following them. Within such an environment, youth have
the sense that structure and safety promotes healing. Effective screening of staff makes
the achievement of this environment and healing possible.

2) Respect Me

Youth were asked to describe the best residential program they had experienced. The
most common response was one where they felt respected and cared for. Youth spoke of
the importance of front line staff caring, listening and taking time with them regardless of
their placement in child welfare, mental health or in corrections. .

       “Old foster home, they were really good to me. The kids were good. I was able to
       visit when I left.” [Child Welfare]
       “[I] had a suicide episode when [name of youth] left and foster home took me
       back.” [Child Welfare]
       "When kids treat staff like assholes, they treat kids with respect." [CMHC]
       "There's unconditional care, no matter if you did something wrong." [CMHC]
       "Here, we travel together. They’re an awesome family. We have good friends
       here." [Group Home]
       “[At group home], [I was] treated like a person." [Shelter]
       “Staff treat you with respect.” [YOA I]
       "They feed you here, they spend time with you. You meet lots of people here."
       [YOA I]
       “It's not like you have to go to them if you have a problem. The staff will ask
       you.” [YOA II]

3) Show Me You Care
Youth were asked to describe helpful things have been said or done while they were in
care. They mentioned staff consistently responding, caring and being supportive of them.

       “If you phone them and you're in a place that is not safe, they'll come and get you
       right away.” [Child Welfare]
       "They like spending time with you, they care about you." [CMHC]
       "A staff told my mom I was doing really good and if I keep it up I will go home."
       [Group Home]
       “Grandfather was in hospital dying. [It was]good to have them [staff] around.”
       [Group Home]
       "Staff saved my life. I had a gun and was ready to kill myself. She talked with me
       for 4 hours, and talked me out of it." [Shelter]
       “[Staff helped me get into] drug rehab.” [Shelter]
       “Staff try to talk to you about depression. Try and help you out.” [YOA I]

4) Active Environments Promote Healing
The youth frequently mentioned programming, counseling, culture and recreation as
aspects of a good residential program.

       "You learn social skills, associate with people your own age and same
       experience." [Child Welfare]
       "I learned a lot about myself [ at a drug treatment centre]." [Child Welfare]
       "[Transitional housing], not just a place for a little while. You learn life skills,
       when you go out you have some experience." [Child Welfare]
       "Criteria program, booklets on work, depression, family, feelings." [CMHC]

       "One place took you on canoe trips, winter camping. They had a tight schedule,
       always something to do. That place showed me that instead of violence, pulling
       off scams, there were other things to do." [Shelter]
       "Able to discuss problems, ability for input into your plan." [Shelter]
       “Secure facility. Could go outside for three hours. Lots of programming, weight
       rooms." [YOA I]
       "They tried to open the [communication] lines to my parents." [YOA II]

5) Setting Clear and Consistent Rules
Many youth identified rules as one aspect of a good residential program, noting that
having clear, fair and consistently followed rules was helpful to them.

       "The [YOA I detention] was better than the places I stayed. Even though I was
       locked up, staff weren't as controlling." [Child Welfare]
       "When I lived with natural parents there were no rules. My foster parents give me
       rules to show me they care." [Child Welfare]
       “Rules were fair, written down, people talked to you. [referring to psychiatric
       hospital]” [YOA I]

6) Showing Respect
Youth provided many suggestions for the kinds of advice they would give to staff in
residential programs. The consistent theme throughout was that of respect.
In the part of the report entitled, Youth in Care in Ontario Speak Out, the children went
on to advocate for several additional roles from their workers. They are identified below.

7) Listen to Us The project has attempted to provide guidance in the area of worker –
client collaboration as a basic underpinning of successful and humane child welfare
intervention. Having acknowledged human interaction as the conduit to change, we have
shown that improvement in the ability to foster a collaborative relationship affects every
area of child welfare. Roch articulated the vision of the Ministry for child welfare as “a
high quality system, which protects children who have been identified at risk of abuse
and neglect. Services are responsive, based on best practice research, delivered by highly
trained individuals and integrated with other support services for children.” (Roch, 2003)
We predict that the ability to manage conflict within the tension of the worker – client
relationship will positively affect family group conferencing, alternative dispute
resolution, kinship care and other significant objectives of the Transformation of Child
Welfare Services currently being developed by the Secretariat of the Ministry of Children
and Youth.

       "If you say these foster parents did this to you, they don’t believe you."
       [Child Welfare]
       "Find out what the problem is. Talk to the kid." [Shelter]
       "They [the system] needs to listen to the kids, because they think the adults are
       the smart ones." [Shelter]

8) Understand Us

       "You hear you're going to be a problem child and you eventually become a
       problem child." [Child Welfare]
       “Workers should be caring and also know where to draw the line. Cause they can
       do a lot of damage. I had a worker who said she loved me and never would leave.
       And she moved and didn’t call me.” [Child Welfare]
       “Try and put yourself in residents' shoes.” [Shelter]
       "Try to understand, get to know where you're [youth] coming from." [YOA I]

9) Don’t Prejudge Us
      “Don’t be judgmental. They've never gone through this. Try to be a bit more
      understanding. Respect privacy, need to understand different kids have different
      ways of blowing off steam. Let them know you are there.” [Child Welfare]
      "Look at what the children need. Not the label." [Child Welfare]
      “Don’t just read the file.” [Shelter]
      "Just because we have emotional problems, we’re not bad and we get treated
      lower than everyone else." [Shelter]
      “Give us a chance to prove ourselves.” [YOA I]

10) Be Fair To Us
       "Treat kids fairly, don’t hurt them." [Group Home]
       “Don’t be a foster parent if you can’t have time for kid.” [YOA I]

Taken from the Voices Project, Office of the Child and Family Service Advocacy, April
1998, Judy Finlay, M.S.W., Chief Advocate, OCFSA, Kim Snow C.C.W., M.S.W.,
Principal Researcher.

What Workers Bring to Collaboration
This section of the Position Paper speaks to the potential for the individual worker to shift
the paradigm within child welfare. Examining the implicit authority of the mandate and
how that translates into worker behaviour, this area will address those competencies that
are most critical to the process. In addition it explores the notion that the ‘offering of
hope’ is central to the formulation of a professional working relationship with child
welfare clients” and that while client – worker mutuality may not exist at the outset of the
relationship, it can be fostered. Workers must be able to wear their authority with some
comfort for if they cannot, how can clients respond with trust? Skills and qualities such
as communication, humility, and demonstration of competence within the caring
relationship, honesty, warmth and the ability to convey genuineness are examined.

Front line child welfare workers bring a wide range of qualities and aspirations including
an interest in working with families and child’s safety. While child welfare staff may
have different personalities, research indicates that they often share common attributes
including idealism, high empathic skills and an interest in serving others.

Since the majority of new child welfare staff enter from social work education programs,
they bring with them both learning and exposure to value systems that include concepts

of holistic practice, anti-oppression and social justice Upon entering the field, they may
be challenged in trying to integrate these values and learning with the mandated and
sometimes involuntary services inherent in child welfare practice.

Experienced child protection workers bring different hopes to their role. Those who
“survive” the first few years in front-line protection may find themselves attracted to the
fast pace and immediacy of the work and their ability to have the influence and power to
take actions to protect children.

Factors associated with personal resiliency include the ability not to experience conflict
with clients only on a interpersonal level (Figley, 2000). They are able to contextualize
events and fit them into a conceptual framework that helps explain client behaviour. This
ability to conceptualize their more stressful experiences combines theoretical knowledge
with empathic accuracy
In addition to personal resiliency, the literature has explored other qualities associated
with experienced and effective workers including demonstrated warmth, relationship
building and maintaining skills and the ability, perhaps the willingness to see beyond the
clients present crises. There is little doubt that the quality and dedication of the child
welfare workforce remains the most significant quality control variable, despite the
introduction of a complex and detailed accountability mechanisms.

The Pendulum Swing
Following a number of highly publicized inquests in Ontario (resulting in more than 400
recommendations), child welfare has been faced with the task of integrating massive
reforms. While child welfare systems in North America and Europe have been
transformed as a result of public inquiries into child homicides, the cases that were
reviewed were not statistically reflective of the child maltreatment and neglect cases
generally seen in child welfare agencies. Child fatalities do not appear to be influenced
by increased child protection services and yet avoidance of similar occurrences have
become a focus of significant activity and anxiety (Trocmé & Lindsey, 1996). This
tension was expressed in an OPSEU union fact sheet, which is reproduced here with

                      Figure 4: Accountability by OPSEU/SEFPO

In 1996, charges of criminal negligence against a protection worker at the Catholic
Children’s Aid Society of Toronto heightened child welfare worker’s sense of personal
and legal vulnerability. Substantial increases in documentation, audits, assessment
Position Papers, supervisory check-ins and other accountability mechanisms have been
introduced despite that fact that the causes of child death are likely to lie in factors
unrelated to standards of practice (Sanders et al., 1999).

“The last decade has seen child welfare shift emphasis from rehabilitating poorly
functioning families to identifying potentially dangerous parents” (Davies, McKinnon,
Rains, & Mastronardi, 1999). This has resulted in child welfare contacts with clients
becoming more challenging and contentious. Studies of worker turnover show that to a
large extent the workforce has voted with their feet, dividing the available jobs into high
and low turnover positions. In general terms, high turnover jobs have been front line
protection positions such as intake and family service positions, where turnover has been
two to three times that of those working only with children in longer term care.

Staff Response
The emotional impact of working with child welfare clients has been documented in
studies of worker burnout (Maslach, 1978; Maslach & Leiter, 1997). In 2000, the
Children’s Aid Society of Toronto in association with the University of Toronto,
completed a study which revealed that staff were exposed to significant amounts of
traumatic stimuli and experienced high rates of post traumatic stress (Regehr, Chau,
Leslie, & Howe, 2002a, 2002b). Scores on the Impact of Event Scale (Zilberg, Weiss, &
Horowitiz, 1982), considered a reliable indicator of Post–Traumatic Stress Disorder,
showed that front-line social worker’s mean score was 34, well above the cut-off of 26

associated with a diagnosis of PTSD Position Papered by other researchers (McFarlane,
1988). The mean score of fire fighters shortly after a major brush fire in Australia was
25.5 (Regehr, Hill, & Glancy, 2000).

A similar study found that ambulance workers (25.4) and firefighters (22.6) also scored
well below the child welfare staff (Regehr 1998). Of equal concern in this study was the
fact that post-traumatic stress symptoms did not appear to be ameliorated by personal or
organizational supports. This suggests that the key to reducing post-traumatic stress may
lie in reducing exposure to events rather than assisting staff in coping with the aftermath.

In addition, staff interviewed reflected stress and dissatisfaction from both workload
volume and the type of work they are asked to perform. Staff’s comments indicated that
the conflict nature of their interaction with clients, as well as the performance of
unrewarding tasks such as data entry and excessive documentation, contribute to their
stress and their decisions to terminate employment. Staff said:

   o The “pendulum shift” in child welfare had made their interactions more
     adversarial with clients.
   o Emphasis on “discovery of risk” was unsatisfying professionally “We lay down
     the law and then apprehend if they don’t measure up.”
   o Staff said that this approach was not effective with clients.
   o Court work was overwhelming and “outrageous.”
   o Focus is on liability, documentation and tools, “we spend our time trying to put
     clients in little boxes”, and “systems are out of touch with reality with clients.”

The introduction of risk assessment formats and other clinical tools have supported
practice and helped structure and standardize our assessments of families, but have been
challenged for their unreliable predictive value and for rigidifying our approach to the job
(Parton, Thorpe, & Wattam, 1997; P. Steinhauer, 1997, 2000). Computer technology has
strengthened our information base but also resulted in tedious data entry tasks and
diverted staff resources from direct client contact. One only has to look at the IFRS
recording package. In spite of the improvements that have been made, there is still a
degree of duplication of information that the worker has to input and supervisors have to
sign off on in every case regardless of whether it is relevant in each and every child
safety situation. Hopefully the Differential Response initiatives of the Secretariat will
also help to streamline this problem through making case recording more specific and
systems less onerous in nature. Figure 5 below present some of the present difficulties.

                             Figure 5: Root Cause Analysis

                                     Rocci Pagnello 2005

For the most part, both the objectives and debate have been focused on how best to
protect children. The impact of these changes and other child welfare stressors on job
satisfaction and worker turnover has also received attention. There is little dispute that
reforms have resulted in increased workload and expectations for staff, but the movement
towards standardization in child welfare has also generated debate about it’s impact on
job satisfaction and efficacy with clients.

Child welfare work has been described as increasingly, “task oriented and performance
related, quantifiable and measurable, product minded and subject to quality controls.
Professional discretion disappears under a growing mountain of departmentally generated
policy and formulae” (Howe 1994). As noted by Davies and colleagues, “while there is a
great deal of organizational activity in the form of investigations and case conferences,
little social work support is, in the end, actually provided to families” (Davies et al.,

Child welfare’s reliance on accountability and quality control mechanisms to improve
service is contradicted by literature on what motivates and supports employees. In studies
of private and public employees including child welfare, Maslach (1997) has written that
complex problems cannot be adequately addressed with standardized procedures. In
effect, it leaves the employee with two problems, the issue the client is presenting and the
burden of fitting the problem into a rigid framework of assessment or intervention.

Employees with adequate training, incentive and problem solving skills require the
flexibility and autonomy to adapt their approach to a particular situation. Excessive pre-

implementation check-ins with management are experienced by professional staff as un-
empowering and unhelpful. Staff who feel a degree of control and independence in their
work are more stress resilient and evaluate the effectiveness of their service more
positively (Guterman & Jayaratne, 1994). The Retention Sub-Committee of the National
Advisory Committee on the Workforce Crises in Child Welfare (U.S.) has outlined one
best practice theme that; “The organization frees employees to make decisions and take
action without numbing levels of policy, procedure and bureaucracy” (Alwon & Reitz,

Child welfare reform in Ontario has also brought many direct benefits and changes that
have in fact been advocated for by our agency and others for many years (McCloskey,
2000). Heightened public awareness of child abuse, increased funding and staff
complements, improvements in data bases and legislative changes allowing earlier
interventions and broader interpretations of risk have improved our ability to protect
children (OACAS 1998). While many debate the present application of risk tools and
other assessment formats, there is little doubt that they have deepened and helped
objectify our knowledge base of child protection.

Balancing flexibility with consistency of practice is a major challenge facing the field.
Indeed, “much of good child welfare work with children in care is bridging the gap
between the two perspectives, bending the rigidities of law and regulation to
accommodate, even nurture and celebrate, the variability of human beings” (Martin,
2000). Organizations should not only work on solving existing problems, but outline new
initiatives of service that involve staff creatively in their work. New ideas contribute
towards developing engagement between staff and organizations (Alwon & Reitz, 2000;
Maslach & Leiter, 1997).

The major factors contributing to worker dissatisfaction and stress in child welfare are the
emotional impact of working with needy, often hostile clients, work overload, and
dissatisfaction with the amount and nature of quality control mechanisms. The degree to
which these factors are interactive (are clients more hostile because of our change in
approach to them?) requires further study.

There is now building evidence in our jurisdiction and others that whatever the relative
merits of our systems are, professional staff are increasingly unwilling to perform job
functions that are experienced as unsatisfying and unmanageable. Few deny that
accountability measures are necessary; the debate should examine the degree or balance
of their influence in child welfare practice. The “pendulum swing” child welfare has
experienced may need to be moderated to integrate the progress reform has brought with
a job design that is sufficiently rewarding to retain child welfare staff. The quality of
service to children and families will ultimately be compromised if delivered by stressed,
inexperienced or ambivalent employees.

What Supervisors Bring to Collaboration
Supervisors must lead front-line staff in a collaborative and balanced approach to child
welfare to ensure child safety through clinical engagement resulting in positive child
outcomes. Principles that enable such supervision include:

   o Recognition that parallel processes or the culture of the organization influences all
   o Supervision ensuring professional accountability of service delivery to clients and
     the community
   o Agency quality assurance systems encouraging clinical supervision
   o Supervisors being provided with the skills and opportunity to prioritize clinical
   o The teacher, trainer, mentor roles of the Clinical Supervisor are promoted and
   o Supervisors feeling adequately supported and safe in engaging in a balanced
     approach to supervision

Supervision in literature
Child welfare supervisors have received little attention in the literature beyond what they
can do to better support front line staff (Regehr et al., 2002a). Stressors on front-line
include excessive workloads (Guterman & Jayaratne, 1994) (Collings & Murray, 1996;
1994; Hutchinson, 1993; Bradley & Sutherland, 1990) low salary and poor working
conditions (Vinokur-Kaplan, 1991), a limited sense of accomplishment (Vinokur-Kaplan,
1991) and exposure to personal risk in terms of threats and assault at a rate considerably
higher than that of other mental health workers (authors, in press; Newhill & Wexler,
1997). These stressors are passed on to supervisors because they are responsible for
promoting the effectiveness of social work staff and ensuring quality service provision
(Bibus, 1993; Kadushin, 1976).

In addition to supporting front-line staff, the high rates of change within Ontario child
welfare have placed its own demands on supervisors and managers. Child welfare
supervisors and managers have a key role in developing effective change management
practices in response to rapidly changing public policies (Shields & Milks, 1994).
Supervisors carry multiple functions as coordinators of service, quality control reviewers
and as buffers between administration, clients, the public and workers (Silver, Poulin &
Manning, 1997). Although researchers have considered the impact of stress on child
welfare workers, the impact on supervisors and managers remains relatively unexplored.
One recent study, however, revealed supervisors experiencing similar levels of stress and
higher levels of job dissatisfaction then front line workers (Regehr, et al) As the child
welfare field in Ontario contemplates another wave of change or transformation, front
line supervisors will be key messengers and active agents of implementation, both at a
practical and philosophical level.

Supervisors in Practice
As an arm’s length partner to the client-worker relationship, supervisors bring to
collaboration their own skills such as experience. Under the Ontario Risk Assessment
Model, the role of the supervisor became increasingly one of directing, monitoring,
checking, approving and auditing of worker interventions against prescribed standards,
policies and procedures. This process was spawned by the liability-focused, deficit-
based, risk reduction, approach which was one of the unintended consequences of Child
Welfare (Provincial Directors of Service, 2001). These changes shifted the role of
supervisors to primarily managing compliance issues rather than engaging and leading
the people who did the difficult work. Issues of paperwork and regulations filled the
supervisor’s inbox, and issues of whether parents were able to make protective changes
and the casework methods workers might use to help them do so were pushed to the side.

Supervisor Hopes
Many supervisor’s hope that their job returns to one that more closely relates to the core
social work values that brought them to the profession in the first place. For many, the
promotion to supervisor in child welfare brought about hopes of positively influencing
staff in their role to keep children safe and help parents become more effective in their
role. This belief in the leadership position of a supervisor includes the challenging but
motivating roles of coach, teacher, mentor, trainer, and supporter of their staff. The
transformation agenda in Ontario has the potential of being more congruent with
supervisor’s core values and motivators. This mirrors very closely, some of the hopes of
worker’s in their role with clients i.e. to make a positive difference in the life of the
children and parents they serve.

Supervisor Fears
The greatest fear of all who work in the field is that a child is seriously injured or dies as
a result of abuse or neglect on a case we are involved with. In moving to a more
proactive role, some supervisors may fear a loss of security and safety that the current
Ontario Risk Assessment Model (ORAM) process brings. Trocme and Lindsey (1996)
note that child homicide is a rare event when compared with rates of Position Papers of

child maltreatment. “Less than one in 2000 children in which abuse is actually confirmed,
dies. Discerning which one of the 2000 cases will become the fatality may become a
futile enterprise (Trocme and Lindsey 1996)” The Child Mortality Task Force noted that
“Accurately assessing those parents who might kill their children is made more difficult
by the fact that factors associated with child maltreatment are not necessarily the same
correlates associated with child mortality” (Ontario Association of Children's Aid
Societies & The Office of the Chief Coroner of Ontario, 1997).

Managing the Hopes and Fears
If the system and the agency culture does not work in parallel with supervisors to reduce
their fears, there will be a tendency to revert to a lower level of Maslow’s hierarchy of
needs, to the “safety and security” level which is one level below where relationships are
the driving & motivating force (see figure 3). This level, by human necessity, focuses on
individual safety and self-preservation, which is not conducive to relationship building
with anyone (except perhaps to an authority figure who could represent or provide
safety). The motivational level that the supervisor is operating at will likely influence all
but the most confident and resilient staff. By the same token, a worker operating out of
Maslow’s level two, will not likely be able to make concerted efforts to engage their
clients. This is explained through the slide below outlining Maslow and Hertzberg’s
principles that are currently taught to supervisors in the O.A.CAS, M3 training module.

   Figure 6: Comparing Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs with Hertzberg’s Satisfiers

                                       Figure Rocci Pagnello, 2005

What the Supervisor Brings to Collaboration was
Written by Phyllis Lovell and Phil Howe

What Workers, Children, and Families Need To Do Together to Improve
This section will deal with the potential for improving the collaborative process toward
successful outcomes for children and their families. While the (social) worker – client
relationship remains the primary vehicle for change within child welfare; this relationship
is especially challenging due to the emotionally loaded nature of the work and the fact
that many clients are not voluntary (Drake, 1994, 1996; Trotter, 2002, 2004). Indeed, as
noted by Healy:
        The nature of statutory work, particularly the demand that workers identify and
        intervene in situations of abuse and neglect, means that workers cannot avoid
        judgment, but a participatory ethos demands that those judgements are
        reflectively applied and that worker are accountable to the families who are the
        subjects of them. (Healy, 1998, p. 912)

The protection of children is enhanced by the relationship between client and worker
(Drake, 1994). What parallels this is the need to involve workers in agency planning.
Inasmuch as good social work practice involves the client’s collaboration in the helping
process, the child welfare organization that celebrates the input of staff in the design of
service delivery is far the richer for it (Survey on Staff Retention, Metro CAS, 2001).

               Figure 7: The Hopes and Fears of Parents and Workers

                                 Figure: Rocci Pagnello, 2005

                                  Figure 8: Collaborative Planning

                                       Collaborative Planning

                                                The Balancing Act                     Responsibility
              Involvement                                                            for the Decision

                 in Making                                                                  +
               the Decision                               Shared                         Resources
                                                          Mission                     To Make it Happen
                                                      Vision & Values
                                                    ‘Safe Children,
                                                 Strengthened Family’

                                        = Ownership for the Decision
          Acid test for a good decision-making process = when it is time to implement the decision,
          the family who are doing it say “This is our family’s plan” rather than “This is their plan”

                                       How can we facilitate this here?
          •Be frank, open and honest both about their challenges and strengths
          •Involve family members who will or can be impacted by the plan
          • Keep them involved in the planning whenever possible – use words like “we, us, together, our plan,
          it will be your decision”.
          •Allow family members to honestly share their point of view about services
          •Communicate (two way whenever possible) to everyone who will be impacted at key decision

                                         Figure Rocci Pagnello, 2005

To bolster collaborative planning, the committee chose to adapt the practice principles
advocated for in The Signs of Safety: Solution and Safety Oriented Approach to Child
Protection (Turnell & Edwards, 1999). There was much discussion on principles in
general and at the conclusion of the discussion it was felt that Andrew Turnell and Steve
Edwards had captured the essence of what workers need to do in order to build
appropriate collaboration with child welfare clients. The basic principles of this work can
be outlined by a thorough examination of their guidelines for developing both the
therapeutic alliance and best practice elements. They are outlined below.

The Therapeutic Alliance in Child Protection Casework
1) Respect service recipients as people worth doing business with
       Maintaining the position that the family is capable of change can create a sense of
       hope and possibility. Be as open-minded toward family members as possible,
       approaching them as potential partners in building safety.

2) Cooperate with the person, not the abuse
       Workers can build a relationship with family members without condoning the
       abuse in any way. Listen and respond to the service recipient’s story. Give the
       family choices and opportunities to give you input. Learn what they want. The

       worker must be up front and honest, particularly in the investigation. Treat service
       recipient as individuals.
3) Recognize that cooperation is possible even where coercion is required
       Workers will almost always have to use some amount of coercion and often have
       to exercise statutory power to prevent situations of continuing danger, but this
       should not prevent them from aspiring to build a cooperative partnership with
       parents. Recognize that coercion and cooperation can exist simultaneously, and
       utilize skills that foster this.

4) Recognize that all families have signs of safety
       All families have competencies and strengths. They keep their children safe, at
       least some, and usually most, of the time. Ensure that careful attention is given to
       these signs of safety.

5) Maintain a focus on safety
       The focus of child protection work is always to increase safety. Maintain this
       orientation in thinking about the agency and the worker’s role as well as the
       specific details and activities of the casework.

6) Learn what the service recipient wants
       Acknowledge the client’s concerns and desires. Use the service recipient’s goals
       in creating a plan for action and motivating family members to change. Whenever
       compatible, bring client goals together with agency goals.

7) Always search for detail
      Always elicit specific, detailed information, whether exploring negative or
      positive aspects of the situation. Solutions arise out of details, not generalizations.

8) Focus on creating small change
       Think about, discuss, and work toward small changes. Don’t become frustrated
       when big goals are not immediately achieved. Focus on small, attainable goals
       and acknowledge when they have been achieved.

9) Don’t confuse case details with judgments
       Reserve judgment until as much information as possible has been gathered. Don’t
       confuse these conclusions with the details of the case. Remember that others,
       particularly the family, will judge the details differently.

10) Offer choices
       Avoid alienating service recipients with unnecessary coercion. Instead, offer
       choices about as many aspects of the casework as possible. This involves family
       members in the process and builds cooperation.

11) Treat the interview as a forum for change
       View the interview as the intervention, and therefore recognize the interaction
       between the worker and the service recipients to be the key vehicle for change.

12) Treat the practice principles as aspirations, not assumptions
       Continually aspire to implement the practice principles, but have the humility to
       recognize that even the most experienced worker will have to think and act
       carefully to implement them. Recognize that no one gets it right all the time in
       child protection work.

Practice Elements
The book also talks about the six practice elements for workers to consider in their
collaboration. The signs of safety approach are not just about discovering constructive
elements of family functioning. Using the practice elements can generate information
indicative of either safety or danger. These elements include the following:

1) Understand the position of each family member
      Seek to identify and understand the values, beliefs and meanings family members
      perceive in their stories. This assists the worker to respond to the uniqueness of
      each case and to move toward plans the family will enact.

2) Find exceptions to the maltreatment (abuse/neglect)
       Search for exceptions to problem. This creates hope for workers and families by
       proving that the problem does not always exist. Exceptions may also indicate
       solutions that have worked in the past. Where no exceptions exist, the worker may
       be alerted to a more serious problem.

3) Discover family strengths and resources
       Identify and highlight positive aspects of the family. This prevents the problems
       from overwhelming and discouraging everyone involved.

4) Focus on goals
       Elicit the family’s goals to improve the safety of the child and their life in general.
       Compare these with the agency’s own goals. Use the family’s ideas wherever
       possible. Where the family is unable to suggest any constructive goals, danger to
       the child is probably increased.

5) Scale safety and progress
       Identify the family members’ sense of safety and progress throughout the case (0
       the worst that something could be, 10, the best things could be). This allows clear
       comparisons with workers’ judgments.

6) Assess willingness, confidence and capacity
       Determine the family’s willingness and ability to carry out plans before trying to
       implement them.

The following diagram demonstrates the steps that parents need to take in regard to 6)

                               Figure 9: The Steps of Change for Parents

                                       The Steps of Change for Parents
                                         Involved with Child Welfare

                                                               For some clients, a significant experience is
                                            Able to Teach       to help another parent up the ladder – look
                                                                     for this rare empowerng opportunity.

                                                                    Allow them to stretch, learn
                                           Developing Skills      from mistakes, recognize their
                                                                                  own progress.

                                           Practice under           Be or arrange for a benevolent
                                                                      mentor, teacher via positive
                                             supervision                           reinforcement.
                                                                           Teach them in a mode that
                                                                      matches their needs. Have they
                                        Teaching, Modelling            seen someone do what it is we
                                                                      are asking them to do or to be?

                                                                              Do they have the right
                                       Gaining knowledge &             information? Have they had an
                                          understanding                        opportunity to learn ?

                                                                             What in their ecological
                                      Instrumental resources              setting imposes barriers to
                                                                         change? Utilize ‘Power with’
                                       to make the change?              them to advocate for change.

                                                                            Do they believe they can?
                                      Confidence They Can                 Assess resistance in light of
                                       Make the Change                         hope and trust with us.
                                                                            Have we explained the
                                                                          problem in a way that they
                                     Ground Floor : Seeing &               can hear & understand?
                              Believing the Need for Change                 Does the change have
                                                                          meaning for them? Have we
                                                                         scared them into ‘playing the
                  R Pagnello, 2005

                                                 Rocci Pagnello 2005

Can Workers Build Partnerships with Parents When Litigation is Involved?
There are no simple or quick fix answers to this complex question. However, to deny the
possibility of doing so would be reality of child welfare social work.
As noted by de Montigny (1995), “the relations of coercion, force, conflict and power are
embedded in child protection legislation, and the legally-mandated apparatus that has
been created to enforce that legislation. Child protection is organized as an adversarial
work process that pits child protection workers against parents” (de Montigny, 1995, p.
127). The author contends that this dichotomy is not absolute; that there lies an
opportunity and arguably an ethical obligation, for child protection workers to continue
the pursuit of a collaborative relationship with parents. The role of lawyers who advocate
the Society’s position must also engage in a paradigm shift, from the strict and traditional
role that they are professionally ascribed, to one which includes core social work values
in order to best serve their client.

Litigators are trained to be adversarial. Traditional discourse invokes battleground
imagery, siege mentality, power imbalances: “winning”, “losing”, and “fighting” and
tend to contribute significantly to the mind-set of child protection workers to also think in
these terms. It has never been the child protection worker’s goal to pit “winners” against
“losers” as the nature of the litigation process does. Not surprisingly, the power of the
adversarial system can work its way into the psyche of child protection workers such that
being asked by their colleagues when returning from court, “So, did you win?” is not

At first blush then, the two professions appear antithetical in nature. Lawyers are trained
to be dispassionate and adopt a stance that is ostensibly “objective” and be “reasonable”
officers of the court. Effectively, they are to take the “people” out of situations and
develop arguments based on principles of law, as they would apply to anyone. They are
trained to elicit objective facts and observations from witnesses. Child protection
workers, on the other hand, are trained to be empathic and sensitive.

We argue that when the “gloves are dropped” in the litigation process, the relationship
with the parent need not be lost, rather there exists a new opportunity for constructive and
creative strategies to be employed. The ability to subjectively and passionately
empathise with clients is central to effective social work. Convergence of professional
values between lawyers and workers is an area that the authors argue is greatly neglected.
Within a field where the stakes are high and the resources are limited, the child welfare
system can ill-afford to ignore innovative interdisciplinary opportunities to mitigate the
problems that workers face in working with families.

CAS lawyers rely almost exclusively on the information they receive from the child
protection worker assigned to the case. The lack of understanding between the respective
roles of the professions can lead to serious misunderstandings and expectation frustration.
In child protection litigation, the worker is the lawyer’s client. The lawyer does not know
the parent in the same way that the worker has come to know the parent and the lawyer
relies heavily on up-to-date information to be provided by the worker. As such, the
worker/lawyer relationship is mutually dependent and is critical to the litigation outcome.

By way of anecdote, in a legal proceeding, a young child protection worker leaned over
and whispered to the lawyer that the client was “pissed”. The lawyer interpreted this
statement to mean intoxicated and proceeded to argue the case making the presiding
Judge aware of the Society’s concerns regarding addictions issues which were central to
the Society’s case. Following the hearing, the worker questioned the basis for the
lawyer’s submissions regarding the parent’s intoxication. Surprised, the lawyer
responded that it was what had been told to him by the worker. The inexperienced and
embarrassed worker admitted to the lawyer that by “pissed” she had meant “angry”, not
intoxicated. Both the lawyer and the worker acknowledged the dissonance that existed
in the worker/lawyer relationship when assumptions were made. The assumption had
contributed negatively to the legal proceeding and, ultimately, to the casework

The Differential Service Response system that is currently being proposed by OACAS, as
an alternative to the existing child protection system, provides for more flexibility of
response to each case. While the litigation route will still be available when basic needs
of children are not being met, it must be remembered that a therapeutic relationship need
not be surrendered once the legal path has been taken. There is consensus in the child
welfare field that “the quality of the helping relationship is one of the most important
determinants of client outcome” (de Boer & Coady, 2003, p. 2).

Although child protection work is deeply embedded in paternalism, workers must
continue to seek creative solutions with families and not be co-opted by the legal process.
While Spakes has opined that, “it is in the courts that battles over the rights of the
disadvantaged and dependent people in this society will be fought” (Spakes, 1987, p.
35),we argue that workers may gain assistance from litigation to advance their casework.
It is not simply a polarized process whereby legal involvement overtakes the sole
responsibility for the helping relationship. With experience comes knowledge and with
knowledge comes practice wisdom, which fosters the dialogue and the enquiry that is
necessary for transformation.

Only through effective communication, which includes an appreciation of each
profession, can lawyers and child protection workers effectively engage families and
children can be protected from maltreatment. This interdisciplinary understanding of
child protection work is paramount for the ethical service to families who have come
within the purview of child welfare proceedings.

Disclaimer: During the preparation of this paper, it became apparent to the authors that
the topic encompasses an enormous and complicated area in child protection practice.
Reducing the paper to such a short length does not do justice to the vast discussions that
were held during its composition. The paper focuses on the worker/parent relationship
and how the impact of litigation may affect the casework. It does not take into account
the impact that defence counsel may provide to the same relationship.
Elizabeth French, LL.B.
Michael Mulroney, M.S.W.

Authority and Collaboration
Child protection workers must accept that authority is an inherent and necessary element
of their position in fulfilling their legally mandated role to promote the best interests,
protection, and well being of children. This is clearly sanctioned under Section 40 of the
Child and Family Services Act and is inscribed on child protection workers’
identification cards. In attempting to collaborate with parents, child protection workers
can make one of two mistakes in using authority; they can ignore their authority in
interaction with clients or they can use it in a heavy-handed way (Cingolani and
Hardman). It is only by actively examining authority in child protection work that we
can be sure to use it in a beneficial way to foster change and protect children.

As stated by Palmer (1983), “Clients become motivated by two basic forces—the push of
discomfort and the pull of hope. Workers may have to provide the discomfort to clients

who are functioning below acceptable community standards, and legally based power can
be used as a tool to motivate the client. It may even be unethical for workers who have
this power not to use it” (Palmer, 1983, p. 122).

The use of authority can be viewed as oppressive to clients and destructive to social
worker-client relationships if it is narrowly defined as ‘power.’ Yet as stated by Palmer
(1983), “Authority derives from power, but the two are not synonymous. Power is the
capacity to control the behavior of others, either directly by fear or indirectly by
manipulative means, whereas authority—the established right to make decisions on
pertinent issues—is a transactional concept and includes the committed consent of
another person who is responsive to that authority” (p. 120). In other words, a worker’s
capacity to control her client remains ‘power’ without the consent of the client; however,
if the client accepts and commits to the casework relationship and to working towards
change, the worker’s power is transformed into authority.

A worker’s authority has many sources. The first three are referred to by Hutchison as
“formal authority,” and include “institutional,” “legally constituted,” and “professional”
authority (Hutchison, 1987, p. 583) (see also (Compton & Galaway, 1994; Palmer,
1983)). A social worker’s duties are defined by the function of the institution or agency
for which she or he works. As stated in the Child and Family Services Act (CFSA), the
function of each Children’s Aid Society is “to promote the best interests, protection, and
well being of children” (2000, Sec.1 (1). In carrying out her role, a worker for a
Children’s Aid Society must work in accordance with this function.

A child protection worker’s authority is “legally constituted” by the CFSA and holds
particular clout because, as indicated by Pray, it “reflect[s] a social will, not the will of an
individual” (Dunlap, 1996, p. 333). The Child and Family Services Act, governed by the
Ministry of Community and Social Services (MCSS), reaffirms that the protection of
children is seen as the larger responsibility of society—a responsibility that is to be
carried out by child protection workers. Within this, workers have the authority to
investigate alleged child abuse or neglect, designate a child to be “in need of protection,”
initiate court action with families, and apprehend children with or without a warrant, to
name a few. The acting out of this authority, without the consent of the client (in this
case, who is most often the parent) is the enforcement of the worker’s power.

“Professional” authority, the third source of “formal authority,” is derived from the fact
that social workers have social work or equivalent degrees or certifications and belong to
professional associations (Hutchison, 1987; Siporin, 1975). In contrast to the clients of
the Children’s Aid Societies, child protection workers are ‘professionals’ with a specific
knowledge base and clinical expertise; consequently, they possess authority in relation to
their clients. In addition to their degrees, workers’ ‘professionalism,’ and therefore
authority, relies on their personal attributes acquired through experience in the field. This
relates to the fourth source of authority which social workers possess, “personal”
authority (Siporin, 1975).

According to Siporin (1975), this fourth source of authority is, “a personal source of
authority that derives from the charismatic and leadership attributes of the social worker’s
personality, from his or her social reputation and prestige, personal credibility and
attractiveness, demonstrated competence and expertness in knowledge and skill”
(Siporin, 1975, p. 296). Although social workers may feel competent in the sense of
possessing personal authority, in fact, that is only true in relation to the issue at hand to
the extent that the client acknowledges and accepts it. This is the fifth and final source of
authority as outlined by Siporin (1975)—termed “psychological authority” (Compton &
Galaway, 1994; Koerin, 1979; S. Yelaja, 1971) and it is arguably the most crucial.

Social work practice, in the sense of a “planned change effort,” can only occur when both
the worker and client make efforts, and if the client does not acknowledge and respond to
the worker’s authority, change is unlikely to occur. In other words, the possibility and
extent of change, and therefore client success, relates to the degree to which the client
perceives his or her worker to be, in fact, an expert or authority.

As Yelaja (1965) states, “His authority in terms of legitimate power to act and to
influence the behavior of the client in the sense of helping neglectful parents will not find
really meaningful expression unless the client accepts this authority. The authority of the
agency and the protective caseworker becomes effective with parents only when the
neglectful parents yield to their need for help” (Yelaja, 1965, p. 517)(italics added).

As psychological authority can only be attained through a client’s acceptance of his or
her social worker’s authority, the client holds the power in the relationship to validate the
social worker’s psychological authority. Therefore, undeniably, this form of authority is
particularly difficult to achieve and maintain when working with clients, such as in a
child protection setting. Establishing and maintaining psychological authority is an
ongoing challenge in child protection work. As such, social workers should not despair
when the client tests this relationship or temporarily withdraws his or her consent. In
fact, this may represent real growth and a skilled worker will respond to this client in a
manner that acknowledges the capacity for change.

Historically, Epstein and Studt contributed significantly to worker and client authority
relationships in social work by utilizing an authority continuum (in Yelaja, 1971). More
recently, Trotter has advanced this work by acknowledging that the distinction between
‘voluntary and involuntary’ is not always clearly defined. As argued by Trotter, “The
distinction between voluntary and involuntary clients is not therefore always clear. It is
perhaps best viewed as a continuum, with court ordered clients toward one end, partially
voluntary clients in the middle, and clients who seek services on a voluntary basis toward
the other end” (Trotter, 1999, p. 2-3). Clearly, the distinction between voluntary,
involuntary and mandated clients is complex and there is often fluidity on the continuum.

To attain psychological authority as validated by their clients, workers in mandated
settings such as Children’s Aid Societies must transform their formal authority into
psychological authority (Hutchison, 1987; Koerin, 1979; Palmer, 1983; Yelaja, 1965).
Transforming formal authority into psychological authority, according to Hutchison

(1987), involves “two difficult and related tasks: they (social workers) must resolve the
complex ethical dilemmas that accompany imposed service provision, and they must find
a practice technology that produces positive change in the lives of their mandated clients”
(p. 583-4).

In order for this transformation to occur, workers must explore their own feelings and
resolve the inherent ethical challenges that exist regarding the dual functions of
empowerment and enforcement in child protection work. Through increased awareness,
dialogue with colleagues and clients, reflection and effective supervision, workersand
ultimately the families involved in child protection serviceswill benefit.

Knowing how to use authority effectively in the change process takes time to develop and
with experience comes practice wisdom. Workers who are committed to collaborative
casework practice recognize the inherent challenges related to power and authority in the
helping relationship. As argued by Dybicz in an article entitled, ‘An Inquiry Into Practice
Wisdom’ he states, “Beyond questions of effectiveness at problem solving is how we as
social workers wield that power in the helping relationship. To do so in a just, sound, and
compassionate manner requires wisdom. Our value base reflects such wisdom” (Dybicz,
2004, p.203). Ultimately, an investment in the casework relationship will achieve better
outcomes with the families we serve.

Written by Michael Mulroney & Ariel Burns

Summary of Collaboration
The principles required for collaboration, as evidenced in the preceding portions of this
section, are multi-faceted. We have learnt from experience and from research that
defining what collaboration means is only one small part of its implementation at a direct
service level. Collaboration also requires a meaningful involvement of all those who are
part of the engagement process including the agency caseworker, the supervisor, and the
client whether a parent, a child, or a youth. Further complicating the relationships and
the degree of engagement is the legal status of the case requiring collaboration. Is it to be
serviced on a voluntary, semi-voluntary, or a court-ordered legal basis? Depending on
the situation, various other considerations come into the discourse.

In turn, these ingredients that are required to produce meaningful collaboration are
strongly influenced by what may be termed in OACAS Management training (M.3) as
“driving” and “restraining” forces. Some factors encourage the desired change that is
seen as good practice; other factors can undermine that attempt and in this case, the
forces that influence how well the partners can pursue this engagement process.

At the individual case level a number of forces can affect the positive attempts at
collaboration by the worker, and in turn, the desired outcome of this process. These
include the following;

   o The size of a caseload

   o The amount of paper work requiring worker and supervisor attention in
     proportion to the time that can be spent to develop the collaboration
   o The degree of understanding that the worker has on the concept of “collaboration”
   o The degree of understanding that the supervisor has on the concept of
   o The amount of training that both the worker and supervisor have in developing
     strategies to enhance collaboration
   o The amount of clinic supervision that the supervisor can provide
   o The number of workers supervised by an individual supervisor/manager
   o The recording system be revamped to allow for major case decision-making to be
     done in the clinical supervision rather than by electronic confirmations of
     decision-making by front line staff

Macro factors influencing collaboration on an agency-wide basis are also construed as
“driving” or “restraining” forces. They will be discussed on a more comprehensive and
detailed basis in the ensuing section on ‘Agency Culture’ (see diagram at start of section

Incorporating Agency Awareness of Aboriginal Child Welfare Issues
Members of this Project supported focus groups held at Dilico Ojibway Child and Family
services in Thunder Bay in March 2005 in order to develop submissions for this project.
Those submissions are in the Survey Manual accompanying this paper and they reflect
the actual comments of the participants of these focus groups.

Please note also that the discussion in this section includes the terms Native, First Nation,
Aboriginal and Indian in regards to Native Child Welfare issues and practices. Please
note that for this paper, Aboriginal includes Métis, non-status, status, Inuit and persons of
Native descent. First Nations and Indian refers to individuals who are entitled to and/or
registered as “Indian” as defined in the Indian Act. Native would include all of the

Some agencies may not be aware of the extent to which they are dealing with Aboriginal
clients due to in part to such clients living in an urban setting or because they are unaware
of the proximity of First Nation communities. It is important that agencies realize that
statistics show that if an individual is an Aboriginal child, he/she is ten times more likely
by population to be in care than a non-Native child. Consequently, addressing the
intersection of child welfare services with Aboriginal communities is essential.

As project members who wish to support the endeavors of Aboriginal peoples, we state
our emphatic belief that all Children’s Aid Societies Boards of Directors need to
incorporate an awareness of how Aboriginal people have been treated historically by
Child Welfare and the ongoing implications of this treatment. With this information it is
hoped that there will be an increased awareness and enlightenment by employees at all
levels within the Children’s Aid Societies across Ontario. A beginning point for non-
Aboriginal agencies to gain this enlightenment is a brief MacLean’s magazine article in
which Kenn Richard, Executive Director of Native Child and Family Services in Toronto
and a sessional professor at the University of Toronto, outlines the history of Canadian
child welfare in relation to Aboriginal peoples (Downey, 1999). Vern Morrisette, an
experienced Native Child Welfare Professional who is a faculty member at the School of
Social Work at the University of Manitoba, echoes Richard’s arguments. Morrisette
asserts that in regards to Aboriginal child welfare issues in Ontario one...

       has to consider a number of historic and current social realities and conditions:
       policies of assimilation which were intended to dismantle First Nations societal,
       community and family structures; the economic outcomes emerging from the
       destruction of local economies through expropriation of traditional territories and
       a traditional way of life; the implications emerging from the church and the
       residential school experience on individual, family and community functioning
       which include, but are not limited to, emotional, physical and sexual abuse; the
       history of child welfare service to the region which included the removal of many
       children from their families, communities and their culture further contributing to
       the erosion of individual, family and community functioning; the crisis orientation
       of protection services provided by the previous children’s aid societies adding to

       increased tensions within First Nations communities; the non-Aboriginal service
       philosophy that was common in many services which further weakened the
       Aboriginal social fabric, eroded families structures, and kinship systems, child
       rearing practices, customs and beliefs systems. (Notes made in preparation for the
       MCSS Aboriginal Child Welfare Review)

Kim Anderson, working with Native Child and Family Services of Toronto, conducted
research among Toronto’s urban Aboriginal population to ascertain the implications of
this history in the way current child welfare services need to be delivered. In her research
Anderson notes that:

       No causal explanation of child neglect is complete without directing considerable
       attention to the behaviors and practices of the institutions that provide child
       welfare services and the dynamics of the interaction that occurs between the
       service provider and the consumer. None of the prevailing theories concerning
       Native child neglect critically examine the institutions responsible for child
       welfare services to Native people. (Anderson, 1998) (a copy of this research has
       been provided with this paper)

Child welfare agencies, therefore, must examine their relationship to Aboriginal
communities, they must understand the history they have with such communities and
where collaborative relationships do not exist they must forge new and respectful
relationships. Social work educational institutions have already begun this process by
hearing the voice of Aboriginal communities. In education the voice of Aboriginal
scholars and leaders must be heard (Battiste, Bell, & Findlay, 2002; Graveline, 2002;
Rasmussen, 2001; Thom, 2002). After this beginning partnerships can be forged (Rice-
Green & Dumbrill, 2003). In some jurisdictions such work has been successful. The
School of Social Work at the University of Victoria, BC has developed, in concert with
local First Nations communities, a specialist degree in social work with Aboriginal
communities and an additional specialization in First Nations child welfare. These
degrees are designed, with the approval and participation of local Aboriginal
communities, to provide “opportunities for First Nations BSW students to focus their
undergraduate program on preparing for leadership roles as helpers in First Nations
communities.” Within this program students are challenged, when addressing child
welfare issues, “to synthesize the demands of provincial child welfare legislation with
emerging First Nations practices and policies in a way that protects the identity, cultures,
and social structure of First Nations children and families”.
( This is exactly the challenge to which, Ontario’s
Children’s Aid Societies must recognize and respond.

The Ethics of Child Protection Services for People From Diverse Ethno-Racial
Child protection work is an area of practice that arguably raises some of the most
complex ethical issues for social workers. On the one hand, the worker's job requires that
he or she intervene to protect children; however, he/she is also expected to provide this
service in ways that maintain the autonomy and integrity of families. Any experienced

worker reading this would say: "Easier said than done." But, why is this so? The answer
is complex.

For starters, universities are increasingly training workers to recognize the structural
societal barriers that contribute to people's problems. Social workers are urged to practice
in ways that do not replicate these barriers while, at the same time, provide services to
overcome them. Many front-line workers witness what James Garbarino refers to as a
socially toxic environment", in which parents struggle on a daily basis to provide
adequately for their children. This awareness by the social workers does not take away
from their conclusion that many parents do appear to make poor choices in light of their
circumstances. However, workers are realizing that these choices have not been made in
isolation. When workers look at people's lives holistically, these choices often seem less
poor. Indeed, what may initially appear to be a poor choice may actually have been the
most pragmatic choice available at that moment, despite the negative outcomes.

In light of this, social workers endeavor to find ways to provide services ethically -
guided by the child protection mandate and the values and ethics of our profession.
Always, the safety of the child is foremost in our thinking. Yet most of our work does not
make this easy. The question of what is the best choice for the child is rarely black and
white. Most situations require careful thinking and assessment. In circumstances where
services are being provided to families from diverse ethno- racial backgrounds, the
challenges can be even more profound. Our understanding of both the culture and context
of families from diverse ethno-racial backgrounds is still in the developmental stages. In
addition, we are fighting and resisting past detrimental effects of state involvement in the
lives of families and communities - the treatment of First Nations people being the most
pointed example of this.

Historically, our understanding of people from diverse ethno-racial backgrounds relied on
generalizations and limited involvement with these families. Assessment and intervention
plans were predicated on these interactions. Regrettably, this simplistic approach
reinforced the racist ideological thinking of the times. The impact of this cannot be
overstated. For example, it would not have been uncommon to hear stereotypical and
detrimental statements being made in child protection settings. Child protection workers
were routinely taught that they needed to be more careful with families from diverse
ethno-racial backgrounds, as these families were believed to use harsher forms of
discipline to parent their children. Training videos and handbooks (no longer in use) were
used to support these teachings. This type of training can predispose social workers to
judge these families more severely. Even though child protection workers primarily base
their decisions on evidence that is present in the situation, many psychologists would
assert that it is human nature for individuals to look for information that confirms their
pre-existing thinking.

In recent years, the number of people from diverse ethno-racial backgrounds has grown,
along with the related advocacy work and demands of these minoritized populations.
Child protection service workers are challenged to move away from overt and blatant

stereotypical thinking and biases. The question is - how can we provide equitable services
while being on guard for these biases?

Child protection agencies are, in fact, making efforts to address these issues. Currently
many societies now have active in-house plans to provide ongoing training in anti-racism
and culturally competent practice. These include brochures available in languages other
than in English, the possibility of using translation services where needed, and the
increased hiring of diverse workers.

However, many members of diverse ethno-racial and religious groups find that these
additional services do not adequately meet their needs. This concern has led to some
groups, such as Jewish Child and Family Services, to develop their own child protection
services. Other groups are also pondering these issues. Certainly, recent Position Papers
of Muslim children being placed in a Christian foster home and their subsequent
involvement in Christian religious practices, raises concerns for minority families about
fair and equitable service.

Along with these issues are those factors arising from the "dynamics of difference." This
refers to the dynamics that emerge when two people from different ethno-racial
backgrounds interact in situations involving power - particularly when one person is also
representing the state. Exacerbating this condition is the reality that these interactions
take place within the context of the kinds of news Position Papers noted earlier. This
results in child protection workers being extremely feared and, indeed, being called
"racist" when they intervene. This kind of slur is understandably painful for child
protection workers who struggle to respond appropriately.

Some argue that it does not matter what is acceptable or unacceptable in other cultures;
now that families are residing in Canada, they should abide by the laws of this country.
Yet the ethical dilemma in this response is that it risks reducing child protection services
for families from diverse ethno'-racial backgrounds to a simplistic notion that somehow
"their culture made them behave in this way". It does not allow for the consideration of
the broader contextual situation of these families. In taking this stance, we may fail to
provide the services needed by the family and do what is best for the child. A few
principles that can help us in providing ethically sound services include recognizing that:

All cultures want to do what is best for their children - this does not mean that no one in
that culture harms his or her children. Clearly, in any cultural group, some parents do
behave in harmful ways toward their children. Context influences parental behaviour and
the hardships of life result in less than optimal environments for children. Mundane,
everyday environmental stress (MEES) relating to race can leave people of colour
wondering where, and in what forms, racism exists- since covert racism along with the
privilege of being white exists in society. Service recipients inevitably wonder about this
and we need to strive to develop and provide equitable services. The current services
available, especially in broader child and mental health sector, are under-utilized by
minority populations, as these do not adequately meet their needs.

Ultimately, we need to continue to deepen our understanding of the complexities of living
and working diverse world, to watch out for bias to find ways to redress inequities.

Sarah Maiter, MSW, PhD (Reprinted from the Ontario Association of Social Workers
Magazine with permission).

Towards Improving Child Welfare Services to Adolescents
Over the last thirty years in Ontario, youth aged thirteen to seventeen (13-17) increased
from thirty per cent (30%) of the in-care population to almost fifty per cent (50%).
Boarding rate costs for children in care make up approximately half of overall child
welfare expenses and adolescents account for the majority of boarding rate costs, since
they are more likely then younger children to be place in staff operated, external paid

Child welfare reform has been strongly influenced by inquest recommendations that
primarily studied deaths of young children through homicide or neglect by parents. The
Ontario Risk Assessment Model mainly evaluates risk factors related to caretakers, and is
largely insensitive to the risks that adolescents pose to their own safety. Child welfare
workers and supervisors currently receive little clinical training in working with
adolescents. The Ontario Child Welfare Training system offers one non-mandatory
three-day curriculum entitled, “Working with Adolescents”.

While adolescents occupy a significant amount of the time and financial resources of
child welfare services, our outcomes with this population have been poor when compared
to younger children. Research demonstrates that the child welfare system is no more
effective then family or community placements in reducing risk factors in adolescence. In
fact, adolescents are at somewhat higher risk for teen pregnancy, substance abuse and
have poorer physical, psychological and educational outcomes in care. They experience a
much higher rate of placement breakdown and express more dissatisfaction with their
placements then younger children (Ballantyne & Raymond, 1998).

Avoiding admission of adolescents to care should not be the primary objective of service
to this population, indeed some youth whose parents represent serious risk to them
(severe physical abuse, sexual abuse, mental health or addiction issues) are likely to
achieve greater safety out of home. Risk reduction and improved outcomes for teens and
parents should be the goal. It is clear, however, that the best outcomes for teens are in
most cases more likely to be achieved within their home or community environment,
particularly if those risks emanate primarily from the youths themselves. Successfully
implementing protective out of care services for teens requires expertise and
programming currently under-emphasized in most child welfare settings.

Adolescents Require Specialized Skills:
Adolescents represent a distinct client group and accordingly demand that those who
would work with them develop specialized skills. Anglin argues that “children need
workers whose primary focus is on their realities and who are knowledgeable, skillful,

sensitive and capable of fostering fundamental changes in their lives and the lives of their
families on their behalf” (Anglin, 1999, p. 148). Adolescents present unique challenges
for all the adults in their lives - parents, social workers, group home workers or foster
parents. Adolescence is a time when many mental health issues begin to manifest
themselves - schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder or other major psychiatric disorders. For
many adolescents this period is when they become sexually active, and some become
young parents (Clark, 1999). This population presents a unique challenge to social
workers, as they must be helped to become functioning adults while also needing to
develop the skills to care for their infant child. The parents of adolescents face the daily
challenges of rules testing and a felt rejection as their adolescent demands greater
separation and differentiation. Parents are often left feeling lost, more stressed, and less
competent in their parenting of their adolescents than they ever did when their children
were younger.

Specialized Skills Are Needed in Working With Particular Groups of Adolescents
Adolescents require a specialized skill set that includes specific knowledge of adolescent
development, clinical resources in the community, the Youth Justice System, effective
intervention strategies for defusing parent-teen conflict, and managing requests for
admission to care. Adolescents in general respond poorly to intrusive or directive

One of the most important predictors of success with adolescents and their families is the
quality of their relationship with the child welfare worker. Families are more likely to
respond to suggestions and alternatives and show greater flexibility in accommodating
the special needs of the youth when a positive relationship is perceived between the
worker and client (Ballantyne & Raymond, 1998).

       “Unfortunately, child welfare staff are more likely to avoid or dislike cases
       involving adolescents than other age groups. Once into the field, workers have
       much more contact with adolescents, begin to sense their inadequate preparation,
       and, as a consequence, often limit or try to avoid the kind of involvement that
       adolescent clients seek. The child welfare system is simply that – a system. The
       system’s massive bureaucracy, coupled with its ‘professional’ staff, tends to come
       across as an intimidating, protective and ultimately paternalistic entity to the
       young person being serviced (Fitzgerald, 1995).”

Effective programs for youth are multi-dimensional and offer a range of services.
Effective staff are trained in a multi-method approach for dealing with teens and they
have advanced knowledge of adolescent development, a range of effective interventions
and available resources for families in the community. For example, of twenty-two (22)
cases referred to “Family Group Conferencing” where a teen placement was a focus of
concern, sixteen (16) of these cases resulted in the youth staying with their family or
being returned home from care. Wrap Around Services and other programs that adapt
their approach to the family needs have been found to achieve better results then family
therapy or insight oriented interventions offered through children’s mental health centers
(Rosen et al., 1994).

       “The clearest consensus in the literature is that for many adolescents at risk of
       entering the child protection or other restrictive service systems, one-shot, uni-
       dimensional interventions will not suffice (Cameron & Karabanow, 2003)”

Consistency of approach, philosophy and the creative delivery of interventions are more
likely to be achieved through a team of professionals sharing common training and
supervision (Lewandowski & GlenMaye, 2002). It is important that these workers have
advanced knowledge and develop close relationships with community resources, both
formal and informal (Waldfogel, 2000).

       The development of a customized response to families is central to resolving the
       problems of Child Protective Services (CPS) today. If CPS continues to respond
       to families with a one size fits all approach, then CPS will continue to provide and
       inappropriate response to many of the families coming to it’s attention. In some
       cases, CPS will treat families more harshly and authoritatively than is necessary;
       in others, CPS will not intervene aggressively enough to protect children
       (Waldfogel, 2000)
In summary, adolescents occupy a significant share of child welfare’s financial resources
but receive relatively little attention in terms of staff training or program development.
The generally poor outcomes achieved with this population are likely to continue unless
the field adapts its interventions and priorities to the adolescent population.

Written by Phillip Howe

Advocacy for Social Justice
      The profession of social work is founded on humanitarian and egalitarian ideals.
      Social workers believe in the intrinsic worth and dignity of every human being
      and are committed to the values of acceptance, self-determination and respect of
      individuality. They believe in the obligation of all people, individually and
      collectively, to provide resources, services and opportunities for the overall
      benefit of humanity. The culture of individuals, families, groups, communities
      and nations has to be respected without prejudice. (Canadian Association of
      Social Workers Code of Ethics)

       Social workers are dedicated to the welfare and self-realization of human beings;
       to the development and disciplined use of scientific knowledge regarding human
       and societal behaviours; to the development of resources to meet individual,
       group, national and international needs and aspirations; and to the achievement of
       social justice for all. (Ontario Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics,
       Philosophy Statement, 1994)

Collaborative child protection services must work with families and communities to
advocate for social justice. Advocacy is an integral part of social work, the academic and
professional discipline of literally thousands of child welfare professionals in Ontario.

Social workers are, therefore, trained to understand how people are impacted by a variety
of social problems. Furthermore, their training and work experience helps them
comprehend how changes in social systems can negatively impact on the well being of
their clients. This understanding is crucial in child welfare because families who need
child protection intervention often require such help because of the ways societal
inequalities cause or compound their difficulties. The impact of societal inequality
becomes particularly evident when examining who enters care.

Working with British statistics, Jones calculates the compound risk of child removal for a
child aged five to nine from a single-parent family of mixed ethnic origin, receiving
social assistance with four or more children living in rented accommodation with one or
more persons per room, to be one in ten (Jones, 1994). In contrast, a similar child from a
two- parent White family not receiving social assistance with three or fewer children
living in a home they own with one or more persons per room faces a one in 7,000
chance of entering care. Dumbrill points out that this 700:1 ratio does not result from the
parenting of White middle class families being 700 times better than single parent mixed
ethnicity families dependent on benefits; it results from prejudices and structural
inequalities deeply embedded within child welfare and other social systems. (Dumbrill,
2003a, p. 106)

Although a compound risk analysis of these societal variables in relation to children
entering care is not available, Dumbrill (2003a, b,) argues that such societal inequalities
operate in the same manner within Canada. Social workers, particularly child protection
workers, have a responsibility to collaborate with the families they serve to alleviate such
societal inequalities—particularly as these very issues impinge their functioning and

often prevent them accessing the help they need. Unfortunately, far too many social
workers either lose sight of their ethical responsibilities to bring forth positive social
change or they are constrained in these efforts by agency policy or government mandates.
All too often, they are confronted by numerous barriers and challenges, which may deter
them from soldiering on.

Perhaps in some instances, social workers have become so entrenched in their own work
environments that they lose sight of their professional and ethical obligation to be
advocates for social change.

Social workers, however, have a responsibility to bring social change. According to the
Canadian Association of Social Workers (1994) in its Code of Ethics, this responsibility
includes advocacy for workplace conditions and policies that are consistent with the

       A social worker shall promote excellence in the social work profession.
       A social worker shall advocate change that is (a) in the best interest of the client,
       and (b) for the overall benefit of society, the environment and the global

According to Cohen, de la Vega, and Watson, “Advocacy is the pursuit of influencing
outcomes - including public policy and resource allocation decisions within political,
economic, and social systems and institutions – that directly affect people’s lives” (p. 8).
They also contend that:

       Advocacy consists of organized efforts and actions based on the reality of “what
       is.” These organized actions seek to highlight critical issues, that have been
       ignored and submerged, to influence public attitudes, and to enact and implement
       laws and public policies so that visions of “what should be” in just, decent society
       become a reality. Human rights – political, economic, and social – is an
       overwhelming framework for these visions. Advocacy organizations draw their
       strength from and are accountable to people – their members, constituents, and/or
       members of affected groups. Advocacy has purposeful results: to enable social
       justice advocates to gain access and a voice in the decision making of relevant
       institutions; to change the power relationships between these institutions and the
       people affected by their decisions, thereby changing the institutions themselves;
       and to result in a clear improvement in people’s lives. (Cohen, delaVega, &
       Watson, 2001, p. 8)

In order to collaborate with families in bringing social change, it is imperative for child
protection workers to clearly understand how social and economic disadvantage
negatively impacts on their clients. Furthermore, these workers need a mechanism
whereby systemic advocacy efforts can be undertaken, to help draw attention to the social
and economic problems and to ensure proper social change can occur.

Before presenting recommendations for the field of child welfare to consider with respect
to advocacy, it is important to examine a general overview of the social problem of
poverty in child welfare. An examination of the North American context is instructive
given the similarities in the development and operation of child protection systems in
Canada and the United States. By the beginning of the 1990s, social theorists from across
the political spectrum in America began to realize that child poverty was one of the most
serious social problems affecting their nation (Lindsey, 1994). Closer to home, the
Canadian government has recognized the seriousness of child poverty through its
Children’s Agenda. Health Canada has advocated that public assistance policy must pay
attention to its impact on child maltreatment (Health Canada, 2001). Yet, the Canadian
approach to child welfare largely neglects to reflect the significance of the relationship
between child poverty and child protection issues. Various studies (Fanshel & Shinn,
1978), (Lindsey, 1994) have shown that the socio-economic issue of unstable, low
income is the highest predictor of removal of a child from the family. Canada and the
United States have the largest and most expensive child welfare systems in the
industrialized world and also the highest rates of child poverty (Lindsey, 1994). The
highest rate of child abuse Position Papered in the industrialized world is attributed to the
U.S.A., followed by Canada (Lindsey, 1994). Deaths in the U.S.A. due to child abuse
have remained constant over the last 20 years but have decreased in some European
countries where a strong social safety net is a priority (Lindsey, 1994). Although a
number of factors affect the rate of Position Papering of child abuse and neglect,
according to the foregoing evidence, poverty figures significantly into the reasons the
child protection and child welfare systems in the United States and Canada fail to keep
children safe and ensure their healthy development.

It is well known that low-income families are over-represented on child protection
caseloads. Theorists and practitioners are cognizant of the stress caused by poverty for
many families involved with the child protection system. Given the awareness of the
serious impact of poverty on clients, it is striking that child welfare theorists, policy
makers and practitioners have not been able to collectively articulate a shared vision for
dealing with the issues related to poverty. The child protection system in Ontario is
charged with the unenviable task of protecting children from child neglect, but does not
have the resources to alleviate the impact of poverty on the problem of neglect. To
suggest that the child protection system completely ignores issues of poverty would not
be accurate. Child protection agencies in Ontario do attempt to connect clients to such
resources as public housing, social assistance, legal aid, or recreational opportunities for
children in the family. However, in the broader context of developing a service
philosophy and examining how values and even ideologies relate to the environment of
clients, the issue of poverty is not adequately taken into account by the child protection
system. A more ecologically based service philosophy would demand that some aspects
of current practice be modified. If one accepts the proposition that poverty is a major
factor leading to children’s need for protection, then agency policies ought to reflect that
view. For instance, budgets for emergency assistance for clients might be increased to
prevent children from becoming in need of protection. Data gathered about children
coming into care would scrutinize what role financial problems and socio-economic
disadvantage played in the admission to care. Advocacy for clients both at the levels of

the agency and child welfare system would be examined to assess whether reasonable
efforts were being directed to promoting entitlements for children and families.

The constellation of services and approach to services offered in a child protection
agency would also need to change if it were strongly accepted that protection issues
frequently emerge because of social problems. Although there may not be a consensus
concerning the degree to which social problems impact on child maltreatment, one finds
widespread acknowledgment among researchers and practitioners that social problems do
have a significant impact. A combination of personal, situational, and environmental
factors is at the root of child maltreatment.

Written by Michael O'Brien and David Rivard.

The Need for an Increased Acceptance of Feminist Practice Within Child Welfare
Historically, childcare, child welfare and child protection have been performed primarily
by women. As such, an analysis of gender is essential to understand the lives of many of
our clients and the ways services are delivered to these clients. An analysis of gender
makes the power imbalances against women in society of the past and today evident.
Due to this imbalance, society is oppressive to women with many of the difficulties
women experience resulting from this oppression. Indeed, a gender analysis helps us to
recognize the issues of differential employment for men and women, women's lower rates
of pay, the greater likelihood that female lone parent families will be living in poverty,
the problems of domestic violence, the economic vulnerability of women, and so on.

In order to help women, Children’s Aid Societies must recognize such oppression on an
individual and societal level. Feminist practice facilitates such recognition and it entails
building gender solidarities in which women join to express their concern for nurturing
and raising children. At an individual level, feminist workers (which includes men
working from a feminist perspective) assist women in striving toward recognition of
gender oppression and ultimately empower by working “with” women to address such
issues. Structurally, feminist therapists confront this oppression and ultimately strive to
change society.

The Historical Context
The origins of feminist practice theory stem from the feminist movement of the 1960’s
(Valentich, 1986) and the subsequent rejection of traditional psychotherapy approaches
(Russell, 1979). As women began to question the roles that they had historically been
assigned in society, they began to question the institutions and methods available to help
women. Freudian notions were rejected “and instead feminist therapy focused on the
social, cultural and political forces which subjugated women and placed them in the
inferior role” (Russell, 1979, p. 62). Emphasis was placed on women as a collective, as
opposed to individuals with varying conditions. Feminist theory, therefore, began to take
the shape of a “way of thinking”. As stated by Collins:

       Feminism is a philosophical perspective or a way of visualizing and thinking
       about situation and an evolving set of theories attempting to explain the various

       phenomena of women’s oppression. Although perceived by many as a loosely
       connected collection of complaints and issues relevant to the female sex,
       feminism, in fact, reaches out beyond such confines. Feminism is philosophical,
       cultural and political. (Collins, 1986, p. 214)

Feminism strove to combine the personal experience of women with the knowledge of
how this shapes political society and therefore all oppression. As Hartsock (1981) states:
“At bottom, feminism is a mode of analysis, a method of approaching life and politics
rather than a set of political conclusions about the oppression of women” (Hartsock,
1981, p. 35).

The Social Work Relationship From a Feminist Perspective
Although a “way of thinking”, feminist theory does hold certain values and constructs as
necessary in the worker/client relationship, it does not feel the “expert” role of worker is
appropriate, nor conducive to a client’s growth. Indeed, it is felt this role only mirrors the
role women already have in society. Instead, the relationship should be a more
egalitarian one. The worker provides the client with information and choices about the
process of the therapy, and thereby demystifies the therapy process. As stated by Lundy:

       The therapist introduces self-determination by informing the client about the
       process of therapy and encouraging her to identify and choose from among
       various alternatives, always examining the consequences. The emphasis on
       empowerment and self-determination is realized through the therapist’s explicit
       communication to the client about the events of therapy and the nature of their
       work together. This explicitness forms the bedrock of egalitarian feminist social
       work therapy. (Lundy, 1993, p. 187)

Along with this explicitness comes the role of sharing or self-disclosure in the
relationship. Unlike traditional therapies, feminism believes that disclosure by the
worker of her own personal experiences enables her to further join with the client, and
therefore should be a common practice tool. If the client is the only one to express
feelings and emotion, it again places them in a subservient role with the worker, and such
feminine qualities have traditionally been devalued by society. Feminist therapy believes
in the positive feature of sharing within the relationship, as it produces openness and
trust, acknowledges shared emotions, and provides a “normalcy” for the survivor to
compare with her own feelings (Epstein & Finer, 1988).

Feminism also focuses on the person-in-environment paradigm. An individual is not an
entity in and of itself, but is affected and shaped by the environment, and the two are in
constant interaction. Therefore, the focus is not upon the individual conforming to
society, as traditional therapies were. This new focus is viewed as being akin to that of
social work and as such they are compatible:

       Social work’s integrated thinking with its ecological view of processes between
       the individual and the environment is consonant with feminist thought. Both
       ideologies envision the desirable as “transactions between people and their

       environments” that support individual well being, dignity and self-determination.
       Both reflect a holistic consciousness not bound or limited by what feminists
       would argue are artificial andocentric polarities. (Collins, 1986, p. 216)

Feminist Practice in Child Welfare - Now
Feminist thinking is not very visible in child welfare. In many ways, this is surprising.
Women are the largest group of providers of the service, as well as the largest consumers
of the service. Research has confirmed that neglect cases constitute the largest category
of cases processed in Canadian child welfare agencies today (Trocmé & Tam, 1994), and
that single-mothers; the most marginalized of families in society, have been greatly over
represented in the population of neglecting mothers (Gordon, 1988).

Many Canadian studies have shown that children who live in poverty are more likely to
have higher mortality rates, poor health, poor school records, mental health problems, to
commit suicide and to be involved with the criminal justice system (Canadian Child
Welfare Association, 1988; Trocmé, 1991). Poor children are more likely to come to the
attention of child welfare agencies; a point that is sometimes recognized, but never
addressed (Callahan & Lumb, 1995; National Council of Welfare, 1979; Swift, 1991).
The reasons why poor women and their children are likely to come to the attention of
child welfare are simple. They cannot afford child-care, house-cleaners, professional
counselors, summer camp and holidays away from their children that economically
advantaged parents can to assist them with parenting. Many times they cannot afford
even food.

Poor mothers also are less able to protect their children from violence. There is abundant
evidence that violence against women and children is motivated by deeply rooted beliefs
of the inferiority of women and the rights of men to dominate them. Yet many women
remain in violent relationships because of their inability to support and protect
themselves and their children independently (Barnsley, Jacobson, McIntosh, &
Wintemute, 1980). Many women are no safer and much poorer when they leave their
violent partners than if they remained.

Investigations of violence, physical and sexual abuse by child welfare often focus on the
mother, even though she is not the perpetrator. The role of the father in the family; the
abuser, is over-shadowed by an assessment of the mother’s ability to protect her children
from the abuser. Little work is done within child welfare to hold the perpetrator
accountable. Instead they are left to the criminal justice system to manage, while the
mother is labeled as inadequate and warned about her behaviour. Krane (1990) notes that
women in these circumstances have an illusion of choice – between partner and children,
between income and poverty, between predictable violence and unpredictable violence
and they must make their decision at a time when they are most vulnerable and least

The impact of all of this on children is clear: children suffer because their mothers are
assigned their care yet do not have the power to provide for or protect them.

Feminist Practice in Child Welfare – The Way It Should Be
The integration of feminist practice into child welfare practice is relatively
straightforward. Child welfare workers interact with poverty every day. They are
abundantly aware of the lack of services available to the mothers they work with. They
are knowledgeable of the violence, oppression and stigma their clients face day after day.

Child welfare needs to focus on the social structures that have contributed to the
problems their clients face and on assisting the client to confront and overcome these
obstacles. There is a link between poverty and child maltreatment. There is a link
between woman abuse and child maltreatment. Child welfare organizations hold the data
for their communities on these links and could use them to confront the societal issues.
Swift calls on child welfare workers and administrators to “collect and publicize data
about the material deprivations experienced by their clients and about the social
structures that oppress them” (Swift, 1991, p. 262). A commitment to social change is
needed in our field, to assist the children we work with.

There have been some changes recently toward a more feminist approach. The
Collaboration between Children’s Aid Society and Violence Against Women Agencies in
Ontario in 2004 exemplifies this attempt. The two organizational bodies came together in
an attempt to better serve their clients and understand each other. Shared training
occurred, guided by values such as the following:

       Woman abuse is the individual and systemic intentional and unintentional use of
       tactics to establish and maintain power and control over women’s lives through
       the inducement of fear, dependency and barriers. Control tactics are based on a
       range of personal, institutional and cultural beliefs and actions that culminates
       into relationship and systemic female (gender) inequality and marginalization.
       Control tactics include but are not limited to acts of physical, emotional and
       sexual violence, threats, isolation, economic deprivation, and barriers that do not
       allow for females full participation in society. Examples of gender inequality are
       found in parenting. Women are generally more adversely affected by parenting
       than males… Ensuring the safety of children is paramount as children are most
       vulnerable and have the least power in our society… Increasing the safety of
       abused women will increase the safety and well being of children. (Collaboration
       Agreement for the Children’s Aid Societies and Violence Against Women
       Agencies of the City of Hamilton, March 1, 2004)

The field can make further gains. A strengths-based perspective is often used by feminist
practitioners (Pollio, McDonald, & North, 1996) and can be utilized in child welfare as
well. While maintaining the safety of the child as always paramount, child welfare
workers routinely have to outline the alternatives that their families have to make as they
attempt to incorporate the goals that encompass the best interests of their children. If
child welfare workers were provided with sufficient time and support required for
building relationships with their clients, they would be able to make incorporate such
feminist values as sharing within the worker/client relationship.

Agency resources and advocacy, rather than just concentrating on investigation, as
important as it is in its own right to ensure child safety, could also be put toward
community and social action. Callahan writes that the very structure of society must be
changed to one that values women, children and equity if the problems of children living
in poverty and violence are to change, and she states that child welfare is one vehicle to
bring this change about (Callahan, 1993).

Feminist practice is compatible with child welfare work. This compatibility accounts for
why feminism is a primary approach that is taught and reinforced in all major schools of
social work today and been for at least the last ten years. In order for child welfare social
work to be recommended as a positive career choice for many of the graduates of these
schools, it must embrace feminist philosophy in a consistent and positive manner.

Written by Kim Martin

Anti-Oppressive Practice
      As social workers, we operate in a society characterized by power imbalances
      that affect us all. These power imbalances are based on age, class, ethnicity,
      gender, geographic location, health, physical ability, race, sexual preference and
      income. We see personal troubles as inextricably linked to oppressive structures.
      We believe that social workers must be actively involved in the understanding and
      transformation of injustices in social institutions and in the struggles of people to
      maximize control over their own lives. (Philosophy of the McMaster School of
      Social Work)

Recognition of the social organization of power suggests that child protection work
would benefit from the application of what has come to be called “Anti-oppressive
Practice” (AOP). An anti-oppressive social work practice is characterized by a
commitment to social equality and social justice. AOP guides the ways social workers
can shape and re-shape policy and practice to meet the needs of populations and
individuals who would be identified and categorized as marginalized or disadvantaged.
Social justice and social change factor predominantly in the objectives of AOP toward
the elimination of barriers to equal participation in society. AOP borrows from already
well-established discourse around race, class, gender, and sexual orientation issues to
name a few, accentuating and championing the 'anti-isms'. This approach can be
identified as incorporating a structural interpretation of power relations.

Working from an AOP perspective, then, involves not only identifying barriers but also
working in ways to eliminate them. Central to this equation is power. Although
differential access to power exists on a macro scale, the concept of power also asserts
itself significantly in the manner in which social workers themselves work with children,
families (hereinafter termed "clients") and communities. AOP, without a critical analysis
of our own social work practice, ignores exploration of the ways in which oppression is
manifested in and perpetuated by social workers' organizational contexts,
professionalization, and power over clients' lives. Without this critical self-appraisal,
oppression can become externalized and divorced from the social work relationship.

This expands the challenge of an AOP approach. Not only do societal structures impact
peoples' experience differentially, they can also be duplicated and mirrored in the ways in
which social workers practice and engage clients. AOP has evolved beyond a strategy
and paradigm for social work to challenge inequality and strive for social change, to
incorporating a critical view of social work and the ways in which work with clients
organizationally and individually must also be re- conceptualized.

Opportunities for social workers to approach AOP must start with an identification of the
vested power of their role with clients. Unmasking oppressive structures is a structural
objective, which creates visibility of oppression. While we cannot relinquish power
within the context of child protection, for example, being clear in defining the boundaries
of power erects the arena within which power rests, and conversely, does not. Advocacy
for clients is another area where AOP can be expressed. This is a core social work tenet,
which aligns workers and clients toward a shared goal. Advocacy comes in many forms.
It can manifest in efforts to access programs or benefits within the community, but also
within social service agencies. To take an anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-classis stance on the
manner in which an agency may judge a client is as much a form of advocacy as
accessing elusive supportive services. Although AOP denotes transformation of
oppressive structures, perhaps the most significant form of transformation required is that
of the social worker’s own portfolio of biases and assumptions. To awaken to the
particular lenses with which we view the world is to understand the manner in which
one's own social location may orient and/or distort the view. Given the power that social
workers either knowingly or unknowingly wield, what may have the optic of a 'simple
view’ can dramatically shape the construction of a client and their client hood. The
implications can only pervade the social work relationship, but can influence
organizational decision-making pertaining to the client.

As a result, effective AOP necessitates that language be used in a manner which avoids
professional euphemisms (such as 'client') or codified terminologies. Such generalized
terms avoid descriptive qualities and structural variables and instead reflect a sometimes-
individualist problem definition. This can lead to ‘pathologizing’ clients and victim
blaming. When looking further at the notion of language, a commitment by agencies and
workers to inclusiveness requires that language be accessible and understandable for
clients. Such professionalized language further distances clients from social workers
rather than unmasking and demystifying power relationships which AOP otherwise
boasts. Although reframing the use of language away from labeling and professionalized
codification, formal assessment tools remain predicated on these formulations. Pervasive
within the field are recognized terminologies that the AOP practicing social worker has to
continually battle against and be conscious to avoid. Yet, the construction of assessment
tools that use such terminology complicates the challenge to exercise good AOP through
the use of ‘professional’ language, communication, and recording.

The transformative nature of AOP is in itself problematic given the location of many
social workers within the existing power structure that supports current social order.
Social workers exist and function within organizational contexts, governed further by
accountability, liability, and legislative variables. To transform power relations on the

macro level, therefore, is to expect the social worker to challenge the very foundation of
the power vested within their professional role. This is particularly true for child
protection social workers. Organizational self-interest also runs contrary to AOP, as does
professional self-preservation. These survival mechanisms are self-serving, threatening to
locate client need to secondary status.

Although the Committee proposes that AOP has utility for child protection practice, a
concern with oppression should not become over-simplified. A rhetoric of oppression
can too easily be applied to the ways worker treat and interact with clients, having as
their consequence a series of deleterious incapacitating effects. A concern about
oppression should not become debilitating, as social workers will continue to need to
make difficult choices to protect children against abuse by their parents. A rhetorical turn
to oppression must not be allowed to colour disagreements and conflicts between social
workers and parents. Further, while there may be instances of oppressive relations
between social workers and clients, the focus of AOP must be on the organization of
people's lives, that is their troubles with employment, housing, social status, education,
neighborhoods, and so on. As such the self-reflective practice promoted by advocates of
AOP should not have the effect of making front-line social workers become more
apprehensive or fearful about intervening. Rather an anti-oppressive practice encourages
workers to join in collaboration with clients, thereby making them feel more confident
and freer to trust their professional judgment. The essence of AOP is kindled in the
worker-client relationship that is centred in worker-client collaboration and solidarity.
AOP speaks to social workers’ and commitments to address poverty, gender, class, race,
age, and sexuality with a dedication to equality and justice. Solidarity is not only needed
at a worker-client level but at all levels of agency operation, including Management and
board levels.

Undertaking the above work is complex because the solidarity developed in the worker-
client relationship must be achieved not only in a language of respect but also in the
cultivation of respectful relationships and respectful actions. Respectful relationships are
achieved as social workers develop the courage and the congruence to enter into often
critical and reflective dialogue with clients. Respect is achieved when social workers act
both to link the personal situations of clients to broader political forces (Halmos, 1978;
Lecomte, 1990) and to maintain a focus on each individual’s fundamental responsibility
to ensure the safety of children. Respect is achieved as social workers broaden the focus
from child protection to child and family welfare. Simultaneously, respect is achieved
when social workers make a “demand for work” (Shulman, 1999) that challenges those
actions of parents that jeopardize care for their children. Respect arises in critical
dialogue as social workers help parents both to recognize their individual obligations,
duties, and responsibilities for their children and to acquire the tools necessary for care
for their children. Respect arises as social workers help parents to develop functional
understandings of themselves and their lives and that support effective problem solving
and self-determination. Respect arises when social workers build collaborative
relationships across the social service sector –housing, education, vocational training,
employment, addictions and mental health treatment, etc.-- to support parents to care for
their children. Respect arises between social workers and children in care when social

workers hold to the central commitment to ensure that every child grows up not only free
from abuse and neglect, but in a positive environment of care, love, and commitment.
Respect demands bridging broad social issues with the micro issues of child safety.

Based on an article by David Gill, MSW., in Challenging the Silences, a periodical of the
Anti-Oppression Education committee of McMaster University School of Social Work,
Winter 2005, with additions by David Gill, Gerald deMontigny, Andy Koster & Gary C.

Social Inclusion
Similar to AOP, attention to “social inclusion” helps ensure the development of programs
that address social inequalities that compound family problems in ways that cause
concerns about the well being of families and children who are marginalized within
society. Valued recognition, human development, involvement and engagement,
proximity, and material well being are cornerstones of social inclusion (SI), which is seen
as an active process that goes beyond remediation of deficits in functioning and reduction
of risks to children.

        Inclusion is characterized by a society’s widely shared social experience and
        active participation, by a broad equality of opportunities and life chances for
        individuals and by the achievement of a basic level of well being for all citizens.
        (Sen, 2001).
On the other side, social exclusion (SE) has been identified as consisting of two main
dimensions, a personalized feeling of alienation and a phenomenon of alienating; a felt
distance from society and/or a distancing by society or its institutions. Social exclusion
involves the act of preventing, even temporarily, someone from participating in social
relationships and the ‘construction of society’; a process by which individuals and groups
are wholly or partly closed out from participation in their society, often associated with
low income and limited access to employment, social benefits and services (Frieler,
2002). Exclusion is, however, not only the material deprivation of the poor, but also the
inability of people to fully exercise their social, cultural and political rights as citizens
(Frieler, 2002). It is not seen as having a single cause.

Based on these definitions of SI and SE, child welfare services can be seen as an agent of
social inclusion working with children and families who could be or are excluded. To
date little direct attention has been given to exploring these two concepts and their
relation to child welfare practices. Child Welfare Services (CWS) across the province of
Ontario work with thousands of children each year who have experienced considerable
disadvantage in addition to maltreatment. This Position Paper raises questions about how
CWS might be impacting the outcome of children and caregivers served with respect to
social inclusion and social exclusion. Are there aspects of social inclusion that can be
addressed through CWS for families receiving service?

   o Do these services contribute to social inclusion?
   o Do these services contribute to the social exclusion?
   o Do these services help to overcome social exclusion?

Finally, suggestions are made with regard to the expansion of an outcome focus to
include indicators of social inclusion for both immediate service provision and

One aspect of social inclusion that is often identified with the initial stage of a service is
the engagement of the appropriate recipients and the felt connectivity experienced by
those involved – greater access and participation are seen to facilitate social inclusion.
Consequently, great strides have been made to increase the accessibility of services to
those who require them. But this accessibility issue raises some interesting dilemmas for
a service like child welfare that many caregivers and some children do not want. In
response to the objective of ensuring that all appropriate children and families receive the
service (hence is accessible) there have been enhanced Position Papering requirements
and greater clarity about the reasons to refer, in addition to greater public awareness of
the issues.

Improved access in such situations is mainly intended to support the victims and potential
victims of child maltreatment and does not refer to the fact that many of the families
involved with CWS do not volunteer for this service. From a political perspective, child
welfare services are designed to provide for the greater good of children at-risk. There is
a somewhat analogous situation for community policing initiatives: improved arrest
records and decreasing crime facilitate a crime free community, a socially desirable,
inclusive goal for the majority, while those arrested become identified with a potentially
excluded group.

For child welfare services there is often a stigma attached to the service that does not
encourage children and families to be involved. This conflict probably accounts for some
of the initial resistance many clients express when CWS become involved with their
lives, apart from any other investigative consequences. To be included by CWS is to
become identified with a group that has exclusion characteristics. This apparent paradox
is also recognized by children in care who Position Paper that they often feel they are
defending themselves against the stereotype of “bad children”, being asked, “what did
you do?” and depersonalized in a system that is called “in care” but has been described as
more geared to administrative order than caring (Martin, 2003).

       To assume that youth (in care) have done something wrong to be involved in the
       care system is a pervasive attitude of many in society and of many helping
       professionals. (Alderman and Quick, 2003).

Social inclusion as a planning concept directs services to make connections and involve
people in an equitable fashion. If the service being offered because of unacceptable
behaviour is closely associated with social exclusion, people might fight against being
included in the service. If they do accept the need to be involved with the service, their
feelings of exclusion can multiply. This can be perceived as a double bind by both the
staff and clients of CWS.

While CWS may not at present contribute actively to the social exclusion felt by families
and children, they do not appear to facilitate social inclusion, especially for the youth
who have been in care. In particular, Crown Wards who have reached the age cut-offs for
service struggle (e.g., Leslie and Hare, 2003). Some researchers have identified that
successful child development transitions (like a Crown Ward leaving care) are related to
high degrees of engagement, affiliation and participation in social relations. In that
context, difficulties encountered by youth in transition are not seen as a result of
individual incapacity but primarily as the failure of social structures to provide the
necessary opportunities for engagement and participation (Putnam 1993 and Sherraden
1991). Unsuccessful transitions are related to a breakdown of connections, high degrees
of social exclusion and marginalization.

There are many service system issues related to the engagement and ending phases of
CWS for children, youth and their families when considered from the perspective of
social inclusion. Many of these challenges that contribute to child maltreatment are not
resolvable by CWS alone, after they have occurred or proactively (e.g., Trocmé, 1999
and Leslie, 2003). There needs to be support across all services for children, youth and
families to adequately address the complex issues involved – social inclusion requires
partnerships inside, outside and between the various service systems.

The integration of social inclusion as an overarching goal for the delivery of child welfare
services can be implemented at all levels of practice, planning and organizational
improvement whether it is negotiating the involvement of a parent following a referral or
addressing clinical implications of ‘open adoptions’. The suggestions described in the full
paper by Bruce Leslie which is found in the bibliography of this Position Paper provides
ways in which social inclusion could be achieved leading to a greater sense of acceptance
and empowerment through social connections and support. Many children, youth and
families served by child welfare agencies appear to be socially excluded and
advancements in creating more inclusionary practices could greatly increase their well

Based on sections of a published paper and a presentation made by Bruce Leslie,
Manager at Toronto Catholic CAS.

The Influences of an Agency Code of Conduct and Social Work Code of Ethics
      Family problems transcend social class, ethnicity and gender; however; an
      association exists between poverty and child protection services. From a
      statement by The Canadian Association of Social Workers (CASW) Code of

It is important that agencies have a required code of conduct for staff that is both
meaningful and understood by all, including Board Members. Most agencies already
have this in place and it usually articulates how staff persons are to deal with each other
and by extension, with the clients and communities that they serve. Fortunately most
codes of conduct that are in place are already compatible with the CASW. Code of Ethics
and to the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers. In addition,

the principles of the client/worker relationship as defined by the College also need to be
reviewed for compatibility with the expectations of the agency. These codes and practice
standards are found in Appendix 8 of this Position Paper.

Some child welfare workers also perform admirably without having the academic
eligibility to join the College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers. Also, for a
number of reasons existing at the current time, a significant number of Children’s Aid
Society staff who are eligible for membership in the College, chose not to do so. A
perceived failure to weed out malicious complaints and a perception that the difficult role
of a social worker in child welfare is not completely understood are some of the reasons.
However, having said that, their ethics and the standards of practice are compatible with
best practice standards in the profession and as such need to be adhered to by child
welfare practitioners in Ontario. They are based on those developed by the former
College of Social Work that existed on a voluntary basis in Ontario until 2000. In
addition, the reality is that many Children’s Aid workers who come out of schools of
social work into child welfare, or who are already long term employees, want to retain
their professional standing as ‘social workers’ and act according to those values. To do
so, and to retain them, agencies need to support their ability to adhere to their code of
conduct, which is in turn mandated through regulation by the Ontario Government itself.

Fortunately the College recognizes the particular struggles that child welfare workers
have in regards to having to recommend courses of action, which their clients may not
want. The practice standards recognize that ‘Limitations to self-determination may arise
from the client's incapacity for positive and constructive decision-making, from civil law and
from agency mandate and function.’ This stems from some of the work of the former
voluntary college of social work upon which the present practice standards are based. It was
found to be possible to have the provincial mandate to protect children while still adhering to
the social work, helping relationship.

The Social Work Code of Ethics, Child Welfare Agencies and Schools of Social Work
It is important that child welfare agencies and Schools of Social Work collaborate regarding
students learning with the context of the Social Work Code of Ethics. Schools teach students
to become social workers and this includes critical thinking and advocacy. In order to
recommend that students go into child welfare they need to know that child welfare agencies
are upholding the professional standards. As well, agencies need to know that the new
graduates they hire have been educated to understand the complexities of child protection
practice. Of particular value to agencies, are graduates who understand the ways to work
with service users around issues of advocacy, social inclusion, non-paternalistic outlooks, and
Anti-Oppressive Practice. In turn, recent graduates of these programs, many who are already
in Children’s Aid Societies or Aboriginal Child Welfare Agencies across Ontario, need to
know that these values and approaches are being used where appropriate in order for them to
want to stay in child welfare practice. There is also a need for schools of social work and
agencies to collaborate together in research initiatives that help identify the most effective
ways to undertake this work within the context of social work ethics and the principles of
social justice.
Written by Andy Koster

Conclusion Regarding Collaborative Organizations
These concepts are already ingrained in the curriculums of social workers and others who
are trained in post secondary institutions. Unfortunately although individuals in many
Children’s Aid’s agree with many of these principles, the organizations themselves do
not discuss the issues and often, agency policies do not reinforce them. As a result, many
new social work or social service graduates who begin work in child welfare do not
always feel comfortable with the application of current practice that often excludes these
considerations. As a result collaboration with the clients suffers and the workers begins
to realize that their efforts in those areas will not be reinforced by the work environment
or culture itself. They sometimes get discouraged and leave the field.

Furthermore Schools of Social Work are not always comfortable in recommending that
their graduates go into child welfare as they feel that it is incompatible with their
philosophical beliefs and that the field is not doing enough to advocate for social change.
These conflicts decrease the number of applicants for numerous unfilled child welfare
positions. This Position Paper is attempting to reduce the schism that exists to some
degree between the field and many of the educational institutions that produce potential
new employees.


Child protection intervention begins with a determination of whether collaboration with a
parent is possible or whether an intervention plan will have to be imposed to keep
child(ren) safe. Throughout intervention, workers always or should always, pay attention
to the extent collaboration is possible and find creative ways to make it so (Dumbrill,
1998). In this process of constant review, the worker must be ever ready to protect
children by acting decisively, unilaterally and in ways that might be perceived as
coercive. At the same time, the worker knows that children are better protected when
parents genuinely work with intervention (Trotter, 2002, 2004) and consequently the
worker is looking for opportunities to use collaborative means to achieve their child
safety ends. A schematic demonstration of the “collaborative or coercive relationships in
child welfare” is presented below.

        Figure 10: Collaborative or Coercive Relationships in Child Welfare

                                  Figure: Rocci Pagnello 2005

In this diagram the left represents collaboration or the use of worker power with service
users and the right represents imposing power over service users. The column on the left
side lists from top to bottom some stages in the child protection intervention sequence.
The first is the assessment process which corresponds with a safety and strengths-based
assessment under ‘engaging with clients” while a more forensic or deficit-based
assessment process corresponds with imposing change or a “power over” approach.

The family’s reaction to the assessment is the next layer in the process – the assumption
being that an assessment that acknowledges that they have some areas of strength and
have created some safety for their children to this point in time is more likely to allow
them to engage with the process and see the need for change. In the diagram, the
family’s reaction to the narrow focus of a negative, forensic-based assessment is more
likely to be one of resistance, defiance or denial, which is a natural reaction to a
perceived threat (Dumbrill, 2002, 2003a, 2003b).

There is a potential crossover from one side of the figure to the other because at any time
a worker or a family may change in their approach to engagement and a casework
relationship characterized by coercion might become one characterized by collaboration
or visa versa.

As a result of the case flow schema indicating that certain strategies could be applied
under certain circumstances, members of the committee looked into the various usage of
therapeutic interventions. These along with other Best Practice Strategies were examined
in detail in subsequent sections of this Position Paper.

The efforts of the subcommittees (see participant groups in Appendix 3)were helped by
the considerable research knowledge that exists in literature about ways workers can help
a family collaborate with service. As well, local knowledge exists in the field about the
ways to protect children by delivering service in a collaborate manner. Some of this
wisdom is shared below. In the remainder of this section we outline practice wisdom
from Ontario regarding ways to engage families in protective change processes. We also
outline knowledge youth have shared about the ways workers need to collaborate with
them when they enter care. In the following section we outline theories that complement
and underpin this practice wisdom.

Surveys of Worker and Manager Responses to the Issues Raised By The Position
Paper On Enhancing Client-Worker Relationships and Collaboration: The
Attached Manual

Enhancing Worker/Client Relationships
Shortly after the Project on Collaboration with Clients began, Rocci Pagnello, a member
of the Committee and the Director of Services for Leeds Grenville CAS raised the
possibility of obtaining feedback directly from workers in the field. This is a method that
has been viewed as a valuable tool by experts in the field when “best practices” are being
developed (Turnell & Edwards, 1999).

The Director of Services informally canvassed agency staff about how they try to
proactively engage clients and from this process he developed a questionnaire to be sent
to agencies across the province. Staff responded enthusiastically to the survey - in itself a
strong indicator that the Project’s focus on working proactively with clients resonated
with workers. The final questionnaire, which has subsequently been applied in numerous
other CAS agencies and at an Aboriginal Focus Group in Thunder Bay, consisted of the

Questionnaire preamble
       What would be helpful to us is if you could pass along any thoughts you may
       have about what things work for you in engaging clients even those who
       sometimes present as “resistive.” Please include anything from your experience,
       your formal clinical training, informal training, practical approaches (like setting
       appointments), instrumental tasks (driving, access to food bank etc.) or trial and
       error approaches - it could be what works for clients with specific issues like
       addictions, mental health or simply your general approach to clients, assessing
       their style of interaction, learning style, motivation level, understanding of the
       inherent power imbalance in our 'oppressive' work etc. We are collecting quite a
       bit of material to date and we will try to keep you posted as the committee makes

       o What practical or clinical skills do you use in your practice to proactively
         engage your clients?
       o What works for you in various situations or stages of your work (assessment,
         service planning, and interventions)?
       o What advice or tips would you have for a new worker just starting out when
         they encounter their first ‘resistant’ client?
       o What do you feel are the most salient factors that create or increase
         ‘resistance’ in our clients?
       o What is your hoped for vision for how you might be able to engage with
       o What are the most dominant or frustrating barriers in your work to being able
         to engage clients?
       o What do you need from the agency to enable you to develop collaborative
         relationships with clients?
       o Where does the field need to move to enable workers to more effective work
         with clients?
       o Any other comments?

The outcomes from the Focus Groups was that it:
       o Grounded the project members with meaningful front-line input for our
       o Started/continues the talk at the agency about the cultural shift back to a more
          holistic approach to our work we hope will be inherent in transformation
       o Encourages/gives permission to staff to talk about a better way to do the work
          and thereby starting the buy-in process
       o Provided the Project Committee with some powerful ideas for the Position
          Paper itself

The final results (from hundreds of workers and managers) have been so illuminating that
instead of being rolled up into themes, they have been left alone and compiled in a
secondary manual accompanying this Position Paper as a vital component of this project.
The information gathered from this survey influenced the information and direction of the

Intervention Model for Ontario that is now being proposed. It is entitled, Surveys of
Worker and Manager Responses to the Issues Raised By The Position Paper On
Enhancing Client-Worker Relationships and Collaboration.

The committee felt that these comments should be maintained as a resource for all CASs
across the province. They show that the changes proposed in this Position Paper have
wide spread appeal at the front line and supervisor level across various agencies in
different parts of Ontario and could be made available to Schools of Social Work. Their
ideas also support the specific strategies analyzed below.

The Provision of Child Welfare Services to Native Children, Families and
Please note also that the discussion in this section includes the terms Native, First Nation,
Aboriginal and Indian in regards to Native Child Welfare issues and practices. Please
note that for this document the term Aboriginal includes Métis, non-status, status, Inuit,
and persons of Native descent. First Nations and Indian refers to individuals who are
entitled to and/or registered as “Indian” as defined in the Indian Act. Native would
include all of the above.

Included in the accompanying Survey Manual are the actual comments and responses
provided from the focus groups held in Thunder Bay in March 2005. The Committee
members struggled with how to write this section on collaboration in order to fairly
reflect participants’ input. The focus group participants indicated that ‘we were very
hesitant to make changes or try to interpret the information”. As such, it was felt that the
information should be written down the same as it was presented at the focus group’.
Hence, there is a point form format evident in the focus group section of the Survey
Manual (also found electronically on the co disc accompanying this paper).

Focus Group Minutes
This section paraphrases the outcomes and recommendations of the participants in
identifying Best Practices and Skills in this focus group. This group represented a variety
of Child Welfare agencies within the province of Ontario. The focus group was
composed of both Native and non-Native frontline child welfare workers and managers
from both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Children’s Aid Societies. These members
represented urban, rural (including some on-reserve), First Nations and at least one CAS
agency with agreements involving local band councils. The participants work for
agencies whose mandates are, include or are guided by the provision of child welfare
services to Native children, families and communities and/or traditional territories within
this province. The agencies in attendance represented unique territories, treaty areas,
nations, language groups, economic bases, cultures and political aspirations.

The purpose of the focus group was to create an opportunity for professionals who work
in Native Child Welfare, to brainstorm in order to identify and recommend tried and
tested practices. The recommendations, when implemented, would be intended to result
in positive worker/client relationships with Aboriginal and Indian people. It is important

to note that the participants of this focus group represent a small population of people
who provide Native Child Welfare services to Aboriginal and Indian children, families
and communities. They speak from their unique experiences and knowledge. It is
believed by the members of this focus group that it would be inappropriate for the data of
this group to be used to represent the opinions and/or strategies of all of those agencies
and staff that provide Native child welfare services.
The members of the focus group agree that this collaborative model will help create
awareness and offer insight into working with First Nations people. It is intended to offer
a contextualized scenario into the historical and current impacts of mainstream Child
Welfare strategies and issues for First Nations people as both clientele and as colleagues.

Professionals cannot begin to understand the challenge or the distinctiveness of Indian
Child Welfare without clearly understanding:
   o The oppressive impact of European contact, colonization and forced assimilation
       on First Nations people;

   o The history of child welfare in Aboriginal and Indian communities and the
     relationship between Residential Schools, The Gradual Civilization Act, The
     Indian Act (which incorporated forced assimilation into legislation) and the CFSA
     as it pertains to “the 60’s Scoop”;

   o First Nations people and self-determination regarding Child Welfare issues.

Common Themes
  o The impact of history/colonization on First Nations people – themes of
     multigenerational problems inherent at the community level; weakening and
     destruction of traditional values and practices; oppression; racism; prejudice and

   o The history of child welfare and Aboriginal people - a pervasive lack of trust of
     the child welfare system; the imposition of western standards and euro centric
     values on Aboriginal people and communities

Each CAS several copies of the Survey Manual and the Aboriginal thoughts on
collaboration are found in their Focus group minutes which have been left as recorded at
the time.

The knowledge youth, workers and managers bring about collaborative practice is
supported by theory. An understanding of these theories can aid the collaborative
process. In this section we examine issues of attachment, separation and loss and
demonstrate the ways theory informs the type of practice a client may need. Later in this
section we also provide a brief overview of some of the other intervention theories and
bodies of knowledge that child protection workers understand and employ. This is by no
means an exhaustive listing—we just provide a glimpse into some of the interventions
that social workers may use in effective child protection intervention.

   o Attachment separation & loss
   o Toward improving child welfare services to adolescents
   o Respect and anti-oppression: Key components when working with diverse and
     ethno-cultural families and children
   o Working with the community in child welfare
   o Collaborative work with foster parents
   o Trauma counseling
   o Crisis intervention model
   o Narrative therapy
   o Brief therapy
   o Reality therapy (choice theory)
   o Family theory
   o Family systems theory
   o Behaviour therapy
   o Ecological theory

Of the above sections, the final ten can be considered “casework models.” Evidence
shows that there is little appreciable difference in the efficacy of different therapy
approaches despite the claims and counter-claims made by proponents of different
modalities (Miller, Duncan, & Johnson, 1999). Consequently, we should pay attention to
the factors that predict good client outcomes regardless of the modality used. Miller,
Hubble and Duncan (1995) show that these factors are:

   o The therapeutic relationship: including the engagement and the connectedness
     that marks a successful client/clinician alliance
   o Client expectancy: including their hopes and dreams that are encouraged by a
     positive, hopeful clinician
   o The therapeutic technique: essentially the expectation of the clinician that the
     client will do something differently
   o Client factors: including the cataloguing and encouraging the client’s motivation
     and strengths that they apply to a problem.

Why then would a child protection agency or a province or a country make a
commitment to the use of a modality with respect to service to families? The Province of
Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as Australia and several American states have
chosen Brief Solution Focused Therapy as a means of providing counseling services to

families that require support and assistance. Brief Solution Focused Therapy is a post-
modern modality that is strengths based. We should heed Miller, Hubble, and Duncan’s
warnings about using efficacy as selection criteria but are there other compelling reasons
why a child welfare service might encourage staff to use a dedicated approach to helping
families? Several jurisdictions argue that Brief Solution Focused Therapy or another
strengths based approach might be adopted to:

   o Build a collaborative approach to working with clients
   o Offset the deficit focus of the Ontario Risk Assessment and assist staff to find the
     balance between helping and keeping children safe.
   o Help families to discover the strengths they have to apply to a problem and
   o Assist staff to develop a common language when working with families
   o Prompt a ‘power with’ approach with families rather than a ‘power over’
   o Encourage child protection workers and other staff to view themselves as agents
     of social change rather than agents of social control
   o Lessen the impact of personal values on practice

Therefore, this section is a description and analysis of a ‘tool kit’. As such, certain
strategies apply in certain situations. Risk factors for children and other concerns should
be considered in the context of an overall assessment and case plan prior to the
application of specific modalities. Where required, supervisory approval and
consultation should also be sought or seen in the context of best practice.

Timing is important in the appropriate application of various casework models. In
addition, workers need time to utilize/apply thoughtful intervention strategies at critical
periods during the casework process, always ensuring child safety. Workers need to
develop the capacity to read child at risk situation and to apply an appropriate model or
draw on the appropriate body of knowledge.

Attachment, Separation and Loss
The field of child welfare has long recognized the importance of attachment, separation
and loss for the children whom they serve. Bowlby (1973, 1980, 1982) used the term
attachment to describe the strong affectional ties that occur between a person and his/her
most intimate companions. For an infant, the most intimate companion is their primary
caregiver. For best possible development, all children should grow up in a family that is
caring and able to provide both high quality and continuous parenting. The infant’s first
basic need, a prerequisite for optimal development, is for a secure attachment to a
primary caregiver. “Attachment refers to the bond of caring and craving that ties child
and caregiver to each other. Once formed, the attachment persists, even in the absence of
the primary caregiver” (Steinhauer, 1991). A secure attachment is crucial to the
development of trust and the capacity for intimacy (Ainsworth, 1969, 1982; B. Tizard &
Hodges, 1978; B. Tizard & Rees, 1974; J. Tizard & Tizard, 1971).

Certain conditions are necessary for attachment to occur. During the sensitive period
commencing from four to six months of age, the child must be in a nurturing environment

that meets both physical and emotional needs. Attachment develops as a result of the
adult’s response to the infant’s distress (Bowlby, 1982; Bretherton, 1985). The child has
a primary need for contact because of its need to be protected and thus survive. The child
seeks proximity to adult figures. Infants become attached to the figure(s) who respond
appropriately and consistently to their proximity-seeking behaviours.

The extent of the attachment formed is accomplished by the quality of response from the
caregiver when the infant’s attachment system is activated. There are three
circumstances under which the attachment system becomes activated: when the infant
experiences emotional distress (i.e. fear), physical hurt and illness. How the caregiver
responds to these circumstances leads the child to develop specific internal working
models. “These expectations of care giving response at times of distress have been
termed internal working models of attachment relationships. Internal working models of
attachment begin to develop when infants are four to six months of age. By the end of
the first year of life, an infant’s internal working models of their attachment relationship
with specific caregivers have become ingrained within the infant…” (Benoit, 2000, p. 14)

Bowlby theorized and research later confirmed that there are three ways in which
caregivers respond to an infant’s distress (Benoit, 2002). The first is termed loving, in
which the caregiver is consistently available to respond promptly and sensitively to the
child’s cues and distress. The caregiver is receptive to the infant’s emotional experiences
most of the time (no caregiver is perfect) and the child learns that they can count on that
caregiver to be there in times of need. This category of attachment is called securely
attached. The second is termed rejecting and occurs when the caregiver responds with
anger or annoyance at the child’s distress, ridiculing the need for attention and affection.
The child learns to avoid the caregiver in times of need and that their experience is not
valued. This category of attachment is called insecure-avoidant. The third is termed
inconsistent, and occurs when the caregivers responds unpredictably; sometimes lovingly
and sometimes not. The child learns to be unsure of the caregiver’s response and they
often display hostile and rejecting behaviours toward their caregiver. This category of
attachment is called insecure-resistant.

A fourth and newer category has been added by researchers (Main, Kaplan, & Cassidy,
1985; Main & Solomon, 1986) and it is called insecure-disorganized/disoriented. Infants
in this category show highly abnormal behaviour with their caregivers, including
“stilling” and “freezing” for several seconds. They walk away from their caregivers in
times of distress, rather than towards and hide from their caregivers. Factors leading
infants to develop this type of attachment are not yet fully understood, but it is believed
that caregivers respond in frightening or dissociated ways toward their children.

The significance of attachment theory to child welfare is clear. Many of the children we
serve come from families where the possibility to develop optimal attachment
relationships are severely limited. It is estimated that children who demonstrate insecure-
disorganized/disoriented patterns of attachment comprise twenty three per cent (23%) of
children whose mother’s are teenagers; twenty five to thirty four per cent (25-34%) of
children from low socio-economic backgrounds; forty three per cent (43%) of children

whose mothers abuse alcohol or drugs and forty six per cent (46%) of children who are
victims of maltreatment (Lyons-Ruth, Repacholi, McLeod, & Silva, 1991;
VanIjzendoom, Schuengel, & Bakermans-Kranenburg, 1999). The understanding of
attachment theory, attachment behaviours in children and adults and the ability to
intervene appropriately is at the core of the work of the field.

A child separated from their attachment figure will show separation anxiety. This period
of separation could be as simple as a parent leaving the child to go into a different room
or as pronounced as a child being removed from their parent’s care. Separation anxiety
behaviour first appears at six to seven months of age and reaches peak intensity at twelve
to eighteen months of age. Towards the end of the second year, it declines significantly.

A child will progress through four stages of reaction to conditions of prolonged
separation from an attached person:

   1. Protest: The child will attempt to regain his/her attached person by crying,
      demanding return and resisting the attention of caregivers. This usually lasts from
      a few hours to more than a week.
   2. Despair: The child will become apathetic and unresponsive to toys and to other
      people and will appear to be in a deep state of mourning or depression.
   3. Detachment: The child will show a renewed interest in play activities, caretakers
      and other aspects of their environment. When the original attachment person
      visits, the child may appear cool and largely indifferent and may show little
      protest when the attachment person leaves.
   4. Permanent Withdrawal: If the child’s separation from the attachment person is
      prolonged or if the child loses a serious of temporary attachment persons in
      succession while separated from his/her primary attachment person, the child may
      display permanent withdrawal from human relationships. In these circumstances
      the child becomes uninterested in contact others.

The intensity of an initial separation is likely to be greatest when it occurs between the
ages six months and four years (Quinton & Rutter, 1976). During these years, children
are, because of their stage of cognitive and emotional development, particularly
vulnerable to separation, as they are intensely dependent emotionally and physically on
the primary caretaker. In addition, their cognitive development at this age is as yet
undeveloped to allow them to understand the reasons for the separation or to be reassured
of the temporary nature of a clearly explained separation. Nor will it allow them to
express or to work through the acute distress generated by the disruption of their primary

The quality of the child’s attachment relationship with their primary caregiver
significantly impacts upon their response to separation from that caregiver. A child who
is securely attached will display the strongest separation anxiety, as the felt loss from
their primary attachment figure is felt the deepest. This child can just as easily attach in a
new nurturing environment, as they have learned that they can depend upon caregivers
for their well being. Whereas a child who has not developed a secure attachment during

the sensitive developmental period will display a weaker reaction to separation and are
less likely to be able to develop attachments with alternate caregivers.

In child welfare, taking into account the safety of the child as paramount, children are
often removed from their parent’s care. Parents, who are immature, are overwhelmed by
poverty, have serious mental health issues and/or are substance abusers can be dangerous
to their children. However, an understanding of the implications of the separation upon
the child can reduce the trauma the separation evokes. In a securely attached child,
where there is a realistic possibility of their being returned to their family of origin,
maintaining regular and consistent access between the child and family is paramount. As
services are provided to enable the parent to be more adequate and address the risk
factors present, ongoing contact, at least two or three times a week, must be maintained to
ensure attachment problems do not arise. As well, carefully assessing parenting capacity
promptly to determine if the parents have changed sufficiently to be able to at least
minimally meet the needs of their child must occur. The literature clearly reveals that
returning foster children to parents who do not meet this standard commonly results in
the loss of any gains that they have made while in care, while increasing the likelihood of
their rebounding back into care – and into limbo – in the near future (Steinhauer, 1991;
Wald, Carlsmith, & Leiderman, 1988; Wolf, Braukmann, & Ramp, 1987).

Most children, however, coming into a Society’s care, have not experienced optimal
attachment to their caregivers. Most foster children have experienced considerable and
prolonged family discord, neglect, and /or violence with or without abuse prior to
separation from their families (Pianta, Egeland, & Hyatt, 1986; Schaughency & Lahey,
1985). While individual children’s reactions to separation may vary, there is little doubt
that the traumatic effects of separation will be intensified by the conflict and discord that
have preceded it. Thus the risk of psychological disturbance in response to family
discord or abusive or violent behaviour followed by separation is multiplied, often many
times over (Brown & Harris, 1978; Rutter, 1979). The extent of this disturbance is likely
to undermine the child’s acceptability to and integration within the substitute family

Recognizing signs of attachment disorder in children brought into the Society’s care is a
paramount objective to child welfare staff. Children with attachment disorders do not
care about pleasing others; are not motivated to modify their behaviour to do so and lack
the empathy to prohibit violence and delinquency (Tremblay, Pihl, Vitaro, & Dobkin,
1994). If an attachment disorder is not recognized early and taken into account in
planning for the child, this lack of recognition is likely to lead to repeated and often
avoidable breakdowns and replacements. The Office of the Child and Family Service
Advocacy in Ontario Position Papered in 1998 that more than fifty-seven percent (57.2%)
of the youth they interviewed about the Ontario children’s service system, self-Position
Papered five or more placements. In fact, one hundred and one (101) youth (32.1%)
Position Papered eleven or more placements. The child experiences each of these
placements as yet another failure and rejection. The best placement for an attachment-
disordered child is almost always a staffed setting (Steinhauer, 1996) as the pressure on
the child to meet the emotional needs of others is minimal. The goal of such a setting is

to provide “good-enough” care giving that will hopefully prove sufficiently reassuring to
the child to begin to form an attachment with at least one of the staff members. If we
provide the appropriate conditions for these children, after years of distancing, they will
hopefully respond by allowing themselves to risk getting close to an adult once again.

Mourning is the psychological process initiated by the loss of a loved one, through which
a long-standing selective attachment to that person is slowly undone. The purpose of
mourning is the giving up of the lost person. To mourn successfully, the mourner must
accept the fact that someone to whom he or she was attached is gone and must make a
corresponding change in his or her inner (i.e. psychological) world. This change is
accomplished by allowing the gradual withdrawal of interest, caring and feelings invested
in the child’s memory and image of the lost attachment figure. This process, which
Bowlby (1973, 1980, 1982) terms detachment, must be completed before the child can
accept the finality of the loss and be freed to shift those feelings to a parent substitute
(that is, to form a selective reattachment). Such detachment is a requirement for normal
development. This process of gradual detachment is accompanied by the periodic
experiencing of grief; a normal response to loss that includes signs of anger, pining,
sadness and fixation with memories and fantasies of the lost person.

Mourning is precipitated when children are separated from attachment figures to which
they are selectively bonded. The more troubled the parent-child relationship – that is, the
more insecure the attachment – the more intensely the child is likely to resist a separation
and the harder it will be for that child to mourn successfully (Ainsworth, 1982; Stayton &
Ainsworth, 1973).

No child can mourn successfully without assistance from an adult. Mourning is an
uneven process. It follows the child’s timetable, not that of the adults trying to assist
him/her. No one, least of all a child, can tolerate constant misery, so periods of active
mourning alternate with long periods of renewed avoidance, denial and repression, during
which the child can appear quite unworried. Children cannot be forced to mourn when
they are not psychologically prepared to do so. Excessive, premature or inconsiderate
pressure towards mourning may, instead, encourage denial, intellectualization, acting-out
or other defenses in a child.

Children coming into the Society’s care, separated from their adult attachment figures –
regardless of the quality of that attachment – are going to mourn the loss of their
caregivers. Workers, foster parents and/or staff, must be aware of this fact and allow the
child the time and room to mourn. This will facilitate the child’s adjustment to the new
family placement that will play a key role in their subsequent development. These
children need the active assistance of their surrogate parents, or other adults, to mourn the
loss (Furman, 1974) and subsequently protect their ability to form new attachments, and
resume normal development.

The importance of attachment, separation and loss cannot be overemphasized in child
welfare. All of the families and children we serve have issues and implications within

these three schools of knowledge. From the infant with parents who are struggling with
attachment responses, to the child removed from his/her home temporarily, to the child
placed permanently in the Society’s care, attachment, separation and loss issues permeate
their life everyday. Child welfare workers must be experts in these areas in order to
perform the sound, clinical work to assist our clients to reach their optimal level of

A Theoretical Framework for Working with Adolescents
As shown in this section, the need for collaborative intervention with children and youth
is supported by theory about attachment, separation and loss.

Recent ground breaking work in neuroscience using Magnetic Resonance Imaging
(MRI), based on longitudinal scans of adolescents’ brains, confirms that the human brain
from puberty through to the early twenties undergoes profound physiological
reorganization (Giedd et al., 1999; M. H. Johnson, 2001; Sowell et al., 2003). Beginning
with puberty there is “an increase of gray matter (cells) before adolescence, followed by a
decline after adolescence” (Nature Neuroscience, October 1999), accompanied by a
“linear increases in white matter” (myelin) (Giedd et al., 1999, p. 861). Further “these
changes in cortical gray matter were regionally specific, with developmental curves for
the frontal and parietal lobe peaking at age 12 and for the temporal lobe at about age 16,
whereas cortical gray matter continued to increase in the occipital lobe through age 20”
(Giedd et al., 1999, p. 861). Research demonstrates a “parallel between the structural
changes…and the psychological maturation of cognitive functions” (Nature
Neuroscience, 1999). Additionally, there is a link between adolescence and the
development of the frontal cortex that “controls higher cognitive functions, including
emotions, organization of complex tasks and inhibition of inappropriate behaviors”
(Nature Neuroscience, 1999).

The implications of the research for work with children and youth, although profound,
are not surprising, especially for those who have worked with youth over the years.
Clearly, the deleterious effects of alcohol and drug abuse that often first emerge for
adolescents, pose serious risks to the healthy development of their changing brains.
Adolescence is marked by the fixing of neural pathways that will affect capacities and
interests in future. Further, given the physiological processes in which synapses are
pruned and myelin is wrapped around remaining connections, to strengthen and protect
them, (about 1% of gray matter is lost each year between ages 13 to 18), Giedd has
postulated a “use it or lose it principle” (Frontline, 2002). He notes that the activities
regularly engaged in by adolescents -music, athletics, academics or watching TV and
video games - are the ones that will be reinforced and hard wired into the brain when they
become adults. The consequence for youth workers is that there is a heightened
imperative to motivate youth to develop their potential and their capacities.

The research in neuroscience allows us to develop improved understandings of the
changes faced by youth and specifically by youth in care. The intellectual powers
unleashed during adolescence have been a force throughout human history. Historically,

youth have challenged adult conventions and have generated intense debates about the
fundamental issues of every-day life; the foundations of what it means to be a person and
what it means to be a society. Youth have had a capacity to bring energy, drive,
commitment and innovation to conventional situations – in the form of radical protest,
anti-war demonstrations, civil rights, student politics or counter-cultural youth
movements. Unfortunately the challenges posed by young people to social order have
produced counter-reactions that vilify or blame youth for many social ills, ranging from
crime, violence, moral decay – notably directed towards single mothers – and generalized
social disorder (Schissel, 1997). Children and adolescents in care become readily
available targets for such public and media condemnation. In this sense child welfare
work with young people is also ‘political’ work, as it recovers and celebrates that which
is positive, constructive and healthy among young people.

From Piaget (1974), to Kohlberg (1981), to Gilligan (1982) adolescence has been
identified as a distinct life stage marked by the development of new and profound
intellectual capabilities giving expression to intense moral debate, life-style
experimentation, and radical social movements. As the cognitive powers of youth
increase so too does their ability to understand, to outline and to live by complex moral
arguments. Accordingly, those who work with youth must be prepared to enter into
respectful dialogue about core values and the meaning of life itself. Young states,
“Youth work is and always has been concerned with the development of young people’s
values” (Young, 1999, p. 77). She advises that “youth workers are inevitably involved in
discussions about what ‘is’ and what ‘ought to be’ – not simply from a prudential point of
view but from a moral one” (79). It follows that for social workers to work with youth,
they must be prepared to enter into complex dialogue about matters that strike at the core
of individual and social being. They must be prepared to enter into a dialogue with a
spirit of respect for difference, and with a patience to listen to, explore and work through
complex ideas.

Adolescence and Identity
Erikson described adolescence as a period of identity development, marked by the
primary strength of ‘fidelity’ or “the opportunity to fulfill personal potentialities…in a
context which permits the young person to be true to himself and true to significant
others” (Erikson, 1985). Similarly Bowen developed the concept of “differentiated self”
(1978), or a “mature self” in which an individual simultaneously moves towards
autonomy and towards forming healthy emotional connections with others, notably those
in one’s own family (McGoldrick & Carter, 1999; Bowen, 1978). The adolescent’s drive
to forge a personal identity and the yearning for fidelity or a sense of personal
congruence, rather predictably generates powerful emotional reactions and responses to
other people and to life situations. Social workers who work with adolescents in care can
expect to be challenged by the powerful emotional forces of identity formation in lives
marked by crisis. They can expect to become the object of an adolescent’s withering
criticism of themselves and all that they believe and do, yet they must be able to reach
past attack, rejection and their own hurt (Shulman, 1999), to engage youth with a spirit of
earnest and honest dialogue. For youth who are involved in child protection services, the
normal struggles of adolescence are often compounded by violence, abuse and

abandonment (Totten, 2000), which can at times become manifest in perpetuating cycles
of violence and abuse. The failures that marked their families of origin resonate with
painful effects as they think about their own identities. Clearly, social workers in child
protection need the skills to create relationships of trust to reach to the core issues facing

Those who would work with youth must be prepared to grapple with difficult issues in a
commitment to help adolescents to forge healthy identities and healthy interpersonal
relationships with family, professionals, and peers. Social workers must have the
courage to help adolescents address the painful emotional relationships with the members
of their family of origin, for only by so-doing can these young people achieve
functionally healthy differentiation between themselves and their families. Young
people in care need the opportunity to speak of difficult and painful life experiences that
often devolve on the abandonment, neglect, abuse, and violence (Raychaba, 1993; Totten,
2000) they have suffered.

Education, Employment, Class and Status
In the western world adolescents approach and exit their last years of secondary
schooling either by graduating or dropping out (Tanner, Krahn, & Hartnagel, 1995).
During these years they face the difficult employment and career decisions that will mark
their level of living, opportunity and satisfaction over a lifetime. For good or for ill,
schooling in the west has long been recognized and criticized for reproducing social
stratification and streaming children and youth into differential life opportunities (Apple,
1979, 1982; Illich, 1971; Lind, 1974; Willis, 1977). Bowles and Gintes (1976) in their
influential text, note that the educational system:

   Is best understood as an institution that serves to perpetuate the social relationships of
   economic life through which these patterns (economic inequality and power
   relationships) are set, by facilitating a smooth integration of youth into the labor
   force. This role takes a variety of forms. Schools legitimate inequality through
   ostensibly meritocratic manner by which they reward and promote students, and
   allocate them to distinct positions in the occupational hierarchy. They create and
   reinforce patterns of social class, racial and sexual identification among students that
   allow them to relate “properly” to the eventual standing in the hierarchy of authority
   and status in the production process. Schools foster types of personal development
   compatible with the relationships of dominance and subordinacy in the economic
   sphere, and finally, schools create surpluses of skilled labor. (Bowles & Gintis, 1976,
   p. 11)

Youth in care, who already struggle to cope with and survive troubled relationships inside
their families, are in particular danger of dropping out of school. Tanner, Krahn, and
Hartnagel observe that those who drop out are more likely male, who are from lower
socio-economic backgrounds; do poorly in school; are in low status academic streams;
experience a sense of alienation from school; are less interested in education and live in
single parent families (Tanner et al., 1995, p. 15). They add “dropouts from high school
fare poorly in the labour market, are more likely to remain stuck in poor jobs, and

contribute disproportionately to the youth unemployment problem.” Further they point
out that, “Dropouts have also been shown to have lower cognitive development…to
experience substantially more personal and family problems, and to receive psychiatric
treatment and various forms of public assistance more often than do graduates” (Tanner
et al., 1995, p.5). Given such challenges, youth workers must be prepared to encourage
young people to pursue educational and vocational training that improves their life
opportunities. Also, they need to develop advocacy skills to work on behalf of youth in
care when engaging with school teachers, principals and others.

Over the past century, and in particular in the decades following World War II, the
development of a youth culture has been conjoined to a gradual deferment of full
adulthood, as increasing numbers of young people stay in school for longer periods;
participate sporadically in low income employment; live at home and delay creating their
own families (Allahar & Côté, 1998). Social workers need to recognize that many youth
do actively participate in the labour market, although unfortunately often in the lowest
paid and most menial forms of employment. While the forces structuring the job market
for young people are complex (Allahar & Côté, 1998), it is critically important that young
people have available to them advocates and guides who are able to alert them to their
rights as workers and to advise them on action to take in the event of workplace
harassment, unsafe working conditions or unfair treatment.

Sexual Identities
Psycho-physiologists differentiate between puberty, which “refers to the activation of the
hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis that culminates in gonadal maturation” and
adolescence which “refers to the maturation of adult social and cognitive behaviours”
(Sisk & Foster, 2004, p. 1040). The simple version is that the movement through
puberty results in the physiological development of the mechanisms for ‘reproduction’
while adolescence produces the cognitive maturation and behaviours requisite for sexual
expression (reproduction).

Of course the expression, or meaning, of such physiological and psychological
transformations, is conditioned by the social environment in which young people
develop. Whereas heterosexuality was ‘normalized’ during the 1950’s (Adams, 1997), in
the decades following the 60s, so called “compulsory heterosexuality” (Rich 1980) was
recognized as problematic (Kinsman, 1996). Due to the opening up of critical debate,
sexuality today is understood to be both polymorphous and integrally tied to identity.
Child welfare agencies have an integral role to play in the defense of gay, lesbian and bi-
sexual children and youth, especially those who are at risk because of their sexuality.
Sadly, many GLB youth continue to be shunned, expelled and rejected by their families
of origin because of their sexuality (Kilbourn & Lake, 2001; Mallon, 1998; Rivers,
1997). Fortunately, in the province of Ontario, the Toronto CAS has provided
demonstrated and recognized leadership in the field (Mallon, 1998, p. 133-136). The
Ontario CAS in the document “We are Your Children Too”, (February, 1995)
recommends that:

   The Society is committed to serving its lesbian, gay and bisexual clients and their
    families with competence and sensitivity.
   The Society require the provision of competent and equitable care of and services to
    lesbian, gay and bisexual youth
   The Society review its policies to ensure they are supportive of the needs of its
    lesbian, gay and bisexual clients and that all sectors of the agency are working toward
    the elimination of anti-lesbian/gay bias.
   The Society ensures it uses inclusive language regarding sexual orientation and

The Toronto Children’s Aid Society document (on its web site) “Understanding Sexual
Orientation” observes:

       Sexuality includes how we feel about ourselves as well as others. It is frequently
       an expression of our self-esteem. Sexual attitudes and related behaviours are
       generally shaped by the cultures and societies in which we live. How, and if, we
       are allowed to express our sexuality often determines the direction of our
       relationships with other people as well as their perceptions of us. There is a direct
       relationship between attitudes about sexuality and the development of positive

It follows that young people grow or emerge into differential sexual identities - that is
heterosexual, lesbian, gay or bisexual, and precisely because such identities are integrally
tied to self-esteem and overall identity, they need both information and emotional
support. Furthermore, particularly for “sexual minority youth” (Schneider, 1997) they
need social workers who will act as their advocates and allies.

Again the Toronto CAS web site is informative, as it states:

       Sexual orientation is thought to be established early in life (Herdt and Boxer,
       1993; Bell, Weinberg and Hammersmith, 1981); awareness of sexual orientation
       usually emerges in adolescence, although many lesbian, gay and bisexual adults
       remember, “feeling different” in their pre-teen years (Savin-Williams, 1994;
       Remafedi, 1987). Like all young people, lesbian, gay and bisexual youth must
       integrate their sexual orientation into their developing sense of self.

Although there is considerable debate about whether or not services to GLB youth should
be provided by GLB professionals (Mallon, 1998), heterosexual workers will certainly
continue to encounter and work with GLB youth. Accordingly they must receive training
to become attentive and knowledgeable about issues of sexuality (O'Brien, Travers, &
Bell, 1993).
It follows that social workers must be prepared and be comfortable engaging young
people in open dialogue and discussions about sexuality, in a way that is supportive and
“gay-positive”. Sadly many GLB youth have experienced incidents of violence in their
families of origin triggered by reactions to their sexuality (Rivers, 1997), making it

incumbent on social workers to advocate on behalf of, and support GLB youth’s
affirmation of their sexuality.

Work With Racial Minority Youth
The Canadian mosaic is changing. Li, citing Statistics Canada data from 1998, outlines
that, “In 1986, members of visible minorities made up 6.3 percent of Canada’s
population; by 1991, they climbed to 9.4 percent; and by 1996, 11.2 percent” (Li, 2000,
p. 5). The web-site for Heritage Canada coins the term “EthniCity” to describe “large
urban centres …where more than a third of residents are either recent immigrants or
citizens” (1998-99:1). The large cities in Canada are home to ninety four per cent (94%)
of visible minorities, versus sixty two per cent (62%) of the general population. As a
result there are 1.3 million visible minority people living in Toronto alone. Of particular
relevance for those working with children and youth is the fact that the “the single most
ethnically diverse group in the population are the youngest –children and adolescents up
to fourteen years of age – living in Canada’s largest urban centres” (1998-99:6).

Although Canada has become a home for immigrants from diverse ethnic, racial and
religious backgrounds, the promise of social and economic equality often proves difficult
to achieve.

Li notes that members of visible minorities earn less money than Canadians in general;
that women of colour “suffer severe market disadvantage” (Li, 2000, p. 12) and even
those immigrants with higher education still earned less than comparative Canadian-born
cohorts (p.13). In addition, racial differences “are also reproduced as normative values”,
resulting in discriminatory practices against those identified as ‘different’ (p.15). Li,
citing Kalin and Berry, 1996, and Angus Reid 1991, argues that a significant portion of
the white Canadian population, “regard non-white minorities as socially less desirable
and less favourable than people of European origin” (p.15).

The transitions in Canadian society and urban environments require that social workers
be sensitive to issues of immigration, race, culture and religion. As noted in other
sections of this report social work with people who belong to visible, cultural or religious
minorities can benefit from use of ‘anti-racist’ practice (Dei, 1996; Dominelli, 1988;
James, 1996). Social workers need to recognise the complex interplay between the
expected issues of identity development in adolescence and issues faced by youth who
belong to racial, cultural and religious minority groups. Kelly (1998) cites Omi and
Winant who note, “Our society is so thoroughly racialized that to be without racial
identity is to be in danger of having no identity” cited in (1998 #1422, p. 29). The
effects of racism, marginalization, and reduced employment, education and life
opportunities come to shape youth identity in significant ways.

       While all youth are vulnerable to poor mental and social development, ethnic
       minority youth may face greater challenges due to their race or ethnic status.
       When issues of discrimination and identity development are coupled with factors
       such as fewer educational opportunities, some ethnic minority youth face a dual

       degree of vulnerability that places them at greater risk for negative outcomes.
       (Johnson, Davis, & Williams, 2004, p. 611-612)

At the same time social workers must recognise that the experiences and the effects of
growing up as a visible or cultural minority youth “will differ according to variables of
geography, history, class, gender, sexual orientation, age, and the social norms of the
period” (Kelly, 1998, p. 9). Social workers need be able to develop understandings and
assessments that capture the complex nuance and variations in young people’s
experiences. For example, as Kelly points out, growing up a black youth in a
“predominantly White community” will be different from growing up “in areas with a
significant African Canadian presence” (9). Social work with minority youth must be
aware of the heterogeneity of people’s experiences as well as being constantly vigilant
against relying on stereotypes or essentialist understandings (10).

While many of the issues faced by minority youth are similar to those faced by all youth,
social workers need to be knowledgeable of the specific issues some minority youth may
face that are rooted in their experiences of suffering racism and marginalization. First,
social workers need to be attentive to and to allow visible and cultural minority youth to
speak about the difficult issues of race, racism, and discrimination. As Dumbrill &
Maiter point out, in order for social workers to be able to address these issues they must
in turn be able to question or interrogate the taken for granted forms of Canadian culture
and their own cultural locations, and understandings (Dumbrill & Maiter, 1996a, 2003b)
and the dominant attitudes that underpin Canadian society have to be understood (Yee &
Dumbrill, 2000; Yee & Dumbrill, 2003). They need skills to help youth who have been
traumatized by ‘hate’ to express and work through the hurt and psychological injuries
they might have suffered as a result of growing up as a member of a minority culture or
race. Social workers need skills to help minority youth to address and work through the
relationship between having their race, culture, or religion devalued, discredited, ignored
or treated as alien and ‘other’ and their personal sense of identity and worth.

Second, particularly for minority youth who have grown up in Canada, and whose
parents have emigrated from other countries with more ‘traditional’ cultures, specialized
skills are needed by social workers to understand, address and work through
intergenerational cultural conflicts. A youth’s expectations and choices concerning
dating, peer relations, recreation, education and occupation will often conflict with those
held by their parent(s). For younger social workers the problem becomes particularly
acute, as they may more easily identify with the youth against their parent(s). Such
workers are particularly vulnerable to entering into unhealthy coalitions with youth
against their parent(s). The problem is compounded when youth and parents frame the
source of their conflict as rooted in religious or cultural expectations and values. When
these expectations or values are presented as conflicting with western ideals of personal
freedom, self-determination and choice, a social worker may too readily position him or
herself in opposition to the parents. Further, where cultural values are presented as
conflicting with child protection imperatives social workers may need expert supervision
and access to wise cultural interpreters. Child protection work with minority youth and
their families must hold to the imperative to protect children and youth, while allowing

for dialogue and respectful exploration of cultural and religious difference and that allows
minority youth and their families to arrive at effective and healthy solutions to conflict.

Third, visible and cultural minority youth may oscillate between identification or
rejection of their identified group, with a resulting sense of ambivalence, betrayal, and
abandonment. The mechanisms for surviving racist relations and life situations are
complex. Bishop describes five psychological mechanism for surviving racism, i.e.,
“adult use of childhood survival skills, splitting and projection, distrust of good
treatment, dissociation, and extreme fear of loss of control” (Bishop, 1994, p. 53), to
observe that “we all carry the roles of both oppressor and oppressed” (53). It follows that
social workers must be keenly attentive to the internal conflicts, confusions, and
ambivalence that results as young people struggle to forge an identity across a matrix of
race, cultural, and religious identifications. Social workers must be attentive to the
individual ways that particular youth work through these struggles. While knowledge of
cultural specifics may be useful social workers need to recognise that heterogeneity rather
than homogeneity exists among members of any given culture (Dei, 1998). As a result
social workers must be wary of cultural stereotypes, generalizations, and simplifications.

Finally, it becomes incumbent on all social workers and staff at all levels in the
Children’s Aid Societies to advocate and lobby for agency policies that will shift the
work with visible and cultural minority youth and their families from the margins to the
centre. Dumbrill and Maiter call for strategies that promote diversity in the workplace as
well as the community (Dumbrill & Maiter, 2003b). Social workers need to promote
hiring strategies that increase ethnic, cultural and religious diversity within their agencies
and all ancillary services, e.g., foster homes, group homes and contracted support
services. At the same time, social workers in child welfare need to reach out to
community agencies and organizations that provide culturally specific services as well as
to those with close ties to immigrant and refugee peoples.

Special Issues Faced by Youth in Care
Youth in care, like all other youth, face the developmental challenges of adolescence. In
addition they face a series of unique challenges that resulted in their entry into care and
which arise from living in care.

Many youth in care have suffered physical, verbal, sexual and emotional abuse in their
families of origin. They have suffered rejection and abandonment, both material and
emotional. They have experienced being identified as a ‘problem’, ‘sick’, ‘disturbed’,
and ‘unwanted’. Many youth in care are survivors, and like all survivors they bear the
scars of their ordeals. These scars may become manifest in ways that aggravate and
accentuate the challenges posed by adolescents in general.

Many young people in care have endured a lifetime of being recycled from living with
their family of origin to living in care or being shuffled from one family member’s home
to another. The result is that they have experienced lives marked by continual instability
and deeply rooted anxiety. Even when they have been removed from their family and
placed in care they find themselves living in strange and alien settings, with people who

have different routines, different ways of acting and responding and different
expectations. The uncertainty and confusion many youth face can easily result in
withdrawal and depression.

It is critically important that social workers and others who work with youth in care be
prepared to help youth to address the issues of life in care. Social workers need to
recognize that while organizational hierarchies structure the working portion of their
lives, for youth in care those same organizations structure the most personal and intimate
moments of their daily lives. While children and youth who live with their parents
readily do ‘sleepovers’ with friends, invite friends to supper, go camping with friends, for
many youth in care such ‘privileges’ demand complex negotiations through the
organization. While children in their family homes usually follow customs and unwritten
rules, children and youth in care, particularly in group homes, find themselves being
regulated by written, formal and often inflexible ‘rules’.

Sadly, even though children and youth are brought into care for their protection, some are
re-abused while living in care. Raychaba notes that, “In 1988, 5.6% of Crown Wards in
the province, 61 out of 1,418 whose files were reviewed, were officially abused while in
the care of the province’s Children’s Aid Societies (Raychaba, 1993, p. 69). Children in
the care of relatives, foster homes, group homes and custody settings have been
physically, sexually and emotionally abused. Social workers must be attentive to the
possibility that youth in care may be being abused and accordingly they must be vigilant
in their work with youth in care to detect any signs of abuse and to encourage youth in
care to come forward to report any incidences of abuse. It is important that social
workers be intimately familiar with the rights of children and youth in care and that they
be prepared to protect those rights.

The organization of the lives of children and youth in care demands that social workers
develop close and trusting relationships with those children and youth. It is only as
children and youth feel safe and can trust their worker, that they will become comfortable
enough to share their concerns and anxieties with the worker. It is only in a safe and
secure relationship with their worker that children and youth in care will be able to
disclose any abuse that they might suffer while in care. It is only in a relationship of trust
that youth can enter into a dialogue about both their past and their future.

Gerald de Montigny, Associate Professor,
Faculty of Social Work, Carleton University

Ethno-Cultural Families and Children

Respect and Anti-Oppression: Key components when working with diverse and ethno-
cultural families and children
Research documents the need for child welfare workers to provide culturally sensitive
and appropriate services to those who come from minority cultural backgrounds
(Boushel, 1994, Chand, 2005). The goal and vision of child welfare institutions, as

mandated by the state, is to ensure that children are protected from abuse by their
caregivers. More recently, in achieving these goals many have recognized the need to
work collaboratively with clients from visible minority backgrounds to ensure the
protection and well-being of children (Dumbrill, 2003). There are a range and diversity
of children, including those who come from families who have recently immigrated to
Canada to those who have parents with no legal status in Canada.

Demographically, Canada is becoming an increasingly racially diverse society as a result
of changes in immigration patterns and the overall growth in the number of visible
minorities.1 Furthermore, poverty rates among visible minorities in Canada are also
relatively high, over 50% for some groups (Jackson, 2001). In Toronto, for instance,
over 50% of visible minority families live below the official low-income cut off, whereas
the rates among white ethnic groups is less than 10% (Statistics Canada, 2003). Although
visible minority is a federal government term that everyone readily recognizes, the term
racialized minority represents more accurately the unique social and institutional
processes and experiences that these group of people face. The term racialized minority
refers to non-dominant ethno-racial communities who, through the process of
racialization, experiences race as a key factor in their identity with the consequence of
differential treatment in relation to the dominant cultural group (i.e. white) (Galabuzi,

In the 1980’s, much emphasis on diversity training focused on the individual workers’
need to better understand how to work with clients who come from different cultural and
racial backgrounds, as opposed to seeing how agencies, as institutions, can contribute to
many clients’ experiences of racism and discrimination. In fact, Children’s Aid Society
(CAS) workers were often given training that focused on the individual level of racism,
that is, how they may contribute to instances of conscious prejudice against clients.
Much attention was placed on learning about different cultural practices in order to
prevent individual level forms of prejudice from occurring on the part of workers’
everyday practice.

Yet, more recently, CAS’s, across the province of Ontario, have begun to implement anti-
racism and anti-oppressive training and policies/procedures as a way to bring in a more
systemic and institutional understanding about how racial minority clients’ lives can be
affected by unintentional forms of racism. Many of the clients who come from culturally
diverse backgrounds experience structural racism in the wider society as well as from
their daily interactions with mandated institutions, such as CAS. Structural racism can be
defined as “inequalities rooted in the system-wide operation of a society that exclude
substantial numbers of members of particular groups from significant participation in
major institutions.” (Henry et al., 2000, p. 410) There are many examples by which

 Fleras & Elliott (1992, p. 319) define visible minorities as a “distinctly Canadian term that often
substitutes for the expression racial minorities in poplar or formal discourse. The concept of visible
minorities includes those permanent residents (immigrants or refugees, foreign-born or native-born) who
are non-white, with physical characteristics that distinguish them from Canada’s mainstream. The
government at present recognizes about twenty countries in Africa, Asia, and the Americas whose citizens
qualify as and entitled to visible minority status in Canada.”

CAS workers have carried out forms of structural racism towards racial minority clients,

        1. Pathologizing clients via race, class, gender stereotypes. Many CAS
           clients are generally poor and happen to be living in certain concentrated
           areas—low income areas where rent is affordable and/or social housing.
           These areas have been referred to in various derogatory terms by the
           dominant group as “dangerous, client infested, and drug infested areas”.
           Workers look at the clients who live in these areas within the screens of these
           negative references and relate to them accordingly, that is, by being
           disrespectful and rude to them. The response that this generates from the
           clients is that trust becomes an issue and they tend not to cooperate with the
           intervention of the society. To be able to engage these clients in a
           collaborative working relationship, workers need to be more open-minded
           and place the clients’ situation in proper context and not buy into the negative
           stereotype, which tends to negatively affect their working relations with this
           population group.

        2. Imposing agency/personal values on families as this reflects the
           institution’s entrenchment of forms of sexism, racism and classism.
           Some cultures, especially many from various ethno-cultural groups, delineate
           roles between men and women. Most often than not, in such cultures, child
           care and household responsibilities are usually the work of the female
           members. In working with different families, workers, especially those from
           the dominant group, tend to condemn such practices without considering the
           fact that they too operate from another cultural context. As well, sometimes
           workers show a total disregard for the strengths that can be found in the
           extended family network of ethno-cultural families (i.e. service providers
           wanting a family to obtain legal guardianship of a child before they attempt
           to work with the family). We should be able to work with families within the
           context of how they function. The relationship should also be carried out in
           an interactive manner by acknowledging and building on the families’
           strengths, keeping in mind that we still work under the Child and Family
           Service Act and will not compromise the safety of the children. Other forms
           of imposing one‘s values on other cultures are in the realm of non-verbal
           communication. For example, if an individual from a specific culture, in the
           communication interaction, physically looks down at the floor or in a
           different direction whenever he/she is being spoken to/with, this is viewed by
           the worker as not being truthful, confident, or assertive. Workers do not
           consider what cultural meaning is given to such non-verbal communication.

        3. Impatience with clients, yet there are real structural inequalities in the
           larger society that make it difficult for them to carry out what is
           required of them (i.e. threatening clients with apprehension). How does
           that type of interaction impact clients who have experienced threats from

   other areas of the systemic structure, including other people, institutions, and

4. Excessive use of agency’s authority in order to ensure compliance, rather
   than trying to work with families within the constraints and expectations
   of the state authority. The use of the court system has been so common
   as opposed to coming up with creative solutions to work with existing
   community and social service resources to support families. In addition,
   CAS workers should try to influence clients by respecting them and at
   the same time being firm with them to ensure the safety and well-being
   of children. These approaches send a positive message about the agency.
   “We’re here to help you make a difference in your child (ren’s) lives. The
   Mission Statement of Peel CAS clearly emphasizes this point “working with
   the family is clearly to protect children and to strengthen and support the
   well-being of children and their families”

5. Use of language
   In working with marginalized clients, particularly those from ethno-cultural
   backgrounds, CAS workers, sometimes, in communicating with clients tend
   to use very authoritarian and intimidating language to compel them to comply
   with their expectations. Expressions like: “it is imperative that you comply
   with the expectations of the agency or the society will take intrusive action
   against you” are very common in our everyday interactions with the
   marginalized clients. The effect of these forms of communication is that,
   sometimes, some clients become very angry and respond by not cooperating
   with the intervention process. While the CAS workers look at their actions as
   being assertive, the corresponding response from the client places the clients
   in a situation where they are branded by workers as resistant, uncooperative
   and difficult. Invariably, intrusive measures are used against such clients. To
   be able to effect a lasting change in clients, they need to be respected despite
   their situation and be encouraged to bring about the desired change. Where
   there is the need for an intrusive measure like taking them to court and even
   apprehension, intimidating language should not be used and we should
   continue to work with them in a very respectful manner.

6. Racism and discrimination (i.e. clients see the agency, as an institution,
   that discriminates against them because of institutional and cultural

7. Lack of cultural understanding (i.e. understanding how families from
   non-dominant ethno-cultural communities may place a greater emphasis,
   for instance, on respect and obedience from children or understanding
   how culture mediates a family’s values in implementing the workers’
   expectations of them.) The question remains, what benefits are there to the

            worker as well as to the family if the worker makes an effort to understand
            the cultural practices of that family?

Barriers to Addressing Structural Racism within Institutions
Understandably, the institutional and practice culture of CAS’s are reflective of the
values of the dominant cultural group in that, as a mandated agency, they receive
authority and support from other state agencies such as the police and the courts. All of
these institutional apparatuses help to effect sanctions onto the clients if the intended
change of behaviour or action is not carried out. In these ways, CAS’s hold legal power
over clients who fail to comply with the law. However, enforcing legal and institutional
power must be balanced with respecting the rights and circumstances of those who are
some of the most vulnerable and marginalized groups of people in our society. It does
not take magic to work with people, it takes respect. In this context, respect refers to a
worker-client relationship of an interactive nature, where the worker acknowledges that
there are strengths in the client, irrespective of their cultural, racial, or other backgrounds,
that could be tapped to effect a positive change in the client. The worker acts as a
facilitator to help the client to identify those strengths to help in the intervention process.
In this relationship, the worker demonstrates humility, patience, empathy, and active
listening, which are reflected in the manner the worker communicates with the client in
order to influence the client to effect the desired change. In a respectful client-worker
relationship, the client feels valued and is not intimidated by the involvement of the
agency and/or the presence of the worker.

Furthermore, inducing changes on those who are violating the law can more easily come
about when structural and cultural factors are taken into consideration as well.
Specifically, given that many who come from ethno-cultural backgrounds (visible
minority backgrounds) experience issues of race, class and gender oppression then,
naturally, workers need to also understand how these factors may mediate their ability to
comply with the requirements of the state while simultaneously protecting the best
interests of the child. Nonetheless, CAS workers frequently come across factors that
make working with racial minority populations more complex:

       Those from minority cultural backgrounds, in trying to adjust to Canadian society,
        may not be able to access available resources in the community due to
        institutional and systemic barriers.
       Generally poor, immigrants in low income jobs struggle to meet the basic needs
        of their children and families
       Single parents/single income households may work at multiple jobs to survive
       There may be a high concentration of those from minority cultural backgrounds
        living in low income areas known as “CAS client infested or dangerous areas”
        and therefore a broader systemic response may be needed to work with these
       Linguistic barriers, including low tolerance of accents, may be a factor in
        effectively working with families

      A lack of respect from those who are from the dominant culture in interacting
       with those who are racial minorities

Strategies on How to Engage Diverse Families and Children In Order to Protect
Children (Building Relationships with Clients)
Engaging with clients from an anti-racism/anti-oppressive perspective assumes a form of
practice work that moves away from a strictly authoritarian and compliance model that
focuses on the management of tasks to a more fluid and flexible relationship building
model that capitalizes on the creative use of skills and knowledge that workers already
hold. The key worker skill that needs to be emphasized is the need to respect the clients
in spite of their situation. This must be demonstrated by the way workers communicate
with them, acknowledge their strengths and learn from them too, i.e. create an interactive
relationship. It should be emphasized that it does not take magic to work with people, it
takes respect. It is also important to not take away from the legalistic importance of the
need to protect children from harm as this is why child welfare institutions exist. CAS
workers, themselves, have discussed many strategies on how they can build better
relationships with their clients:

      Use an anti-racism/anti-oppression approach to practice in order to break down
       the barriers in building effective working relationships. In doing so, workers are
       more conscious of addressing the power inequalities that emanate both
       intentionally and unintentionally from institutional practices while still
       maintaining their mandated authority
      Engage in critical self-reflective practice as a way to build better communication
       links with clients and this will build better respect for clients and their culture, as
       workers aim to demonstrate patience and humility in their everyday work
      Do more advocacy for social justice as many of the clients come from oppressed
       and marginalized communities with race, class, gender and ability/disability
       issues mediating their personal experiences
      Seek help from community based organizations such as churches, temples,
       mosques as there are strengths within communities and families that can be
       capitalized upon

Implications for Child Welfare Practice
Many of the suggested strategies reflect an anti-racism/anti-oppressive approach to
practice with diverse families and children. Yet, if one were to break down what that
practically involves on an everyday level for workers within institutions, it is clear that
overall systemic and institutional change must be attempted across all CAS’s. For
instance, a review of agencies’ practices, policies and procedures that reflects the value of
collaboration and building relationships with families and children needs to be
implemented. As well, training should emphasize adherence to certain core values, such
as: respect, patience, understanding and humility. The operationalization of these core
values can be reflected in the tools and approaches that CAS currently uses to work with
clients. Therefore, it is important to note that all of these practice approaches can only be
implemented if CAS does attempt to make it as part of their mandate to include social
justice and advocacy issues for their clients. CAS can only begin to attempt to do their

practice work differently when there exists a policy and institutional context to support
these initiatives.


June Ying Yee, Associate Professor, School of Social Work, Ryerson University
Emmanuel Antwi, Family Services Supervisor, Peel Children’s Aid Society
Michael Ansu, Family Services Supervisor, Peel Children’s Aid Society
Greta Liupakka, Family Services Worker, Peel Children’s Aid Society
Judith Wong, Family Services Worker, Peel Children’s Aid Society

Working with the Community and Child Welfare
Why is Community Important for Child Welfare?
Theories that attempt to explain child abuse and neglect situate “community” as a
variable that contributes to both the cause and remedy of abuse and neglect. When the
“battered child syndrome” was identified in the early 1960s by the medical team of Henry
Kempe and colleagues (Kempe, Silverman, Steele, Droegmueller, & Silver, 1962) a lack
of support for parents and an impoverished environment were quickly isolated as
etiological variables. In other words it became evident that the quality of community not
only played a role in causing child abuse and neglect, it also played a role in its remedy
(Steele, 1980, 1987; Steele & Pollock, 1974).

As child welfare models became less medical and more ecological, the role that a
family’s connection or lack of connection to a healthy environment played in child abuse
became more evident. Despite this understanding, child welfare has not been an area that
has seen a great deal of community activity (Lee, 1999). Though the 1960’s and 70’s did
see some programs, primarily in Toronto, there is only one program currently functioning
(Lee & Richards, 2002). Community practice is thus not a visible aspect of child welfare
in the contemporary context. However, if the research and theory regarding the cause
and remedies to child abuse and neglect is taken seriously, we must intervene at a
community level. Families and children do not exist as isolated pods but are part of a
complex of interrelationships involving individuals and institutions that influence their
capacity to parent - we must incorporate the notion of community and community
development into the policy and practice of child welfare.

Nature of Community
Community is crucial to our lives. It occupies the interface between personal life
(individual, family and friendship networks) and institutional life (economics and
government). That is, it is the site where individuals and groups communicate with each
other; discuss and negotiate about the values and issues that count most in our lives; the
place where citizens come together to attempt to influence policy and develop programs
to deal with local issues. In other words, it is the place where we mobilize each other to
identify and address issues of common concern and the ways and means of addressing
them. It is also the place where public issues are played out/influence (positively or

negatively) private problems. Without a healthy community we cannot expect healthy
families or individuals and visa versa.

Community is thus a complex entity. It is not one-dimensional but is made up of varying
complex geographical and /or functional (identity, interest, etc.) groups that shift in terms
of relationships and attitudes over time and the nature of the issue that they face.

Healthy and Unhealthy Communities
As social workers we understand the importance of seeing individual or family issues not
only as personal dysfunctions but also in terms of the social, political and economic
conditions in which they are created and maintained. The problems that cause or
compound parental ability to appropriately/adequately care for their children often reflect
a lack of community capacity (resources and supports in the community) and also in the
structural inequalities in society that impinge and marginalize specific communities.

Thus, the health of a community must be understood in social, economic and
psychological terms. As such community health or ill health can be thought of in terms of
a number of important and interrelated elements. These elements underpin a concrete
sense of well being and agency in members (Lee, 1999b; Lee and Richards, 2002).

First, a community must have a positive sense of its own identity. Fostering children’s
positive self-identity within a family is mediated by the sense of identity of the
community of which they are a part. Groups that have been placed on or forced to the
margins of society must cope with either a lack of representation (how many times do we
see Aboriginal or gay or Lesbian people on television?) or a recurring negative sense of
self reinforced by portrayals in the media or educational institutions (for example the
representation of Black youth in the Toronto media).

Second, there must exist in the community a sense a sense of agency. That is, members
must be able to have their voice listened to, as individuals within the boundaries of the
community and, equally importantly, collectively, in the wider society. The latter raises a
third element, the development and maintenance of community-based organizations.
Community based organizations are often the face of the community for itself and within
the larger society. They represent the community’s specific orientations to particular
issues and advocate on behalf of their needs. Fourth, a community must have access to a
broad range of resources, (social, health, education for example) which are of high
quality and relevant to their specific needs. In the same vein, a healthy community
requires a healthy economic base that will allow members to adequately meet their
physical needs. People require adequate employment or economic support to feed and
cloth their children. Finally, a healthy community requires that members are able to
understand the social, economic and political institutions that govern their lives. That is
they must be aware of how the system works, a difficult issue in our bureaucratized and
‘professionalized’ society. The ability to access government programs for example can be
a major support for a family in times of economic or personal stress. These elements,
individually and in concert with each other (see diagram below), impact positively or
negatively the way people are able to live their lives and the manner in which they

experience themselves as functioning members of society, as citizens, neighbors, and

Given the complexity of the elements that make up community life it is clear that
individual endeavor (personal or institutional) will be inadequate to address the issues
that families face in contemporary society. It is logical that the principle of working
together or collaborating be placed at the centre of the way we think about intervention.

                            Figure 11: Elements of Community

                 Participation/                       Positive
                     Voice                            Identity

     Resources                                                  Based


Collaboration refers to the actions of active community members and agencies working
together towards the enhancement of people’s voices in program and policy decisions
(Mulroy, 1997). Working on developing collaboration through partnerships and citizen
participation can offer important opportunities for institutions and groups to create new,
more productive ways of seeing and understanding each other. It is a common
understanding that to deal effectively with complex social problems social service
providers must engage in collaborative behaviours. However, what is not always obvious
is that collaboration must take place not only between and among state organizations
(like child welfare agencies, health services and schools for example) but with
community based organizations (representatives of identity populations like Aboriginal
people or Gays and Lesbian groups for example) as well. It is important to note that
collaboration is about relationship and it is a form of relationship. Collaboration suggests
that the relationships that are developed or maintained are positive in nature. However, it
is important to keep in mind that relationships are complex and involve power.

Collaboration and Power
Collaboration involves a different form of power relationship than that which typically
exists between institutions and citizens. Institutions have a variety of sources of power -
their command of resources, legal mandate and the special legal, bureaucratic and
professional knowledge they possess. When institutions collaborate within the

community they are bringing with them their particular gestalt of power sources into play
as they develop their relationships. They may not be equal in every respect but they each
will possess some form of power to bring to bear on any joint decision-making.
Collaborating outside the box of interagency work is different. It is a rare individual
citizen or family that has anything like the power of an individual. Collaboration,
working together with community members, thus means that we attend to power
dynamics. It does not mean that power is denied. Power is required if we are to assist
each other. Nevertheless, power must be managed with processes that reflect and promote
equality and respect. This certainly involves principles that are a normal part of social
work (or should be), listening to peoples’ voices and respecting various points of view
and ways of knowing and acting. There is more that is required however, seeking out
community organizations that can represent the voices of its members collectively. As a
beginning it may mean providing access to significant amounts of information to
community members. It may involve assisting community members to come together to
develop their own organizations.

Long before medical science identified poor family supports and an impoverished
environment as a factor that increases the likelihood of abuse and neglect (Steele, 1980,
1987), long before theorists understood the environmental and community ecology of
child abuse and neglect (Belsky, 1993), it was known that only a village could raise a
child. For child welfare organizations to properly protect children, workers must have the
capacity and mandate to engage in community development and to be a real part of
strengthening the “village” on which our children depend.

Recommendations for Working With the Community and Child Welfare
That funds be dedicated to hire community practice workers.

That agencies could consider forming partnerships with community based organizations
and hire staff for joint projects.

That training in community and community practice be developed for all staff in child
welfare agencies.

That a set of questions for child welfare risk assessment be developed. These questions
would bring to light environmental issues that impact family functioning (e.g. access to
adequate housing, adequate income support, adequate day care, etc.)

That statistics based on the environmental risk assessment above be compiled. They can
be utilized to argue for improved services and policies both for child welfare
organizations and other service agencies in the community. (This may be something that
all or some agencies already undertake).

That each agency board of directors has a social issues committee with responsibility to
examine and highlight social issues that are placing stress on families and causing
children to be at risk; argue for the development of greater community capacity. (This

may be something that all or some agencies already undertake).

Written for this Position Paper by Bill Lee PhD
Associate Professor, Faculty of Social Work,
McMaster University

Collaborative Work With Foster Parents
The days when fostering required only a kind heart and room for a child to stay are long
gone as foster parents are now expected to be team members and work directly with the
parents of children in care (Dumbrill & Maiter, 1994, 1996b) and the communities of
those children. It is crucial that agencies recruit, train and retain foster parents who are
open and able to such collaborative work because the role of the modern foster parent is
not simply to provide a child with a “home away from home,” but to provide a home that
is inextricably linked and responsive to the ongoing agency plans for the child. This
article outlines how agencies need to support foster parents in the collaborative process
through open contracting regarding roles and responsibilities.
Contracting Meetings
Agencies should support foster parents who work with the parents of children in care by
arranging contracting meetings before placement takes place. In emergency placements,
where this is not possible, the meeting should take place at the time of placement. If the
parents are stable, the meeting is best handled at the foster home. If the parents might
become volatile, the meeting should take place at the agency office.
Avoiding Misperceptions
If such meetings do not take place, misperceptions easily arise. Parents may view foster
parents as competing with them for their children's love and loyalty, they may even
believe that the foster parents want to keep and adopt their children. Contracting
meetings between foster parents and parents prevent such misperceptions and make the
role of foster parents much easier. At the beginning of the meeting, it should be made
clear to parents that although their child will be welcomed into the foster home, the foster
parents will not replace them as parents. It is helpful if the foster parents themselves
convey this to the parents, along with the fact that they are fully committed to the plan of
returning the child. When addressing this issue, parents often ask foster parents why they
foster. In answering, it is important to be aware of historical connections between
fostering and adoption. The parents may be trying to find out whether the foster parents
secretly wish to adopt their child. It should always be possible to assure the parents that
this is not the case. Indeed, if foster parents do wish to adopt children placed with them,
they should not be providing short-term foster care for children who are to return home.
Establishing Openness
It is important for the social worker to review the reasons for admission with the foster
parents in front of the parents. Parents then know exactly what the foster parents have
been told and the openness necessary if the parents and foster parents are to develop an
effective working relationship is demonstrated. Foster parents receiving this information
in a non-judgmental manner helps parents to relate to the foster parents as responsible
professionals and minimizes the risk of taboo and secrecy preventing important issues
being addressed openly. The stage is then set for the foster parent to be key helpers

within the team, rather than distant uninformed assistants who operate outside the team's
boundary. Only by setting this stage and including foster parents as full team members,
can efficient work by foster parents become possible.
Defining Responsibilities
Parents often form close working relationships with foster parents and feel betrayed if the
foster parents pass on information about them to the agency. Feelings of betrayal can be
avoided by clearly outlining the role and responsibilities of the foster parents at the initial
contract meeting. Parents should be told that foster parents must take notes and do not
have the option of withholding any relevant information. Declaring this minimizes the
possibility of parents feeling betrayed and reinforces the relationship between the foster
parents and parents as a professional relationship rather than a casual friendship.

Firm parameters must also be set by the social worker regarding any discretion the foster
parents may or may not have in their work with parents. For example, if the parents have
an alcohol problem and they are to collect their child from the foster home for access
visits, the role of the foster parent needs to be defined in case the parents attended the
home under the influence of alcohol. This role definition should take place with both the
foster parent and parents present. For instance, if the foster parents are to stop a visit if
they suspect the parents have been drinking, they should be told that this is their role in
front of the parents. The social worker should then emphasize to the parents that the
foster parents do not have an option to negotiate this role. Such precise formulation of
roles and expectations should take place around each area of work the agency expects the
foster parent to undertake. This type of formulation by the social worker, gives a clear
message of support to the foster parent undertaking this work.
Anticipating Problems
The social worker should also support to the foster parent by anticipating and dealing
with problems before they arise. For instance, children with divided loyalties between
parents and foster parents may complain to foster parents about parents and complain to
parents about the foster home. A social worker anticipating this problem might inform
the parent that if their child complains about the foster home, or if they feel
uncomfortable about anything in the foster home, they must raise this as an issue. The
social worker should also inform the parent that if the child complains about home visits,
this will also be addressed with the parent in an attempt to discover what is troubling the
child. Some parents need no encouragement to complain about the care their children
receive, while other parents may not feel free to raise issues about the care their children
receive even after being given encouragement. Giving permission to raise these issues
maximizes the chance that parents will do this in a positive way.
In temporary placements, where children are to be returned home, the potential of foster
parents collaborating with parents is far too valuable to be left untapped. Foster parents
cannot, however, be expected to undertake this work on their own. It is only by agencies
providing the type of support outlined above that foster parents who undertake this
valuable work can be sustained and retained.

       This article is based on the previous articles by Gary C. Dumbrill and Sarah

               Dumbrill, G. C., & Maiter, S. (1996). Supporting Foster Parents in
               Working with the
               Parents of Children in Care. Common Ground, XIII (4), 16.

               Dumbrill, G. C., & Maiter, S. (1994). Foster Parents and Natural Parents;
               Establishing a Powerful Working Alliance. The Ontario Association of
               Children’s Aid Societies Journal, 38 (3), 12-15)

Trauma Counselling
Trauma counselling is an extremely important modality for all workers in child welfare to
understand. It is often needed when we first intervene in child in care, intake and at
different points of any ongoing family protection file. It will also be important for those
cases which may ultimately handled in a Differential Service Response manner when the
immediate crisis is over or when the child or family member begins to deal with past
trauma. Due to its importance as an acquired skill set for all social work staff in many
different child welfare departments, efforts to enhance knowledge in this area of
intervention is strongly recommended.

Psychic trauma occurs when an individual is exposed to an overwhelming event and is
rendered helpless in the face of intolerable danger, anxiety, or instinctual arousal (Pynoos
& Eth, 1986). To be given a clinical diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, certain
criteria must be met. These include:

   o Experiencing an event in which the life, physical safety or physical integrity of
     the client was threatened or actually harmed, resulting in feelings of intense fear,
     helplessness or horror.
   o Continuing to re-experience the traumatic even after it is over.
   o Seeking to avoid reminders of the event.
   o Exhibiting signs of persistent arousal.
   o (American Psychiatric Association, 1994).

There is significant evidence that failure to resolve moderate to severe traumatic reactions
may result in long-term consequences that interfere with a person’s ability to function
adequately (socially, academically, professionally and personally) (Wilson & Raphael,
1993). In addition, there is evidence that individuals who experience traumas are more
likely to have children who experience traumas (Nader, 1998). Experts in trauma
counseling believe that therapists should treat people dealing with trauma using a staged
or phase-oriented approach (Chu, 1998; Courtois, 1999). The view of stage oriented
treatment is based on clinical experience validating that many people who have
experienced severe childhood abuse require an initial and often extensive period to
develop and improve fundamental coping skills (Chu, 1998; Courtois, 1999). Only by
developing these skills can survivors more fully, safely and methodically explore
memories of childhood traumatic events.
According to (Haskell, 2003), the Three-Phase Model for Post-Traumatic Stress
Responses is as follows:

       Phase 1: The first phase of therapy focuses on helping the clients understand and
       deal with their responses and develop safety and coping skills. The first phase of
       trauma treatment is especially critical as it provides the foundation for all future
       therapeutic work.

       Phase 2: The second phase focuses on helping clients adjust and process their
       memories of the traumatic events. It might draw on such precise skills and
       techniques as prolonged exposure, cognitive processing therapy and eye
       movement desensitization response (EMDR). Through this second phase, clients
       comprehensively explore their traumatic experiences and assimilate them into a
       cohesive and meaningful narrative. Clients are able to explore their trauma
       experiences by desensitizing the intense negative emotions associated with their

       Phase 3: The final phase of trauma treatment involves going beyond the actual
       experiences of trauma to attend to other life issues, such as relationships, work,
       family and spiritual and recreational activities.

The goals of treatment for traumatized children include both the healing of the injured
aspects of the child and recovery of healthy aspects that may have been hidden by
traumatic response and changes (Nader, 1994). Appropriate training and supervision are
essential to trauma interventions. Failure to understand trauma treatment (Pynoos and
Nader, 1993) or cultural customs can lead to mishap (i.e. misdirection of rage) and even
death (i.e. suicide) (Nader, 1996) (Swiss & Gilder, 1993). This understanding is crucial
to assuring accurate assessment and protection of those affected by the event.

There are some limitations of this model. Clinicians must be formally trained in trauma
treatment. Treatment itself is an ongoing and intensive, and therefore beyond the scope
of a child welfare worker’s daily role. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder impacts upon many
people; adults and children alike, and therefore child welfare clinicians need to be aware
of the symptoms and the impact of symptoms upon parenting. Workers need to be
supportive of clients involved in treatment, while ensuring the safety of the child.

Crisis Intervention Model
Crisis intervention is focused in the present, with the issue for intervention being the
situation or problem itself. It focuses on the here and now, with the goal to help the client
mobilize the support, resources and coping skills to either resolve or decrease the
imbalance the crisis event has caused. Crisis theory suggests that most crisis
interventions can be limited to a period of four to eight weeks (Hepworth, Rooney, &
Larsen, 1997; Roberts, 2000; Roberts, 1996). During this time, when clients are in an
active state of crisis, they are more open to the helping process, which can facilitate the
completion of concrete tasks within a limited time frame. Concrete help, such as
emergency access to food, shelter and safety, are the first priority in crisis intervention.
There are four stages of crisis that a client will pass through following the traumatic
event. These are: Outcry, Denial or Intrusiveness, Working Through and Completion or

Resolution (Roberts, 1991). There is a Seven-Stage Crisis Intervention Model by Roberts
(Roberts, 1991). The stages are as follows:

   o   Assess Lethality
   o   Establish Rapport and Communication
   o   Identify the Major Problems
   o   Deal with Feelings and Provide Support
   o   Explore Possible Alternatives
   o   Formulate and Implement Action Plan
   o   Follow up

Throughout the crisis intervention model, specific attention is paid to the development of
a relationship with the client. This is cited as being paramount to enabling the client to
acknowledge and address the crisis event in the most appropriate way.

The crisis intervention model focuses on concrete assistance with a specific, tangible
crisis that can be identified. It does not, therefore, address the long-term, chronic
trauma’s that often impact upon an individual and/or family. Without addressing the
deeper issues that exist, crises often recur. It may seem, therefore, like a “band-aid”
approach. There is limited research only on cultural, gender, or age differences among
crisis client populations. It is important, therefore, that crisis workers be culturally
competent and tailor crisis intervention practices to different ethnic and racial groups.
Crisis intervention is an extremely important modality for all workers in child welfare to
understand. It is often needed when we first intervene in child in care, intake, and at
different points of any ongoing family protection file. It will also be important for those
cases which may ultimately handled in a Differential Service Response manner when the
immediate crisis is over. Due to its importance as an acquired skill set for staff involved
in crisis situations and who need to immediately build a collaborative approach
immediately at this juncture, more specific aspects of the aspects of this intervention are
found in Appendix 11.

Written by Kim Martin

Narrative Therapy
Michael White and David Epston (White & Epson, 1990) developed narrative therapy.
Its central idea is: The person never is the problem. The person has a problem. The
person doesn’t have to change their nature; they need to fight the influence of the
problem in their life.

Narrative therapy maintains that people organize life’s experiences into meaningful
stories or pictures that shape one’s reality. We ignore, forget or play down things that are
contrary to the way we see the world. What one notices and remembers tends to confirm
and strengthen one’s personal story about one’s self and one’s world. Problems arise
when a person is stuck in a story that makes him/her, or others, unhappy. Examples are
stories involving beliefs like: "I am a violent person, have a short fuse (and can’t help
it)". "The world is a terribly dangerous place and I am helpless in the face of its threats."

Narrative therapy is a search for events that prove these beliefs to be false. There are
always exceptions: events that occurred, but didn’t fit the story, so were ignored, played
down or forgotten. They can be used to "write a new story"; one that separates the
problem from the way the person sees him/her. Roth and Epston imagined that narrative
therapy could be a “linguistic counter-practice that makes more freeing constructions
available.” The problem is named and a new preferred story is written.

Narrative therapy seeks to be a respectful, non-blaming approach to counseling and
community work, which centers people as the experts in their own lives. Curiosity and a
willingness to ask questions to which we genuinely don’t know the answers are important
principles of this work.

The person consulting the therapist plays a significant part in determining the directions
that are taken.

There are limitations to this model. Because the client determines the direction of the
conversation or therapy, child maltreatment issues may be minimized or ignored. There
is a lack of empirical research that speaks to the effectiveness of Narrative therapy;
Narrative therapists reject judgments about normal behavior because clients are
encouraged to construct their own meaning about problems. Narrative therapy rejects
three defining characteristics of family therapy: the influence of family conflict on
problems, the focus on relationships within the family and the treatment of the family as a
whole (Nichols, Swartz 2004).

Written by Phyllis Lovell

Brief Therapy
Solution Focused Brief Therapy is defined by its emphasis on constructing solutions
rather than resolving problems (Berg, 1994). The main therapeutic task is helping the
client to imagine how he or she would like things to be different and what it will take to
make that happen. Little attention is paid to diagnosis, history taking or exploration of
the problem. Solution-focused therapists assume clients want to change, have the
capacity to envision change and are doing their best to make change happen. Further,
solution-focused therapists assume that the solution or at least part of it, is probably
already happening (Berg, 1994). De Shazer, Berg, and colleagues developed a number of
specific techniques to aid in solution-focused intervention. The best known of these is
the miracle question, which asks the client to pretend that a miracle has happened and
imagine a solution to the problem (Berg, 1998; de Shazer, 1988).

A second technique routinely used is the scaling question, which asks the client to rate on
a 10-point scale how things are today. Both of these techniques are used to aid in the
construction of the solution and the search for parts of the solution that may already be

There are limitations to this model. The modality is used extensively by child protection
staff in several jurisdictions including Australia and Newfoundland and found to be
appropriate and effective in this setting. The model is strengths focused and helps offset
the impact of forensically based risk oriented child protection legislation. The
effectiveness of the approach has been researched and there is empirical evidence that
supports the efficacy of the modality (Wallace et al, 2000). Both inexperienced as well
as experienced clinicians can use the approach effectively.

As we collectively move towards a better balance between our mandate to protect and our
mission to serve, several strategies may be used to assist child protection staff in the
province of Ontario to refocus on client engagement. Equipping staff with a therapeutic
orientation and a clinical skill set may serve as an effective counterbalance to the forensic
underpinnings of ORAM. Australia and Newfoundland are enthusiastic about their
implementation experience and the benefits that exist for families and for staff.

Written by Phyllis Lovell

Reality Therapy (Choice Theory)
Reality therapy is largely based on the premise that many problems encountered by
people are the result of the way they choose to behave, that is, people choose certain
behaviours to deal with the pain and dissatisfaction of a significant relationship in their
life. Often, people choose to cope with such pain through negative behaviours such as
anger, anxiety or depression, which may be inaccurately labeled as mental illnesses
(Corey, 2001; Glasser, 1998; Glasser, 2004; Wubbolding, 1988). Within this conceptual
framework, behaviour is generally viewed as being internally driven with the goal of
meeting five intrinsic human needs; survival, love/belonging, power, freedom and fun
(Corey, 2001; Glasser, 1998; Glasser, 2004). Choice theory, often integrated in reality
therapy, purports that clients can be encouraged to take greater responsibility for their
choices of behaviour and can learn to make healthier choices in order to more effectively
manage important relationships in their life and have their needs met more successfully
(Corey, 2001; Glasser, 1998; Glasser, 2004; Wubbolding, 1988). Made up of four
components: acting, thinking, feeling and physiology, one’s total behaviour is an attempt
to get one’s needs met (Glasser, 1998).

Unlike traditional therapeutic approaches, reality therapy does not focus on a client’s past
or pathology - rather emphasis is placed on the present and on what clients can control in
their current relationships, which is often the source of their identified problems and
symptoms. Complaining, blaming and criticizing are discouraged and are viewed as
highly unproductive behaviours (Corey, 2001; Glasser, 1998). Because people choose
what they do, they need to be held responsible for what they choose, thus, reality
therapists encourage their clients to become more responsible for their actions in all of
their relationships including the therapeutic relationship, therefore the concept of
transference within this relationship is not considered to be relevant (Corey, 2001).
Reality therapists help their clients to evaluate their choices of behaviour and to
determine if they are achieving what they need in order to gain more satisfying
relationships. Additionally, it is necessary to assess whether these choices are realistic.

An essential component of reality therapy is a satisfying, trusting relationship between
the therapist and client, which may actually serve as a model for other relationships in the
client’s life (Corey, 2001; Glasser, 2004; Wubbolding, 1988). In order for this
intervention to be beneficial, a meaningful therapeutic relationship must be established.
Therefore, the therapist is required to have the qualities necessary to successfully engage
the client and facilitate the development of a supportive therapeutic relationship. Once
this relationship has been developed, therapists can effectively help their clients to
examine the particular beliefs that give rise to their negative behaviours and to recognize
the consequences of these behaviours (Corey, 2001; Glasser, 1998; Wubbolding, 1988).
Further, the therapeutic relationship provides the context for therapists to challenge their
clients to face the reality of their choices while allowing them the freedom to change their
beliefs and behaviours (Corey, 2001; Glasser, 1998; Wubbolding, 1988). From this
perspective, change is always viewed as a choice.

During the process of intervention, clients are repeatedly required to evaluate the choices
they make in relation to their wants, needs and perceptions (Corey, 2001; Glasser, 1998;
Wubbolding, 1988). Reality therapists begin the process by exploring their client’s
quality world, a term used in choice theory to describe an individual’s personal world,
essentially a collection of specific memories and images that are desired in order to
satisfy one’s basic needs. Within one’s quality world, there are three categories:

   o the people we most want to be with
   o the things we most want to own or experience
   o the ideas or systems of belief that govern much of our behaviour (Glasser, 1998

The quality world contains key information and when the desired memories and/or
images are actually experienced, it results in very positive feelings. Conversely, when it
is not possible to experience them, it results in negative feelings and emotional pain

Reality therapists help their clients to identify the presence of an unsatisfying significant
relationship in their life, which is believed to be the key underlying problem for most
people. Therefore, a major therapeutic goal is to assist clients in developing or
maintaining a fulfilling relationship with those people they have chosen to put in their
quality world. Throughout intervention, the focus remains on the client’s ability to
control his own behaviour; not anyone else’s, thus there is no attempt to utilize external
controls to effect change. Clients are consistently encouraged to explore and make better
choices within the caring, supportive, non-judgmental therapeutic environment, while
gaining greater self-awareness of their negative behaviours, often described as their
undesired symptoms. Essentially, choice theory helps clients learn to develop and
maintain healthier relationships as a result of choosing behaviour that will get them closer
to what it is they desire. Effective planning is required throughout therapy and together
the client and therapist must decide upon specific tasks that will facilitate the desired
changes in behaviour. Therefore, an important tenet of choice theory is the client’s
commitment to the intervention process (Wubbolding, 1988).

Reality therapy incorporates many aspects of client-centered and strengths-based social
work intervention. An essential component of this type of therapy is a positive
therapeutic relationship that may actually provide a model for other meaningful
relationships in a client’s life. It is within a supportive environment, that a client can
successfully learn how his choices influence the circumstances of his life.

Based on the conceptual framework of choice theory, it is assumed that people generally
have the resources to make positive changes in their behaviour, which ultimately may
enable them to more effectively control the quality of their lives. This therapeutic
approach focuses on the present, therefore clients are not viewed as victims of their past,
rather they are empowered to take control of their life direction, making choices in their
behaviour that will help them to gain more satisfying relationships and meet their needs.
Further, this type of intervention does not pathologize behaviour nor does it diagnose
symptoms, which may result in an unproductive tendency to avoid reality and
responsibility for one’s actions.

Therapy is based on the client’s agenda, rather than the therapist’s, therefore the therapist
skillfully guides the client’s learning but ultimately it is the client who determines what it
is that he would like to achieve and how his behaviour must be changed in order to meet
his desired outcome (Corey, 2001; Glasser, 1998; Wubbolding, 1988).

As highlighted above, this approach may be viewed as pragmatic and highly effective
within a child welfare context. Because it is future directed and places emphasis on client
strengths, it may impart a sense of hope for clients who may otherwise feel despondent
about their situation. Additionally, with its focus on freedom and choice, clients may feel
empowered and motivated to make meaningful changes in their parenting behaviour.
Further, it may be possible to facilitate positive change within a brief period of time as
the focus of intervention is on the present and future. This type of intervention promotes
creativity, as there is no rigid format from which to operate which may encourage child
protection workers to develop their own therapeutic style based on their personal traits
and skills. Therefore, they may use a variety of techniques that will foster a trusting
relationship and facilitate their client’s learning and self-awareness (Corey, 2001;
Wubbolding, 1988). Additionally, this type of approach has been used successfully in a
variety of settings and with clients who have been highly resistant to change (Corey,

Because there is no emphasis placed on an individual’s history, past trauma or childhood
within this framework, this could potentially be a significant drawback within a child
welfare context. Understanding a client’s history is often necessary in order to better
understand parenting behaviour and may be a significant factor in assessing future risk to
children. Further, it is sometimes necessary to diagnose a client’s mental illness when
medical treatment may be required, particularly in situations where it is interfering with a
parent’s ability to provide care to their child and may be contributing to the level of risk.

Within a child welfare context, choice therapy may be most appropriate for clients who
have the intellectual capacity and cognitive ability to be self-reflective and to understand
the causal association between their choices of parenting behaviour and its impact on the
parent-child relationship. In situations where clients have experienced poor parenting
and/or maltreatment themselves or have antisocial behaviour traits, this approach may not
be effective, as it requires a positive therapeutic relationship as its foundation which may
not be possible in these particular circumstances.

Written by Darlene Niemi

Family Theory
A family centered approach rests on the belief that the best place for children is with their
family as long as the child’s safety is not compromised (Kaplan & Girard, 1994). The
focus is on strengthening families as opposed to replacing families (Kaplan & Girard,
1994). In developing a partnership with a family, a child protection worker may provide
a sense of hope and motivation to change (Kaplan & Girard, 1994). Intervention is
focused on the family as a whole and is directed at underlying patterns and issues that
arise in crisis situations (Kaplan & Girard, 1994). The family system is considered
within its social context and intervention may include assistance with issues such as
inadequate housing, financial difficulties and unemployment (Kaplan & Girard, 1994).
The model operates from the premise that families are essentially good and not bad for
children (Cimmarutsti, 1992).

The model can contribute to an environment of cooperation between the worker and
family at the onset of intervention, whereby the worker is not only seen as an authority
figure who monitors the child’s protection rather a means to strengthen and empower,
while protecting all family members (Cimmarusti, 1992). A family theory model that
emphasizes empowerment - based practice may be effective in facilitating the change
process within a child welfare context (Kaplan, 1986; Schatz & Bane, 1991) intensive,
family preservation programs that focus on strengths and resources on which to build,
have had positive results in child welfare, particularly when great emphasis was placed
on empowering the family to take on the responsibility for strengthening itself (Walton,
1997). It is important for the worker to be empathetic, allowing family members to vent
negative feeling surrounding their involuntary involvement with the child welfare system
(Walton, 1997) workers using this approach may provide assistance in problem solving,
and decision-making, in addition to offering concrete help such as finding adequate
housing and establishing a network of services that would assist in maintaining and
strengthening the family environment, thereby ensuring the ongoing safety of the children
(Walton, 1997).

Although this approach has demonstrated some positive results whereby families may be
more likely to use an array of services available and view the child welfare agency as
more responsive and supportive (Walton, 1997). It has also been suggested that families
may be better able to keep their children in their homes and be involved with the child
welfare agency for a shorter period of time overall when this type of intervention is used
(Walton, 1997). Although family preservation may be highly valued, some child welfare

workers tend to focus their intervention on the parent-child dyad, disregarding the
importance of partners or other family members and a strict family theory approach alone
may fail to recognize the interactions and influences of larger systems outside of the
family unit, perhaps overlooking significant factors that may increase or mitigate risk of
harm to a child (Cimmarutsti, 1992).

Written by Darlene Niemi

Family Systems Theory
Family systems theory purports that the family is a strong influence on one’s behaviour,
development and overall level of functioning (Andreae, 1996; Corey, 2001; Laird, 1979).
Essentially, people are best understood within the context of their relationships,
specifically those within the family unit and examination of the dynamic interactions
within the family system may provide insight into the problems or symptoms experienced
by any one of its members (Andreae, 1996; Corey, 2001). There is a wide variance in
who a family may be comprised of but regardless of its composition, the family unit is
generally viewed as the basis for socialization, care, safety and protection of its members
notwithstanding many other functions and resources that it may also provide (Andreae,
1996). From this perspective, individual characteristics and behaviour are not considered
in isolation; rather they are viewed within the context of the family system. Moreover, the
relationships between family members are interconnected and are influential forces
within this system (Andreae, 1996; Kaplan, 1986). The family system includes
subsystems, which may include a spousal relationship, parent-child relationship, sibling
relationship and the individual family member (Crossen-Tower, 1999; Kaplan, 1986)

A family centered approach is based on the premise that the best place for children is
within the family as long as their safety and well being is not compromised. The
emphasis is placed on strengthening families using its own resources and competencies
(Cimmarutsti, 1992; Kaplan, 1986). Within a child welfare context, it is important to
develop collaboration with the family, which may ultimately provide a sense of hope and
motivation to change the unhealthy patterns or behaviour that have resulted in child
welfare intervention. From this perspective, intervention is focused on the family unit as
a whole with an aim to explore family patterns, rules, structure, boundaries and other
issues that may create family dysfunction (Kaplan, 1986; Kaplan & Girard, 1994).

A family theory model that emphasizes empowerment and strength-based practice may
be effective in facilitating the change process within a child welfare context
(Cimmarutsti, 1992; Kaplan, 1986). Family preservation programs that focus on strengths
and resources on which to build have had positive results in child welfare, particularly
when great emphasis was placed on empowering the family to take on the responsibility
for strengthening itself (Cimmarutsti, 1992). In particular, family group conferencing is
often viewed as an appropriate forum to emphasize the value of family and extended
family in order to protect children (Waldfogel, 2001).

Using this framework, it is important to establish a positive working relationship with the
family, requiring the child protection worker to be empathetic while validating negative

feelings experienced by parents as a result of their involuntary involvement with the child
welfare system (Walton, 1997). Workers using this approach may provide valuable
practical assistance to families by helping with such tasks as problem-solving, and
decision-making, in addition to acquiring concrete resources such as adequate housing,
financial means, employment and useful community services that would also assist in
maintaining and strengthening the family system (Kaplan & Girard, 1994; Walton, 1997).

Child welfare intervention that aims to strengthen and preserve families, particularly at
the outset when families are in crisis, has had positive outcomes (Walton, 1997). Families
appear to be more receptive to this non-intrusive approach that encourages the
involvement of extended family and may result in fewer children being removed from
their families (Walton, 1997). With its emphasis on strengths and empowerment, this
approach does not attempt to pathologize or label families and operates from the premise
that “families are good for, rather than bad for, children” which may contribute to an
environment of cooperation between the child protection worker and family
(Cimmarutsti, 1992). When there is a tendency to focus on family deficits rather than
strengths, child protection workers may potentially overlook valuable family resources,
which may ultimately result in families withholding important information (Waldfogel,

It is important that child protection workers do not focus their intervention solely on the
individual parent or parent-child dyad, disregarding the importance of other family
members within the family system as a whole, recognizing the interactions and influences
of larger systems outside of the family unit as well (Cimmarutsti, 1992) as this may result
in a failure to acknowledge significant factors that may increase or mitigate risk of harm
to a child. A family systems paradigm requires that child protection workers take the time
to accurately assess a family’s strengths and resources while also defining family
membership from the family’s perspective (Cimmarutsti, 1992). When assessing the
resources within the family system, it is necessary to include extended family members
and other individuals who may not necessarily be biological family members. This
approach allows for creativity and innovation in formulating intervention strategies to
keep children safe within their own family system.

With a large focus on strengths, it is important that child welfare intervention based on
such a framework does not result in a tendency to overlook deficits where they may exist
and potentially leave children at risk (Cimmarutsti, 1992). Additionally, a family systems
approach suggests that each family member has somehow contributed to child
maltreatment (Crossen-Tower, 1999), which may be viewed as placing blame on the
victim of maltreatment. While an emphasis on strengths is important within a family
centered approach, it is equally important for child protection workers to identify
unhealthy patterns within a family system such as scapegoating, poor communication or
role confusion which may be influencing factors in the prevalence of child maltreatment
(Crossen-Tower, 1999).

Written by Darlene Niemi

Behaviour Therapy
Behaviour therapy generally includes four conceptual frameworks; classical conditioning,
operant conditioning, social learning theory and cognitive behaviour therapy (Corey,
2001; Thomlison & Thomlison, 1996). Largely based on the principles of social learning
theory and cognitive behaviour therapy, a behavioural approach may be effectively
integrated in social work intervention. A tenet of behaviour therapy is the assumption that
human behaviour is learned and therefore, may be changed and as such, people may
experience problems as a result of their maladaptive behaviour. A social learning
approach asserts that there is a reciprocal interaction between behaviour and
environment. Further, behaviour is viewed as being influenced by stimulus events,
external reinforcement and cognitive processes (Bandura, 1977). Positive consequences
may be used to increase desirable behaviour. From a cognitive behavioural perspective,
emphasis is placed on the importance of cognition and its influence on behaviour, more
specifically, the thought processes that translate information from the environment into
action (Thomlison & Thomlison, 1996).

Essentially, the goal of behavioral social work intervention is to increase desirable
behaviour while decreasing undesirable behaviour in order to improve clients’
functioning in specific areas of their life. Additionally, it is important to help clients
develop greater strategies for managing negative behaviour, ultimately enabling them
more freedom and choice than previously experienced (Corey, 2001; Thomlison &
Thomlison, 1996). This is achieved through learning and by establishing different
conditions to facilitate this process (Corey, 2001). Further, it is hoped that this learning
will be generalized, thus ultimately resulting in enhanced strengths, increased knowledge
and improved skills within the larger context of a client’s life (Corey, 2001; Thomlison &
Thomlison, 1996).

A positive therapeutic relationship is viewed as an essential aspect of this approach and
once this has been established, an intervention plan may be determined. Initially, a
behavioural assessment must be completed in which the specific problem or maladaptive
behaviour must be identified as well as the desired outcome. This is followed by
implementation procedures in which the specific behavioural techniques that will be
utilized to change the factors resulting in the negative behaviour are clearly defined.
Finally termination and follow-up procedures are delineated as part of the overall
intervention plan (Corey, 2001; Thomlison & Thomlison, 1996). This process requires
collaboration and active participation by both the client and therapist (Corey, 2001). A
wide array of behavioural procedures and techniques are available within this paradigm,
necessitating the formulation of a specific intervention plan suited to a particular client’s
unique circumstances.

A behavioural approach does not place importance on the client’s past or on the etiology
of a particular behaviour, nor does it view diagnosis of maladaptive behaviour as relevant
(Corey, 2001; Thomlison & Thomlison, 1996). Rather, the current identified behaviour
and the factors that influence it are emphasized. In order for therapy to be successful,
clients must be motivated to make changes in their behaviour and sustain these changes

once therapy has been completed. Being capable of self-directed behaviour change
(Bandura, 1977), it is also hoped that they will continue to integrate learned behaviour
within the context of their life.

A behavioural approach within a child welfare context suggests that parents may lack the
required skills and knowledge to adequately care for their children and meet their basic
physical and emotional needs. From this perspective, parenting behaviour may be
enhanced through methods such as home visits, parent support groups, parenting
education classes and reading material with a goal to effect positive change in the
particular behaviours and attitudes that may contribute to poor parenting skills (Daro &
McCurdy, 1994). The dynamic interaction between a parent and child may also be a
contributing factor that results in child maltreatment, therefore interventions that aim to
change negative behaviour in both, may be effective (Maidman, 1984a). Home-based
interventions based on the principles of social learning theory that address parenting
skills and child management issues in order to reduce the risk of child maltreatment have
been viewed as successful (Thomlison & Thomlison, 1996).

In addition to improving parenting skills and knowledge, a cognitive behavioural
approach to learning may be useful in anger management and stress reduction for parents
where this has been identified as a child welfare concern (Gershater-Molko, Lutzker, &
Sherman, 1999). Interventions based on applied behavioural principles may include more
practical methods to improve parenting skills and knowledge such as modeling,
instruction, practice, feedback and positive reinforcement aimed also at producing desired
changes in parenting behaviour. Essentially, the goal of these techniques is to increase
knowledge while strengthening and developing basic parenting skills, ultimately
mitigating the risk of harm to children (Belsky & Vondra, 1989; Daro & McCurdy,

Although there has been evidence to suggest that a cognitive behavioural approach to
child welfare intervention is beneficial to parents, there appears to be less agreement on
the most appropriate techniques to achieve this (Daro & McCurdy, 1994). Applied
behavioural methods have been successful with neglectful parents particularly when
practiced in real life situations where they may be reinforced and followed up by
workers, thereby facilitating the development and integration of new skills into parenting
practice (Gershater-Molko et al., 1999). Practical intervention strategies that teach new
skills may be particularly beneficial to parents with lower educational levels (Lutzker,
Bigelow, Doctor, & Kessler, 1998) and in situations where there is clearly a lack of
parenting skills and knowledge.

Parenting behaviour may be misunderstood if workers do not recognize the importance of
cultural diversity. Therefore, it is essential that behavioural interventions be formulated
according to a family’s specific culture and context in order to avoid the potential of
developing an intervention plan that may compound rather than ameliorate problems in
parenting behaviour (Thomlison & Thomlison, 1996). Behaviour therapy involves a
structured approach, therefore the process may be viewed as rigid and inflexible
(Thomlison & Thomlison, 1996). However, the wide array of techniques available within

this paradigm may allow for much creativity (Corey, 2001). It may further be argued that
a behavioral approach to child maltreatment may focus merely on the symptoms rather
than the cause (Crossen-Tower, 1999), which negates the importance of insight or the
origin of problem behaviour (Corey, 2001). Because the goal of behavior therapy is to
change behaviour, there is no relevance placed on the experience of emotions, therefore
therapists tend to minimize clients’ feelings and emphasize the importance of behaviour
and the thought processes associated with it (Corey, 2001).

Written by Darlene Niemi

Ecological Theory
An ecological perspective emphasizes the relationship between people and their
environments and is based on the premise that people continually struggle to attain a
sense of balance between the two. One’s environment includes both social and physical
components (Gitterman, 1996). When a sense of balance or “level of fit” is achieved, it
may be described as a condition of “adaptedness” whereby there is positive reciprocity
between the individual and his/her environment sustaining both optimally (Gitterman,
1996, p.390). However, harmful consequences are often the result when there is negative
reciprocity between the two (Gitterman, 1996). Thus, “human needs and problems are
generated by the transactions between people and their environments.” (Germain &
Gitterman, 1980, p. 1).

One’s social environment may be described as the “social world” in which there are
networks and supports comprised of people such as family members, friends or
neighbours as well as bureaucracies such as health, education or social services
(Gitterman, 1996, p.391). Within the physical environment, there exists the “natural
world” and the humanly constructed “built world” (Gitterman, 1996, p.391). Influenced
by numerous factors, within the context of their environment, people gain a sense of
meaning from their life experiences. Further, people are faced with stressors that may be
perceived as challenges when there are adequate resources to successfully manage them
or conversely, as threats of harm or loss when they result in feelings of vulnerability
(Gitterman, 1996).

Coping measures are necessary to resolve life stressors and may include the use of
personal resources such as problem-solving skills, attitudes, beliefs,
self-esteem and motivation or environmental resources such as family, friends and social
service agencies. When coping measures are successful in ameliorating stress, relief is
experienced, however, if unsuccessful it may result in dysfunctional responses, creating
further stress and destruction of one’s self or environment (Gitterman, 1996).

Within the context of child welfare, an ecological paradigm may be useful in
understanding child maltreatment and in developing effective intervention strategies to
reduce the level of risk to children. Social connectedness is an important consideration
when examining parenting behaviour. Moreover, the quality of the relationship between
intimate partners and other sources of support is a significant influence on parenting
behaviour (Belsky & Vondra, 1989). While partner abuse can increase the risk of child

maltreatment, parents who have few connections to sources of support overall and who
feel isolated from social supports within their immediate family as well as their
community tend to be more neglectful than those who have a strong support network
(Goldstein, Keller, & Erne, 1985).

Other conceptual models of ecological theory may include an appraisal of the various
levels within one’s environment, such as; “microsystem” (one’s immediate
environmental settings), “mesosystem” (transactions between components of the
microsystems), “exosystem” (indirect influences of the microsytem or mesosystem) and
“macrosystem” (social forces; economic, political, cultural) (Meyers, 1998; Whittaker,
Schinke, & Gilchrist, 1986). These four systems are seen as being transactional in nature
influencing each other within the environmental structure (Meyers, 1998; Whittaker et
al., 1986). This ecological model may be an effective framework to operate from when
looking to enhance parenting behaviour. Additionally, it may be viewed as a valuable
means to identify and improve other environmental conditions that contribute to child
maltreatment such as unsatisfying or violent intimate relationships and lack of social
supports (Meyers, 1998).

Further, a “multisystems” ecological framework that incorporates the principles of family
systems theory recognizes the significance of various levels and interactions within one’s
environmental structure, such as family, extended family, community and also the
specific interventions aimed at enhancing parenting behaviour. With a focus on
empowerment and family preservation, key resources within the various levels may be
maximized, drawing from their strengths that may mitigate the risk of child maltreatment
(Cimmarutsti, 1992).

A developmental-ecological model considers the interconnectedness and influences
between and among levels, including the individual, family, environment and culture
(Belsky, 1980). An emphasis on culture is of primary importance and child protection
workers should explore a parent’s beliefs, values and attitudes within the context of their
specific culture as it relates to and impacts upon their parenting behaviour (Belsky, 1980;
Crossen-Tower, 1999; Lutzker et al., 1998). An ecobehavioural approach uses learning to
facilitate change in a parent’s behaviour through intervention within natural settings in
order to effectively facilitate the integration of newly learned skills within a natural
context (Taban & Lutzker, 2001). The interactional patterns between the parent and
others within the family as well as the broader environment are considered within this
model (Lutzker et al., 1998; Taban & Lutzker, 2001). Clients have reported high levels of
satisfaction when an ecobehavioural intervention program is used to address behaviour
and environmental issues associated with child maltreatment (Taban & Lutzker, 2001).

Within an ecological paradigm, child protection workers may act as advocates for their
clients by promoting the development of new services that emphasize the importance of
sustaining the natural family (Laird, 1979). Further, it is necessary to recognize that the
lack of resources within one’s environment such as housing and finances contribute to
child maltreatment and there is a significant connection between the prevalence of child

maltreatment and poverty, in part due to the pervasiveness of stress associated with
poverty (Crossen-Tower, 1999; Goldstein et al., 1985; Maidman, 1984b).

Therefore, from an ecological perspective, parents may “function better” if they had a
strong “network of services and supports to compensate for individual, situational and
environmental shortcomings” (Daro & McCurdy, 1994, p. 406), thus the fit between the
parent and environment is significant. While it is necessary to consider parents’ rights,
needs, culture, capacities and goals; an accurate appraisal of their environment and an
understanding of the transactions between both that either support or inhibit healthy
functioning are also essential (Daro & McCurdy, 1994; Germain & Gitterman, 1980).
Therefore, an ecological paradigm may provide a useful framework for reminding child
protection workers of the importance in recognizing the strengths and deficits present
within the environmental structure of a child’s life and assessing and developing
intervention goals that will promote the effective use of social supports while facilitating
greater competence in parenting skills and behaviour (Schatz & Bane, 1991; Whittaker et
al., 1986).

Overall, the principles of ecological theory are useful and may easily be integrated within
child welfare practice. Child protection workers should develop intervention strategies
that consider the child within the context of his/her environment while evaluating the
unique transactions between the two that may contribute to the level of risk or reduce it.
Within the context of child welfare, an ecological paradigm emphasizes the importance
of the family system and the degree of fit between the family and its environment
(Germain, 1981; Germain & Gitterman, 1980; Laird, 1979; Whittaker et al., 1986).

More specifically, an ecological approach that also considers the principles of systems
theory, focuses on the constraints at all levels of the family system with the goal of
intervention to remove these while building on the family’s strengths rather than its
deficits (Cimmarutsti, 1992; McLeod & Nelson, 2000). Even in situations where children
must be removed from unsafe family environments, an ecological approach is useful in
determining appropriate alternative placements for children, maintaining the premise that
every effort to enhance family functioning and degree of fit between the family and its
environment is essential (Laird, 1979).

Additionally, an ecological paradigm “serves a strong integrative function, reminding
program and policy planners that planning for a child’s welfare rests not in one program
but a network of coordinated efforts” (Daro & McCurdy, 1994, p. 406). Similarly for
child protection workers, there is a need to be involved with and coordinate many of the
key resources within a child’s environment such as family, daycare, school, court and
other social service agencies (Cimmarutsti, 1992) in order to ensure a goodness of fit
between the child and his/her environment. However, such coordination may be no easy
feat given the economic, social and political forces that exist, often creating barriers for
child protection workers and the families that they work with (Laird, 1979).

Written by Darlene Niemi


Improving Child Protection Assessment in Ontario
One of the components identified for enhancing positive worker interventions with
children and their families was to develop an approach to assessment that would engage
families and be meaningful to child protection staff. A sub-committee of the larger
working group was formed to deal with that task. It was found that, concurrent to the
work of our project, the Child Welfare Secretariat was also examining new approaches to
assessment. The Committee decided to join forces with a representative from the
Secretariat. During discussions with the Secretariat it was learned that to implement a
Differential Response in Ontario, an actuarial risk assessment and a needs assessment
were thought to be necessary. These would replace the current comprehensive risk
assessment existing within the Ontario Risk Assessment Model

A Comprehensive, Strength Based Assessment
      “Approach clients with an open, but not an empty mind”.
      (Molly Hancock, Professor Emeritus, Laurentian University and a former
     Director of Family Services at Niagara CAS, 1997, pg. 23,).

An aspect of the professional practice of casework in child welfare is the orderly process
of thinking about a child’s risk situation and the others around them. The end result of
this thinking - the organization of data in such a way that it will be useful in planning a
course of action - is called a comprehensive or psychosocial assessment.

The writing of recording and comprehensive assessments is crucial to the social worker
for two discrete reasons. Firstly, this is the tool with which we communicate to
colleagues, supervisors, community members and practitioners of other professions.
Improving the quality of such communication can improve the quality of the services we
offer. The second reason is less obvious but no less important: the written product at the
end of the process exerts a profound influence on the process itself. The emerging
outline structures, in many subtle ways, what the worker will look for - see, say, and do
in the course of the investigation. Our expectations influence our perceptions, cognitions
and evaluations. Thus the structure of the incipient Position Paper is shaping the
worker’s professional behaviour even before the first meeting with the client.

The function of assessment itself is to generate a blueprint for intervention. Translating
this principle into practice is largely a matter of judicious organization of the Position
Paper into sections along with a thoughtful selection of the section headings (Cohen,

Over the past twenty years, the development of social worker assessments is that social
workers are now expected to have the basic ability to complete them. Today, the ability
to complete a comprehensive assessment is an expected skill for social workers whether
they are in hospitals, mental health clinics and family service agencies.

Florence Hollis formulated the basis for comprehensive, strength-based assessments and
her areas of functioning have remained standard. Since then, mental health clinics and
child welfare researchers have added components. They accentuated specific areas of
dysfunction and strength. These needed to be explored if there was indeed the possibility
of positive outcomes for clients who were sometimes non-voluntary yet were required to
receive services from a social service such as child welfare.

Unfortunately, the application in child welfare is inconsistent. Often the facts and
viewpoints that child welfare workers present in their initial applications to outside
professionals form the basis of the assessments and service plans that they receive back in
written form. However there has been some reluctance to have them complete the
assessments themselves. Part of this has been due to a lack of training, a lack of time and
perhaps a perception by some that they were somehow not capable of accomplishing this
task effectively. There was also a period of time when the primary interest and focus of
recording was on the actual child risk factors rather than on parental strength areas which
may have be deployed or enhanced to decrease the risk to the child.

The absence of a comprehensive assessment for workers in child welfare has tended to
limit the role of child welfare workers even though they often have equal experience and
academic qualifications to outside professionals. It has also tended to hurt the credibility
and confidence of child welfare workers when they submit information to the courts.
Often there are high costs and service delays obtaining ‘outside’ assessments.

The reality is that child welfare workers are frequently faced with making decisions
that have critical consequences for clients and their families. When confronted with
problematic situations, they must decide upon interventions that could have serious and long-
lasting implications. Therefore, it is important that they base their decisions
upon a thorough understanding of how a family operates as a system and upon the
knowledge gained from a comprehensive assessment. This assessment should also
include the findings from a Safety Assessment and a Risk Assessment so that the
safety of the child is always considered in the formulation of recommended actions
and Service Plans. It is clear that undertaking a full assessment, which includes
this child focus, would furnish the worker with substantial, useful
information. This data would then provide the basis for planning interventions to meet
the needs of the child(ren) and their families.

Experience has shown that failure to act expediently may result in serious physical
or emotional abuse, sometimes even death. Consequently, it is critical for the worker
to be able to draw upon a body of theoretical knowledge and to know how to use
appropriate assessment tools. Only then does it become possible to answer such
questions as: is this a safe and protective family environment? Is it conducive to raising
a child or is it chaotic? Does it meet the basic needs of the child for physical
sustenance? Is it possible for the child to grow to become an emotionally stable
person? Can the child learn to relate in a healthy way to family members as well as
peers? Are there members of the extended family who can participate in child
rearing? Are there resources available to the family that is being overlooked?

The worker who has made a skillful assessment should be able to provide tentative
answers to these questions and prepare to make a realistic plan for intervention. It is
only possible to arrive at more definitive answers after time has elapsed and a further
assessment has taken place that examines old and new evidence. Then a determination
can be made as to whether the interventions have been useful or whether alternative
plans must be made.

Assessment is viewed as the appraisal of a problem based upon both the worker’s
knowledge of any objective data (facts about the situation), and her/his awareness of
subjective data (feelings and reactions about the situation).

Finally, and most importantly, child welfare assessments and service plans (or contracts)
that child welfare workers can develop along with their clients are extremely significant
in helping to develop a collaborative working relationship with them. For many parents
and children, the questions that a worker needs to ask to complete the assessment may
signify the first time that any person has asked them what they have experienced and felt
and what they think about major issues currently impacting their lives.


Challenges Involved With Forming Child Welfare Service Plans
The worker brings a significant amount of mandated power to the collaboration and even
when the worker is mindful of this and even though he or she may work as
collaboratively as possible, the client will still perceive that that power exists. As a
result the worker should explore whether the client(s) actually agree to work towards the
completion of the goals and outcomes in the service plan or do they feel that they have to
simply comply and to agree to them or they will be seen as uncooperative.

To be genuine, a child welfare assessment needs to be compassionate as well as
scientific. There has to be an empathy for the situations within which, many children and
their families exist. Community standards with respect to the minimal rights of
children provide an additional measure for the practitioner to use in reaching critical
decisions related to removal from, or return to, the family home. Motivation and
commitment to change on the part of the family are criteria to be considered in this
process as well.

Unfortunately there are often many other outside factors impacting upon the lives of child
welfare families. There is sometimes the unfortunately reality that a number of the
outcomes that the worker negotiates with the client will achieve the ‘least damaging
alternative’ rather than actual attainment of an ideal situation.

In addition, the worker should be mindful of the progression of needs outlined in such
concepts as Maslow’s ‘hierarchy of needs’. Often, due to the poverty and disadvantage
that many child welfare clients exist within, basic needs need to be taken care of first
before more ambitious goals can be realistically achieved. This is not to say that several
levels of goals could not be worked upon concurrently and planned for in assessment.

Recording and the Issue of Social Inclusion
The Accompanying Position Paper includes a section on Social Inclusion by Bruce
Leslie, the Quality Assurance Manager from The Catholic Children’s Aid Society of
Toronto. In an addendum to that published paper he talked of the need to be sensitive to
the issue in written social work assessments. He indicated that diagnosis and assessment
are by their nature divisive; separating and grouping, while identifying and
characterizing. Many assessment concepts and measures set up criteria identifying
acceptable and unacceptable, pass or fail levels, that at least conceptually separate
individuals and groups of children, parents and adults. Some social assessment concepts
also look to identify and highlight connections between people and not just their absence.
Instead of just identifying a person as having ‘schizophrenia’, a social assessment focuses
on the ranges of mental health and related issues involved across a population, revealing
more and less healthy activities.

In addition he wrote that “Social inclusion – social exclusion” is a social assessment
measure that can be applied to numerous societal characteristics such as income,
education, housing and health. This form of conceptualization is also less pathologizing
and more benign, in some respect, than other ‘assessment labels’. It operates on a meta-
level of analysis that contextualizes assessments in terms of the social acceptability and
desirability of the action being assessed – socially included/excluded. Such a meta-
analysis re-turfs the playing field and does not solely put some behaviours outside the
domain of acceptability but identifies points along a continuum, showing the connections
between people and the preferred range of responses. This dimensional scaling can be
seen as an assessment based on social participation (or lack thereof), and associated
characteristics that range from the desirable to the undesirable.

Another underlying facet of this assessment conceptualization relates to the general
concern for the quality of life at both ends of the spectrum and those more and less
desired positions in between. This approach to understanding social behaviour and
conditions links the ‘good’ with the ‘bad’, the preferred with the less preferred, revealing
how the quality of life at both ends of the spectrum is influenced by the other, and

Sections on recording, assessments, needs assessments, and risk were written by various
participant members of the Assessment Subcommittee

Coordination of This Project With Differential Response
Differential Response is a child protection service delivery framework that guides
assessments, judgments and service planning with families. Traditional risk assessment
models are based on risk elements that are well supported in the literature. Risk

assessment models tend to require that each report of child maltreatment is investigated
and assessed in the same manner. Differential Response models require that the child
protection response is tailored to address the unique issues of a report and the needs of
the family. Differential Response models apply risk assessment tools and forensic
investigation procedures to cases of abuse and severe neglect. Family needs and
strengths assessment tools are used for cases of neglect and reports of moderate risk. For
cases that are assessed as moderate risk the Differential Response model puts significant
emphasis on collaborative service delivery both with the family and with community

In most jurisdictions, motivation to move to Differential Response stemmed from
concerns that risk assessment models had resulted in significant increases in the numbers
of children in care, legal costs and adversarial relationships with families and community
professionals. Similarly in Ontario, motivation for considering a move to implement a
Differential Response model came out of concerns for the rising costs of child protection.
Concurrent to the fiscal issues the field also voiced worries and concerns about the
unintended negative consequence of the risk assessment model on client service delivery
and community collaboration.

In 2003 the Ministry of Children’s Services released the Child Welfare Program
Evaluation that gave numerous recommendations for improvements in the child welfare
system including a differential response to reduce pressure on the child welfare system.
In 2004 the Provincial Directors of Service conceptualized a model of Differential
Response and developed a paper including recommendations for an Ontario model. The
Local Directors endorsed the recommendations in September 2004. The model
recommended for Ontario attempts to build on the strengths of the Ontario Risk
Assessment model while at the same time providing tools for strength based assessments
and supporting front line workers to build non adversarial helping relationships with
clients. Other jurisdictions have structured differential response into two or more streams
where a family would receive investigation or intervention from a worker based on the
family’s needs and on the worker’s position or role. The recommended Ontario
Differential Response model is structured to support alternative responses to individual
families in a workers caseload without the family having to switch streams or change
workers when their circumstances change. The Ontario model, unlike models in other
jurisdictions, allows for flexible movement between risk assessment and strengths based
assessments with a family based on the identified needs of the family rather than on the
structure of the organizations.

Differential Response is a child welfare service method that has been implemented in
several jurisdictions in both Canada and the United States. Experience in other
jurisdictions indicates that successful implementation of a Differential Response model
allows the Children’s Aid Societies to serve children and families in a more creative and
flexible manner that leads to non adversarial creative solutions for children, their families
and the community. The capacity to build helping relationships with clients and with
community partners is essential to the implementation of the Ontario model. In Ontario
this will require training of front line and management staff to ensure that service

delivery is based on sound judgment of risk to children and supports the skills necessary
in building helping relationships with clients.

One of the lynch pins to implementing Differential Response is the availability of
community services to families where children are at moderate risk of harm and/or
neglect. This may be a challenge in many communities where funding to community
services has been limited and services reduced. Prior to implementation of a Differential
Response model, Children’s Aid Societies will have to assess their level of readiness to
collaborate with community service providers. Community based services that are
accessible and responsive to children and their families are key to reducing risks to
children. Each community will need to expand existing services and to develop
innovative programs that directly meet the needs of at risk families. Development of
services that are focused to risk families will require community collaboration, creative
solutions and shared responsibility. Collaborative relationships will need to be at all
levels of organizations starting with professional’s relationships with clients, front line
professionals collaborations to formal and informal collaborations at executive leadership
levels. The recommended Ontario model supports the notion that each Children’s Aid
Society and each community service sector must develop services and innovative
programs that are best suited to their community need. In communities where services are
limited, the collaboration with the Children’s Aid Society may take the form of business
partnerships, while in other communities the Children’s Aid Society may develop less
formal partnerships.

Collaboration is at the heart of differential response, especially when understood in both
the macro and the micro levels. The development of client and worker relationships is
dependent on the development of collaborative relationships with community partners at
all levels of organizations. Evaluations of differential response models in other
jurisdictions offer promise to Ontario. The Child Welfare Service Delivery Model can be
developed to provide a better balance between investigation and the development of a
helping relationship between the protection worker and the clients. The Ontario model
would maintain knowledge of risks to children and improve collaboration with clients
and the community.

Written by
Rhonda Hallberg, the project liaison with the OACAS Differential Response proposal

The Kinship Model of Service and Collaboration
Kinship is “Any living arrangement in which a relative or someone else who has an
emotional bond to the child/youth takes primary responsibility to rear the child/youth.”

The use of relatives to care for children/youth has in many cultures been a time-honored
tradition. “Although kinship care’s historical roots as an informal practice are deep, it’s
use as a child welfare services relatively new and brings to the forefront issues that were
not present in the informal family arrangements that existed in past years” (Charlene
Ingram, 1966). This is true of the Ontario experience. The use of both kinship care (in

care kin placements) and kinship services (out of care kin placements) has occurred
across the field.

Providing children/youth with a sense of belonging, continuity of relationships and a
connectedness with their community are key components of an effective permanency
plan. A comprehensive spectrum of options will enhance the child welfare system’s
ability to achieve viable permanency plans for children/youth. One option, which needs
to be recognized and incorporated into the spectrum, addresses the role that kin can play
in supporting a child/youth in growing up. For this option to be successful in meeting the
needs of children/youth the literature and our experiences identify critical elements,
which must be made available. These elements speak to the role of child welfare in
working with kin providers to ultimately define best practices.

The research conducted by Karen Stoner (2003) clearly identified the importance for the
province to adopt consistent definitions and best practices for kinship care. The literature
stresses key elements, which are needed for this option to be successful in meeting the
needs of children/youth. These elements speak to how the system has to be adjusted to
incorporate the care by kin as a viable alternative for children/youth and to the role of
child welfare in working with kinship providers.

The first step is for the field to adopt a model for the provision of kinship services/care
based on best practices. This will facilitate consistency in the role that kin will play for
children/youth within child welfare.

Resources, Assessment and Training
When kin are being considered for a care giving role a comprehensive assessment and
orientation process will prepare them for the child/youth’s placement. As part of the
model, a strengths based assessment will recognize the unique contributions that someone
with an emotional connection to a child/youth can make. At the same time, the safety and
protection of the child/youth cannot be compromised. The assessment process is an
opportunity to work through issues unique to kin arrangements.

Assessment is a very difficult task for a worker who is faced with problematic situations
involving children who have been maltreated or endangered, the worker must decide
whether it is necessary to seek alternatives to the normative living arrangements.
Adopting the mandate that is implicit in permanency planning, attention must be
focused on active decision-making about the best possible living arrangement for the
child. To do this requires a family assessment that is speedy, comprehensive and as
ecological as the situation allows.

Current approaches to kinship care, permanency planning and other areas of human service
practice reflect awareness of the profound responsibility that is inherent in the worker's
decision-making role. The worker who undertakes the assessment of a family must
measure the situation of the child and other family members against the prevailing
standards of the community; In the area of child welfare, for example, contemporary

community standards reflect attitudes that were promulgated first in the UN
Declaration of the Rights of the Child.

Adopting an ecological approach to assessment acknowledges that families do not exist
in a vacuum. There is recognition of "the sensitive balance that exists between families
and their environment." This view provides a model for focusing on the family's strengths
and assets as well as their deficiencies and there is empirical evidence to suggest that
an ecological approach offers a framework for understanding the transactional
relationships between the family and its environment. Furthermore, this approach
encourages a broad perspective in seeking resolutions of the perplexing dilemmas
pertaining to kinship care and other permanency planning options.
Resources Staffing
The literature emphasizes the importance of adequate staff support for the success of a
kinship arrangement whether the arrangement involves a child/youth in care or out of
care. Staff assigned to work with kin must have a thorough understanding of the unique
issues facing kin who are in a care-giving role.

In conjunction with the development of a model of kinship care, systems that are
supportive of kinship care need to be enhanced. Specifically family group conferencing is
a support system where the family is empowered to address issues pertaining to the well
being of the child/youth and develop a viable plan for the child’s/youth’s care and

Kin caregivers require the availability of ongoing support to work through the
challenging times, to navigate through the child welfare system and to process the impact
of the experience on them and their own family. The Society and kin caregivers must
work in partnership with the objective of achieving the child’s/youth/s permanency plan.
This type of ongoing support will assist the kin caregivers in sustaining their commitment
and in becoming the child’s/youth’s permanent family, it is needed.

Crown Ward and After Planning
Frequently, kin is considered prior to a child/youth being admitted to care, however once
a child/youth is admitted, the momentum of court, placement activities and other
requirements lead to a situation where family members are consistently considered as an
alternative. Indicators of child/youth well being are evidence of protective factors that
promote resiliency such as, having a significant adult relationship, cultural identity and
community connectedness. For these reasons, kin need to be considered throughout the
time the child/youth is in the care of the Society. The child protection worker should
discuss the option of kin during the Plan of Care in assisting the child/youth to have a
connection with their family and community. Should kin be identified, the plan would be
considered and a decision would be made consistent with the child’s/youth’s
developmental and emotional needs.

Written by Susan Carmichael, committee member and liaison with the OACAS Kinship
Care proposal

Looking After Children (LAC), Resilience and Collaboration
Looking After Children is a collaborative approach to the raising of the children and
youth who are in the care of the State. Looking After Children (LAC) was first
developed in the United Kingdom and has been widely implemented throughout the
British Child Welfare System (Parker, Ward, Jackson, Aldgate, & Wedge, 1991; Jackson
& Kilroe, 1995) and in a few eastern European countries, Australia, and in a number of
Canadian jurisdictions. Dr. Robert Flynn, at the Centre for Research on Community
Services at Ottawa University, who has been involved with the adaptation and
implementation of LAC across Canada, has, with his colleagues, recently published an
overview of Looking After Children and its Canadianized Assessment and Action Record
(AAR) (Flynn, Ghazal, & Legault, 2004). Flynn, Ghazal, Moshenko, & Westlake, (2001)
provide an excellent description of the AAR and the LAC approach. It was recently
decided by Ontario Children’s Aid Societies local directors that Looking After Children
would be fully implemented by April 2007.

Looking After Children is built upon an explicit theoretical framework that can have an
important impact on how child welfare services are delivered and on the developmental
outcomes of the children and youth who are in the care of Children’s Aid Societies
(Lemay & Biro-Schad, 1999; Lemay & Ghazal, 2004).

Collaboration and partnership
LAC starts from a premise that corporations acting as parents must find a way to build up
a partnership between the various individuals who share the responsibility of raising
looked after children and youth. This is termed “corporate parenting” (Jackson, Fisher &
Ward, 1995). Thus, the foster parent, the child protection worker, the agency supervisor,
and even other child welfare staff and school personnel are to be engaged in a child
focused comprehensive assessment and service planning process aimed at promoting
positive development. Moreover, the capacity to aggregate data allows other key players
to make key resource allocation, program priority, and other decisions that will have
consequences on the outcomes of children and youth (Flynn & Ghazal, 2004; Lemay &
Ghazal, 2005; Flynn, Lemay, Ghazal, & Hébert, 2003).

Children and youth coming into the care of Children’s Aid Societies have known
significant adversity. Abuse and/or neglect, rejection, social and physical discontinuities,
poverty, are some of the many negative experiences that children and youth have lived
through over months and sometimes years. In the past, many child welfare theoretical
frameworks started from a position of pessimism about the developmental potential of
children who have been damaged by such childhood experiences. For instance, Bowlby’s
view that some early childhood experiences determine future outcomes though
discredited (Kagan, 1998; Seligman, 1993) continues to be widely held. LAC thus starts
from a more optimistic premise and indeed a growing number of researchers and
theoreticians have started to notice that the human race is very resilient indeed.
Anthropologist, Katherine Panter-Brick (2000) presents in her book “Abandoned
Children” that the Western world’s view of childhood has become something of a

caricature where fragility and passivity seem to be the guiding characteristics for policy
development. However, Panter-Brick (2000) and her colleagues document how
historically and elsewhere in the world children and youth are viewed more appropriately
as competent, agentic, and capable of withstanding incredible challenges and trauma.

Indeed, much recent psychological research challenges the prevailing Western view of
childhood and the long-term impact of trauma on future development. Albert Bandura
(2001), an influential researcher, in his recent address as honorary president of the
Canadian Psychological Association, writes that psychological theories “grossly over
predict psychopathology”. Martin Seligman (1993), another important name in American
Psychology and the former president of the American Psychological Association, reports
that there is just simply no proof that childhood trauma has necessarily long lasting
consequences. Bonanno (2004) in his recent review tells us that current theory and
practice around posttraumatic stress disorder is based on very incomplete research, is
potentially misguided, and might do more damage than good, while O. Ray (2004) has
described how collective self-efficacy and optimism can greatly increase collective health
and longevity. Snyder & Lopez (2002) propose a more “positive psychology” to better
harness the individual’s capacity to be resilient.

Masten (2001), who defines resilience as “good outcomes in spite of serious threats to
adaptation or development,” demonstrates the ordinariness of the resilience process.
“The great surprise of resilience research is the ordinariness of the phenomena.
Resilience appears to be a common phenomena that results in most cases from the
operation of basic human adaptational systems” (p. 227). Masten points out (p. 234) that
prevailing theories and models based as they are on the study of psychopathology tend to
make one expect extraordinary qualities in individuals who achieve resilience. However,
nothing can be further from the truth. “Resilience does not come from rare and special
qualities, but from the everyday magic of ordinary, normative human resources in the
minds, brains, and bodies of children, in their families and relationships, and in their
communities” (p. 235). This optimistic view has important implications for intervention.
Masten indicates that, to be powerful, intervention strategies and programs need to tap
into these basic but powerful and very ordinary systems. Indeed LAC promotes positive,
or even “good-enough,” parenting and the AAR operationalises the 1,001 mundane tasks
of parenthood as the basis for increasing the likelihood of positive development for
looked after children and youth (Jackson, Fisher, & Ward, (1995).

Allan and Ann Clarke (1976; 2000) who have long been associated with resilience
research write that the first thing that must happen for resilience to occur is that adversity
must end, which, of course, is at the heart of the child protection endeavour. However,
there is a second important ingredient that must follow. To ensure positive development,
children and youth who have known adversity must be provided with opportunities for
experiencing positive life experiences and conditions; indeed they go so far as to suggest
that this is, most often times, sufficient and that additional professional treatment is most
likely unnecessary. The use of the LAC Assessment and Action Record does not only
produce a comprehensive assessment of how a child or youth is doing currently, it is also
a powerful pedagogic tool that teaches all the partnering adults, as well as the child or

youth, that it is precisely the thousand and one little things that go on in daily life that
sum up to promote positive development.

Positive parenting
The Assessment and Action Record operationalizes what is termed “authoritative
parenting (Baumrind, 1989; Chao & Willms, 2002),” which defines effective parenting as
consisting of two dimensions: warmth and affection on the one hand and limit setting on
the other. Indeed, some resilience researchers suggests that it is good parenting first and
foremost which provides the necessary conditions for resilience to occur after trauma
(Clarke & Clarke, 2000; Masten, 2001). In the United Kingdom, the working party that
developed the Assessment and Action Record worked from a premise that if child
welfare organizations could get their parenting right then many of the difficulties
experienced later on by children and youth in care would greatly diminish (Parker et al.,
1991). Thus, the Assessment and Action Record not only assesses how well or poorly a
child or youth might be doing developmentally but it also assesses the quality of the
parenting being provided by the child welfare organization (Flynn, Perkins-
Manguladnan, & Biro, 2001).

The developmental model
The Ontario Looking After Children training curriculum (Lemay, Ghazal & Byrne, 2005)
suggests that Looking After Children is best implemented within the context of an
explicit developmental model of service. The developmental model was originally
conceived of as an explicit alternative to the prevailing medical model which tends to
interpret human problems as disease entities that require treatment leading to cure or
chronicity (Lemay & Ghazal, 2005). The developmental model views cognitive,
behavioral and emotional problems in a very different light. Some authors, such as
Wolfensberger (1998), suggest that human services must be focused on achieving the
developmental potential of their clients. Programmed activities, staff identities and
service goals should coherently be structured around the achievement of positive
developmental outcomes, irrespective of the category of need or difficulty one
encounters. Others (Clarke & Clarke, 2000; Masten, 2001) use the life path and the
developmental trajectory constructs where the individual experiences positives and
negatives, ups and downs, depending on life circumstances, and such experiences are
sometimes beyond one’s control. Human service thus aims at increasing positive life
events and decreasing the negative ones, thus improving the likelihood of positive
development. The developmental model is quite consistent with resilience research.

Positive expectations
The pessimism that sometimes afflicts child welfare does exact a cost. For instance, there
is now good data (Flynn & Biro, 1998; Ghazal & Flynn, 2004) that about 50% of Ontario
looked after children and youth do poorly in school. However, a recent British study,
where academic results of children and youth in residential care are similar, reports that
the most important problem encountered by such children and youth are low
expectations. In his review, Wilson (2004) writes “two major obstacles for these young
people. Firstly, their education is not prioritized in the work undertaken within social
care settings, and secondly, educationalists have different and often less demanding

expectations of young people in the care system” (p. 228). And later he adds “Good
education yields good outcomes for young people (p. 228).

One’s expectations control opportunities, support and encouragement (Lemay & Ghazal,
2005). High positive expectations will lead parenting adults to offer valued and
challenging learning opportunities accompanied by enthusiastic support and
encouragement. Such ingredients increase the likelihood of mastery and self-efficacy
(Maddux, 2002). The AAR assesses the degree to which the corporate parent is
promoting positive development through the provision of positive and demanding
developmental opportunities.

LAC and it assessment methodology are not simply a new service technology. LAC
proposes a different way of parenting looked after children and youth. It requires a
change of mindset where the adults responsible for raising such children and youth act in
a collaborative manner, with the high expectation that their charges will do well. In such
a service approach, resilience (or the bouncing back to normal development) is viewed as
a natural and expected occurrence. The current service paradigm excuses negative
service outcomes by suggesting that clients do poorly because of adversity in the past.
The LAC approach and resilience research suggests that individuals do poorly when their
present life circumstances are less than adequate. LAC is about the positive expectation
of resilience, which should lead us to ensure that looked after children and youth
experience, daily, the good things in life that most other Canadian kids take for granted.

Raymond Lemay (June 2005)

Family Group Conferencing and Collaboration
The practice of family group conferencing (or family group decision making as it is also
known) in child welfare originates from New Zealand when the Maori people insisted
upon having a mechanism that was culturally sensitive and ensured that children who
were in need of protection were placed within their kinship systems rather than with
strangers. The practice of family group conferencing within child welfare in Ontario is
relatively new. The Toronto Family Group Conferencing Project (1998) was the first
program to be established in Ontario. It is a partnership between the George Hull
Children’s Centre and the four child welfare agencies in Toronto. Brant CAS
implemented a program in 2002 and there are several Societies that are in the process of
incorporating family group conferencing into their service delivery model.

Although often referred to as “family decision making” the model as it has been practiced
in the context of child welfare is more of a shared decision-making process that involves
the family and the agency in planning for children who are identified as being in need of
protection. The process of family group conferencing attempts to find a balance with
respect to statutory intervention that recognizes the right of family, including extended
family, to participate in decision-making in regard to their children, and the agency’s
responsibility to protect the child from abuse and neglect. The practice of family group

conferencing involves an attitude shift towards a more benign and supportive stance to
families with problems as well as an emphasis on family strengths. This change is part of
a wider development in all fields of social work to increasingly emphasize participation
and reduce the distance between client and social work systems. This approach is
reflected in the social work literature as “empowerment practice” (Parsloe 1996). It is
based on the belief that people have strengths and are capable of change:

       “Promoting empowerment means believing that people are capable of making
       their own choices and decisions. It means not only that human beings possess the
       strengths and potential to resolve their own difficult life situations, but also that
       they increase their strength and contribution to society by doing so. The role of
       the social worker is to nourish, encourage, assist, enable, support, stimulate, and
       unleash the strengths within people.”(Cowger, 1997:62)

Based on the experience of using this approach within the CAS, family group
conferencing has proven (when given the opportunity) that families want to be and can be
in charge of their lives; that they often can recognize and accept the risks to their children
and will make good decisions and arrangements for their care and protection. It is
important to emphasize that when a case is referred for a FGC, the best interests,
protection and well being of the child remains the primary focus. The CAS must make
clear its “bottom line” before the process begins. That “bottom line” will include any
limitations on where the child could be placed or have access to. The planning and
decision making that occurs through a FGC is done within those clearly stated limitations
that are based on the protection concerns identified by the CAS. A conference is unlikely
to proceed or be successful if those limitations are not clear and accepted by the family
before proceeding. However, that is not to say that they will not challenge or question
the CAS “bottom line” during the preparation for the conference or during the conference

Referral Criteria for Family Group Conferencing
The key referral questions are:
        Is there a decision about a child(ren) that needs to be made?
        Can a conference be safely convened? (Although cases that involved child
           sexual abuse or domestic violence require more comprehensive preparation,
           including safety planning, research demonstrates that even with those most
           difficult problems, family group conferences can be safely convened)
        Are there enough family members to constitute a group?
        Is the FGC organized with a well-defined, open-ended purpose and no
           predetermined outcome?

Role of the Coordinator
The coordinator’s most significant role is to engage and prepare all participants,
including the wider family circle, the informal support network, and professional/service
providers, for the FGC. The coordinator is also responsible for helping surface any safety
issues that may impact the FGC process and for helping family members create a plan
that will address or ameliorate them. In addition to being the convener of the FGC, the

coordinator, who has had no prior involvement with the family, also facilitates the FGC.
The coordinator does not have a stake in the family’s plan and therefore, has no voice in
accepting or altering it. The coordinator is also responsible for distributing the plan after
the FGC. Defining the limits and extent of the coordinator’s role is important so that she
is positioned to be perceived by the family (and CAS) as fair and neutral. The
coordinator only receives minimal case information that is usually limited to a report
submitted by the referring worker outlining basic background information and the
Society’s concerns and “bottom line”. The coordinator usually learns new information
about the family as she begins meeting with the eventual conference participants. Unless
the new information compromises child safety or well being it is considered confidential
or privileged and is not shared with the referring worker or other service providers.

It is very important for the Society to ensure the neutrality of the coordinator’s role. One
approach is to contract out the position or fund it on a fee-for-service basis. If the
coordinator is an employee consideration should be given to locating the position off-site
and/or a neutral location. The coordinator could be on the email system for
communication and referral purposes but should not have access to electronic case
information or files. The most important variable in ensuring the neutrality of the
coordinator is the ability of the coordinator to remain neutral throughout the process and
to convey that neutrality to everyone involved, especially the family members. A final
suggestion is to develop a logo and/or letterhead that is unique to the program – the
Society letterhead/logo should not appear on any documentation or correspondence that
originates from the program.

The Process and Role of the Referring Worker
    First, because family group conferences are voluntary the worker contacts the key
       family members (typically the parents or guardians) to briefly describe the
       process and to determine their willingness to have the FGC coordinator contact
       them and participate in the process.
    The worker makes a referral to the program and prepares a report that includes
       demographic information with names and contact information of all known family
       members (including extended family), the reasons for CAS involvement, the
       family strengths, the child’s needs, the major issues in the case, and the issues or
       decisions for planning consideration, as well as the Society’s position/bottom
       lines regarding these issues/decisions.
    The FGC coordinator meets with the referring worker and manager to discuss the
       case and their expectations and goals for family group conferencing. The
       coordinator contacts the family members and prepares them for the conference.
       She also contacts other service providers to obtain input and/or request their
       attendance at the first part of the conference to provide information that may be
       helpful to the family.
    The conference is arranged and takes place in a neutral setting where child care is
       provided so that all family members are able to attend and participate. A meal is
       also included as part of the conference.
    The referring worker attends the first part of the conference and summarizes the
       critical issues and concerns that precipitated the need for a FGC, including all

       major safety and permanency issues that the family’s plan must address, as well
       as key information and relevant timelines. Other professionals may attend this
       part of the conference if necessary to help educate the participants and provide
       background information. Sometimes, in lieu of attending, a brief report is
       provided by the service provider and shared with the family. Family members
       have the opportunity to ask questions and get clarification from the referring
       worker. An important aspect of FGC is the process of lifting the “veil of secrecy”
       that often surrounds these situations which then enables the family to develop a
       realistic plan that is based on a full knowledge of the protections issues and the
       needs of the child.
      The family meet privately to develop a plan. Once the family is ready, the worker
       and manager return and partner with the family to finalize and resource the parts
       of the plan that the family believes require external support. If the final plan
       meets all the safety and permanency considerations the CAS accepts and approves
       the plan. If elements of the plan cannot be accepted the worker must describe the
       agency’s concerns and the family may be given the opportunity to revise their
      The FGC coordinator distributes a copy of the plan to all participants following
       the conference.
      If necessary, a follow-up conference can be arranged to review and revise the

During the first two years of the Brant CAS project (which was not a full-time program in
the first year) 342 individuals participated in a conference. There were 26 children
prevented from admission to CAS care, 9 children were placed with kin after being in
CAS care, 17 children were placed with kin, 8 children were placed on adoption with
consent, 7 children were made crown wards on consent, custody/access disputes were
resolved for 8 children, a parental support/respite plan was made for 30 children, more
intrusive action was prevented for 10 children, a trial was averted for 10 cases, and 15
cases were closed following a FGC. Similar outcomes have been achieved in other

Family group conferencing helps build strong, healthy communities and families and
empowers and challenges them to actively participate in planning for their children who
have been identified as needing protection. Through FGC families are provided with the
opportunity to tap their own resources to rebuild and strengthen existing social support
networks and forge effective partnerships with formal systems. All decisions and
practices focus on ensuring the best interests, protection and well being for abused or
neglected children within a broader family context. Although family group conferencing
within child welfare is relatively new to Ontario it is widely practiced in the U.S. and at
least 20 other countries throughout the world. Fortunately we have the opportunity to
ensure that this promising and empowering approach to permanency planning and

decision making for children is more widely implemented in Ontario and there appears to
be the will within the child welfare sector for this to become integrated in the service
delivery system.

Written by Bruce Burbank, liaison with Family Group Conferencing Initiative.

Clinical Supervision in a Child Welfare Context

Current Pre-Transformation Situation
The parameters around ORAM have taken supervision to a confined and prescriptive
approach. The standards, the recording package and the expectation for supervisory
monitoring of every step of the work do not allow the time or culture for clinical
supervision. Stress studies speak to the psychological process of hyper-vigilance that the
current system engenders. (CAS Toronto). In addition, the liability-focused approach to
the work does not allow for a good balance nor is there concrete evidence that it actually
keeps children safer. In fact, some postulate that the opposite is true. A positive
working relationship along with a caring that is felt by the child or family member can
reduce liability more effectively (Solomon).

The present Ontario Risk Assessment Model promotes the concept of ‘power over’ with
children and their families. This is also a parallel occurrence between supervisors and
their workers through constant micro managing of worker actions. A more delegating
role would include clarifying expected outcomes and allowing workers some flexibility
on how to attain then with children and families.

The present model also promotes the process whereby workers bring forward situations
and problems instead of possible solutions to cases. This is not to say that this model
does not provide supervisors with some sense of predictability, calmness, and security but
it is done from a limited perspective that does not allow for growth or flexibility in the
supervisees or in turn with their clients. Often workers send documents by e-mail to their
supervisors and then the approved documents are sent back electronically. The degree of
face-to-face dialogue and discussion of alternative courses of actions is not negotiated in
a traditional social work manner. The supervisor has little opportunity to help the worker
look at options and to determine areas of stress and doubt that may ordinarily be
discovered and resolved. As a result, the ability to move to new points of competence
and confidence are somewhat delayed by the day to day process which does not
maximize opportunities for growth.

Fortunately it is anticipated that Differential Response will move the field away from a
narrow, risk assessment/compliance monitoring approach to a wider, possibly (strengths
based) focus. Although the discussion paper on Differential Response contemplates at
least a two-track model, human beings do not so easily fit into a binary system of
classification. We would propose that clinical supervision should be about both safety
and building on strengths. Clinical supervision needs to have both the components of
focusing in and stepping back, with both factors influencing decision-making. As such,

supervisors in this new system will need to have skills, which can effectively cope with
change and its uncertainty; shift perspectives comfortably; and allow for risk decisions
and actions without having as much written information from their workers.

There are other possible benefits and outcomes from a more clinical/collaborative
approach to supervision. Children will still be as safe or safer, and parents will have a
greater chance of engaging their workers in helping their children acquire safety.
Workers will feel more enabled through being proactively engaged to search for what
works and as a result, both supervisors and workers feel more motivated and
professionally challenged and stimulated. In addition, supervisors will be able to place
more focus on positive client outcomes rather than primarily on the present prescriptive
procedures that the worker are required to follow under the present version of the Ontario
Risk Assessment Model.

The Philosophical Underpinnings of Collaborative Clinical Supervision
How do we move from the current situation to the Vision for a more Collaborative
approach to Clinical Supervision? Moving from a very highly prescribed, administrative
and regulated mode of supervision that emanated from the Reform agenda, a move to a
more collaborative mode of engaging families will require a shift in the way we provide
supervision to our front-line. The sense in the field currently is there is a pent-up demand
to not just supervise the ‘work’ (the production of the worker) but also to attune to and
provide supervision to the ‘worker’ (their capacity to produce) so that we develop and
grow both the workers and their capacity to facilitate sustainable and meaningful change
with their families.

To begin with a balanced clinical supervision in Transformation requires a set of values
that are tied to the child welfare organization as a whole and have been spoken to in other
portions of this Position Paper. Reference too can be given to the OACAS Human
Resources Group, which is currently developing a resource paper for looking at ‘Change
Management’. It will assist staff in adjusting to change when they have previously been
trained and oriented in a very prescriptive model. In the meantime, this paper is
supporting the principles outlined below.

   o Recognition that the culture of the organization influences all relationships
     including that of the supervisor and the worker. This in keeping with Section 2 of
     this Position Paper and in literature written on the OACAS Excellent System. In
     this approach, various options can be evaluated on a local level to ensure a
     consistent culture that can bring expertise together in a consistent manner.
   o Appropriate supervision will ensure professional accountability mechanisms of
     service delivery to children, families and to the community
   o Agency quality assurance systems encourage clinical supervision and supervisors
     have a lead role in quality assurance that evaluates client outcomes.
   o Supervisors will be provided by the agency with the skills, permission, and
     opportunity to prioritize clinical supervision
   o The Teacher, trainer, mentor roles of the Clinical Supervisor are promoted and
     encouraged. They are described in greater detail in this section of the paper.

   o Supervisors feel adequately supported and safe in engaging in a balanced
     approach to supervision.
   o Recognition of the concepts of ‘power over’ and ‘power with’ which are parallel
     processes in supervision. They are described in greater detail in this section of the

There are many constructs or theories on how to enhance empathy including such diverse
constructs such as Maslow’s motivational theories (referred to in the ‘What Supervisors
Bring’ section), learning style theories, interaction style tools (DISC, Myers-Briggs etc.),
Situational Leadership of Hersey and Blanchard, Covey’s Principal Centred leadership,
understanding resistance, all of which can provide some guidance. Covey’s approach, for
example will allow supervisors to be more effective by not just focusing on the reactive
crisis orientation to the work. It is likely not the construct or technique that is the most
salient variable at work here, but the true driving force may very well be the will and
efforts by staff into trying to understand the various points of view.

Determinants on the Roles and Competencies of a Collaborative Supervisor:
In No More Bells & Whistles, Miller, Hubble and Duncan review the latest research with
respect to the impact of the key variables on therapeutic outcomes. What the research has
suggested is the following:
    o 15% of outcomes are attributable to the client’s hopes and beliefs that change will
    o 15% of change is related to the therapeutic techniques used by the worker
    o 30% is attributable to the worker/parent relationship
    o 40% is attributable to the client’s individual characteristics and social context.

Does our supervision, training and overall direction to staff currently reflect a similar
focus or attention reflective of what really works? The answer is probably not. The
system under Reform actually takes us primarily to the 15% attributable to technique and
even that is not related to clinical technique, rather to a forensic based approach that
really is not supported by research. So what do we need to do differently? Reviewing
the above percentages suggests we should be focusing on the worker/parent relationship
more than on techniques. We can likely also have an influence on the client’s hopes and
beliefs by influencing the hopes and beliefs of the worker. We likely should also be
spending some time on the social context of the client and those other instrumental
barriers that have been shown to have a role in change. If 15% of change in a
therapeutic relationship is related to the technique used and if relationship accounts for
30% and if what the client brings is 40% then we have the 60% to work with in

Supervisor Attributes Required for Clinical Supervision in a Child Welfare Context
Supervisors should acquire the following attributes in order to perform clinical
supervision with their staff.

   o Incrementalism: the ability to make small decisions, get feedback, and then adjust

   o Living with less than complete knowledge: the ability to find the right balance
     between thinking a problem through too long and taking action to quickly.
   o Open to new learning: the ability to move outside the comfort zone of what a
     supervisor knows already in order to discover new information, even if it results
     in redefining some of the present reality.
   o Organization: the ability to set priorities, to manage process, and to show a
     degree of self discipline in doing so
   o Approachability: the ability to be approached for discussion by spending extra
     effort to put others at ease. As such the supervisor presents as warm, pleasant and
     gracious; sensitive to and patient with the interpersonal anxieties of others; builds
     rapport well; and is a good listener
   o Compassion: as such the supervisor genuinely cares about other people; is
     concerned about their work and non work problems; is available and ready to
     help; is sympathetic; and demonstrates real empathy with the joys and pains of
   o Composure: as such the supervisor personifies grace under pressure; does not
     become defensive or irritated when times are tough; is considered mature; can be
     counted on to hold things together during tough times; can handle stress; is not
     knocked off balance by the unexpected; doesn’t show frustration when resisted or
     blocked; is a settling influence in a crisis. The supervisor is attuned to building
     resilience in herself and others.
   o Conflict Management: the ability to step up to conflicts; seeing them as
     opportunities; reading situations quickly; good at focused listening; can hammer
     out tough agreements and settle disputes equitably; can find common ground and
     can negotiate cooperation with a minimum degree of disruption required
   o Confronting Issues: the ability to deal with issues in a firm and timely manner;
     never allowing problems to fester; regularly reviews performance and holds
     timely discussions; and can make negative decisions when all other efforts fail
   o Creativity: the ability to produce new and unique ideas; and the ability to make
     connections among previously unrelated notions

Supervisor Roles Required for Clinical Supervision in a Child Welfare Context
Supervisors should assume competence in the following roles in order to perform clinical
supervision with their staff.

The Supervisors Role as a leader
In a true learning culture, everyone (leader and front-line staff) can play key leadership
roles in different areas and at different times. An organization or leader that can answer
the following questions of staff, whether they are actually ever articulated or not, sets the
groundwork for a motivated worker.
                What is my job?
                Why is it important/how does it fit in?
                How am I doing?
                How can I do better?
                What is in it for me?

The Supervisor’s Role as a Coach in Clinical Supervision
Methodologies in clinical supervision to front line staff should support and reinforce the
desired orientation of services to clients. The “parallel process” of clinical supervision
not only creates the conditions for the development of staff knowledge and skills, but also
models learning within an experiential context that can be replicated in client services.

Supervisor’s, as coaches need to be aware of the impact that their orientation in
supervision has, not only on their staff, but also ultimately, in the way in which service is
delivered to our client families. Training should promote increased supervisor self-
awareness along with knowledge/skills/techniques to be used in coaching front line staff.

Effective coaching requires an understanding of the individuals learning needs and
learning style. While coaching training has a general orientation, it should not be thought
of as a “one size fits all” methodology. The art of effective coaching is as much about
“finding the fit” as it is about the content.

The Supervisor’s Role as a Teacher
Effective teaching technique encourages staff to stretch their skills and grow on the job.
In doing so, the clinical supervisor allows staff to make mistakes of honest effort and
subsequently, learn and improve their skills. Through the process of providing positive
feedback, the supervisor is able to recognize the good pieces of work worthy of reward,
give feedback for areas requiring improvement as well as identify, confront and challenge
the perceptions of the worker when the need is identified. The importance of the role of
the supervisor as a teacher (educator, trainer) for staff is highlighted in Trotter’s article
that examines the positive correlation between client outcomes and the clinical skills of
the front-line worker. As the worker’s main connection to training and clinical
supervision, the supervisor has a direct impact on the development of the skills of their
staff and hence, an indirect impact on the potential client outcomes. (Trotter, 2002)

The Supervisor’s Role as a Mentor
This role models what we expect of workers in their behaviour with clients in a
collaborative approach. As such the supervisor should make a genuine effort to meet
staff at their level of worker development and through their respective learning styles and
where they are day to day in their hierarchy of needs etc. This is very much the practical
application of the skills taught presently in Module Three of the OACAS Manager
Training. This approach will enhance the workers’ abilities to do the same with the
parents and children. It will also assist them in their hopes and dreams for their career
development; staying on top of best practices as outlined in this Position Paper and
ultimately help them manage the changes that are about to occur under Child Welfare

The Supervisor’s Role as a Supporter
This role involves the ability to show the worker a caring about the work that is done and
pay attention to both the efforts and results. It is accomplished by giving concrete,
structured direction only when it is necessary. It is also demonstrated by the supervisor’s
willingness to pitch in with the rest of the unit when there is an overload situation. It can

also involve de-Briefing with the worker or unit when there is a tragedy on a case, or
even a new or particularly difficult apprehension. Supportive supervisors attend to
worker’s well being and by doing so help both themselves and their staff to build

The Supervisor’s Role as a Clinician
In this role the supervisor is aware of parallel processes such as the ones which have been
mentioned below. She is aware of various treatment modalities such as the ones which
have been outlined in this Position Paper, and they can be a link for workers to others
with specific clinical expertise. The Supervisor’s own transparent approach to clinical
development can also play a positive role modeling for their workers professional

Additional Topics requiring further discourse and training to enable effective
collaborative supervision:
Training is required to show supervisors how to build their own resilience to the
pressures and challenges of their position and then model this to their staff.

Parallel Processes
The influence of the supervisory relationship on the worker’s approach to clients has
been well documented (Holloway 1997; Kahn, 1979 & Raichelson et al. 1997). The
supervisor has a key role in promoting the (e.g. servant leadership) agency culture with
front line staff so that it filters down to worker-client relationships. Supervisors have
positional, coercive, reward, referent and expert power in the relationship they offer the
worker (Kadushin, 1994). They have the opportunity to choose ‘power with the worker’
or ‘power over the worker’. We can hypothesize that a worker’s experience of power in
the supervisory relationship may influence their use of power in the client relationship.

The supervisor emulates basic standards of practice by first and foremost joining with
and beginning at the supervisee’s level, while incrementally advancing the staff through
the layers of autonomy and competent practice. Munson (2002) observes that the
dynamics of power and authority are often ignored or overlooked in the supervisors’
relationship with staff. A supervisor who acknowledges the issue of power and shares
power prepares a worker to consider and address this issue in the client relationship.

Williams suggests focusing on the “supervisee state” in terms of their experience, their
clinical qualifications, their ‘Maslow’ needs, learning styles, and the worker’s interaction
styles. All these actions promote and parallel the ‘servant leadership’ notion outlined in
the Paper section on agency culture (Section Two). This process models an approach that
workers could use effectively in working with their families (Williams 1999).

Supervisors should also focus on ‘activating’ the workers strengths-oriented self-concept
so that they can also take that approach out to the client. For example, they should start
supervision each time with a discussion of successes rather than problems. As such when

dealing with problems, they should also review past coping successes to see what
possible interventions might be brought forward to this case (and also subtly reminds of
difficult hurdles overcome previously). Beginning where the client is means focusing
less on the client’s problems and more on what he or she is doing about it”. (Cohen, page

Attunement Parallel
Just as Bowlby identified that a parent must attune to the needs of their infant to ensure
secure attachment, the foundation of healthy human relationships, there may be a parallel
process between parent and worker and also worker to supervisor. Dr. Diane Benoit in
her work on attachment clarifies that the concept of behaviour that relates to Attachment
can only occur when infants are ill, injured or in some kind of pain or significant
discomfort or distress. In the parent-infant dyad when the infant is crying and in distress,
the parent must try to comprehend or attune to what their infant is thinking, feeling,
needing and then, consistently respond to meet the need to close the loop for secure
attachment to occur. At that moment of truth, the behaviour of the parent to comfort or
soothe the infant creates attachment. Attachment does not occur during fun time, play or
cuddling when the baby is content – that is essentially good parenting but it does not refer
to Attachment as identified in literature. If the parent focuses for instance on their own
tiredness when the infant is in distress, while a natural human response when you have
been up for 18 hours, it does not bode well for the developing infant’s capacity to attach
if it happens on a regular basis. The parent who can rise above their own needs and
issues and attune to their infant in a relatively consistent manner (the ‘good enough’
parent), the infant will most likely develop a secure attachment.

In the worker parent dyad, a related process may be at work. If the worker can rise above
their own work pressures and demands and attune to the parent – meeting them at their
level, then there is an opportunity to potentially forge a trusting relationship. When a
parent’s homeostasis is disrupted, crisis theory indicates there is a window of opportunity
for change. Crisis theory would likely suggest that when a parent is in crisis, hurting,
terrified etc. the support they get at that time would promote a bond to those who helped
them work through the problem. If we miss that window, the opportunity to facilitate
long-standing or real change in the relationship may be compromised until the next crisis

Could an analogous process take place in the worker/ supervisor relationship? Our
workers deal with clients who are chronically in crisis and emotional pain. The issue of
‘compassion fatigue’ and the fear of not keeping up with demands of the job are evident
from time to time with even our most competent staff. If a worker is feeling unsafe,
insecure or somehow in emotional pain or discomfort and the agency and/or supervisor
ignores that state, the opportunity to forge a stronger relationship and model collaborative
work may be lost.

                          Figure 12: Crisis Window for Change

                                  Crisis Window for Change
                                            ~ 21 Days                                iou
                                          Window                      Fu
                     Patterned             for            w,
                     Behaviours                         Ne
                                                             Same Old/Same Old

                                            ~ 21 Days

                                      Rocci Pagnello 2005

This opportunity likely exists frequently in the stressful demands of the work in child
welfare. For example, de-briefing after a new or stressful experience or particularly
difficult apprehension. If we react in a way that shows we are trying to alleviate that
pain, distress or discomfort of the worker, there is an opportunity to have created a more
collaborative relationship after the crisis is gone. This concept requires much further
exploration, however, it does seem to have some potential to influence the way we
respond as agencies in the overall supportive role of the supervisor, Human Resources
and agency expectations of staff.

Building Covey’s Quadrant 2 Focus

                   Figure 13a: Building Covey’s Quadrant 2 Focus

                       Stephen Covey’s TIME (or Self) MANAGEMENT
                  Understanding the difference between what is important & what is urgent and the
                  following four quadrants can be a powerful tool in your time management. Urgent
                  things are the things that are in your face screaming, It must be done now!
                  Important things relate to quality work and quality of life issues that are not
                  necessarily urgent, but are probably more important in getting control of your life
                  and work and relates more to your vision and goals. Quadrant 1 is the urgent and
                  important quadrant that we need to spend time in to be effective. These relate to
                  our crisis response of the things we must do now. Quadrant 2 is where we spend
                  little time but need to spend more. This is where we plan, prevent problems and
                  empower our self and others. Ignore these things, and we get more crisis to
                  respond to un quadrant 1. Build it, and we spend more time in control, balanced and
                  able to have a balanced schedule and perspective. Quadrant 3 is the urgent, but
                  not important quadrant. Things that are in your face so we spend time with them
                  when really if we assessed their importance to our work or life goals, they do not
                  warrant the time we spend. Quadrant 4 is the wasted quadrant where we
                  sometimes retreat because we are so burned out from doing too much in quadrant 1
                  & 3. Therefore, spending more time in Quadrant 2 can help us achieve balance,
                  vision and to meet our personal and professional goals.

                                   URGENT                           NOT URGENT
                      I    CRISES                       1       PREVENTION                       2
                      M    PRESSING PROBLEMS                    RELATIONSHIP BUILDING
                      P    DEADLINE – DRIVEN                    NEW OPPORTUNITIES
                      O    COURT WORK                           PLANNING, RECREATION
                      R    Time spent here leads to… Time spent here leads to…
                      T    STRESS                               VISION, PERSPECTIVE
                      A    BURNOUT                              BALANCE
                           CRISIS MANAGEMENT                    DISCIPLINE
                           PUTTING OUT FIRES                    CONTROL, FEW CRISIS
                           INTERRUPTIONS                3       TRIVIA/ BUSY WORK                  4
                    I      SOME MTGS./REPORTS                   JUNK MAIL/SOME CALLS
                    M      POPULAR ACTIVITIES                   TIME WASTERS
                    P      CLOSE, PRESSING ISSUES               ESCAPE ACTIVITIES
                    O      Time spent here leads to… Time spent here leads to…
                    R      SHORT-TERM FOCUS/ PLANS              IRRESPONSIBILITIY
                    T      CRISIS MNGMT. FEW GOALS              FIRED FROM JOBS
                    A      OUT OF CONTROL/VICTIM                PROCRASTINATION
                    N      RELATIONSHIPS SHALLOW                DEPENDENCY

                                                Rocci Pagnello 2005

Quadrant 2 (not urgent but important) is about planning, relationship building, and re-
creating. More activity in this quadrant moves the worker away from ‘putting out the
fires’ work that makes up Quadrant 1 (Urgent + Important) and towards more time spent
in this more effective quadrant.

Front-line staff need help to do this. Supervisors need to have them recognize that time
away from direct client service is time lost to relationship building with them. For the
supervisor much of the task to accomplish this is involved in looking at internal
administrative or bureaucratic structures that create barriers for more direct time with

              Figure 17b: Estimating Risk to a Child
          Estimating Risk to a Child - Urgency Does Not
            Necessarily Equate with the Level of Risk

In Assessing Risk, it is critical that we do not fall into the trap believing that crisis
or urgency in a case equates to the level of long-term risk to a child. Adapting
Seven Covey’s time management analysis to Risk Assessment, we see that
Quadrant 1 refers to the urgent and important cases i.e.......... the crisis case
where it is clear a child may not be safe NOW. These are the cases that get our
immediate, undivided attention and usually an extremely thorough and
comprehensive investigation and assessment of risk. These include referrals on
children with broken bones as a result of abuse; a child sexually abused with
medical evidence etc... The field of Child Welfare generally does an excellent job
with these cases that require an immediate response.
Quadrant 2 refers to those cases that do not require an urgent response, but
over time, can pose just as much risk to a child. These are the kinds of cases that
have been high-lighted in the media and through some of the child welfare inquests.
The danger here is that if we equate the urgency of response to the level of risk,
we may not respond as thoroughly as the risk factors or situation warrants. These
cases include situations of chronic but serious neglect, lack of supervision of a
young child etc... These are the cases that we must continually and rigorously
assess and plan our interventions.
Quadrant 3 includes those cases that are urgent but are not high risk of serious
harm or death. There is usually a push from the community and referral sources to
do something NOW and expend a lot of our scarce resources on these cases which
might include things like parent child conflict; severe acting out behaviours of
children; children being dramatically disruptive in the school or community etc...........
Because of the urgency involved and the high profile nature of the case, there is a
pressure for us to respond quickly and intrusively even though the child may not be
at risk.
Quadrant 4 cases refer to the nice to do cases - they are the cases that we
would all like to service as clinicians as there is a real potential to engage the client
and help them make some significant gains in their own personal development. The
pull here then is to spend more time and resources on these cases involving for
example family counselling and helping parents work through their own issues so
that they can enhance their capacity to parent. While someone needs to fulfill this
important role, if it takes our attention away from Quadrant 2 activities of
assessing, preventing or treating high risk of serious harm cases, we may not fulfill
our mandate for those children in life-threatening or precarious situations.

  Expected Outcomes: spending more time on Quadrant II
     cases, & there may be fewer Quadrant I cases.

                                            Rocci Pagnello 2005

Over-Identification, Boundaries & Transference issues
As we encourage a more collaborative approach, we are moving staff to engage more
fully with clients. The question then arises as to how we supervise workers around
setting appropriate boundaries. What tools can we give them to set the parameters in
building a healthy, helping professional relationship? How also do we then prepare
supervisors and staff to recognize signs of over-identification? This is a problem that has
to be prevented in the first place, or when it has occurred, how can the supervisor help the
worker through the blurred boundaries in order to bring him or her back to mission,
vision and the paramouncy of child safety.

Some of the issues around this clinical issue include the risks of over-identifying with the
parent or the child or perhaps anger at the parent for what they have done or are doing to
the child. There is also the problem of a worker inappropriately disclosing personal
experiences that are not of specific benefit to the client. Another possible transference
issue surrounds potential rejection of the worker by client. Not all workers understand
that it may be the result of the client’s reactivation to previous cycles of rejection that
they have experienced from their own parents or from other failures such as those
experienced in a previous school setting.

Motivation, Maslow, and Client Engagement
Maslow’s perspective on motivation can be very helpful in gauging where a parent is at
and hence, how we need to intervene to assist them in moving up the hierarchy of needs.
In that respect, Module Three of the OACAS Management Training needs to enhance its
use and interpretation of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Reviewing staff concerns from
this point of view can also help supervisors gauge where staff are at in terms of their
current readiness to develop more collaborative relationships. For instance, if a worker’s
concerns or complaints are centered on job security and physical safety, they are likely
not at level that is required for incorporating a commitment to collaborative relationship
building. Maslow postulates that human beings always seek to improve on life,
therefore, we will always have concerns or complaints – it is just that these complaints
occur at different levels. We should not expect that people complain, but rather delight
when those complaints reveal they are operating at a higher level of unmet need. The
role of the leader is to help their people move up the hierarchy to levels that enhance the
agency’s capacity to collaborate and create the opportunity for positive change. (Maslow
et al 1998 page 266)

               Figure 14: Motivation, Maslow, and Client Engagement

                                     Rocci Pagnello 2005

Questions that Promote Collaborative Practice
One of the best ways supervisors can encourage social workers to respect, listen to, and
involve family members is by exhibiting these attitudes in their discussions with workers
about specific families. The following questions, which employ elements of scaling and
strengths-based techniques, ask the supervisor to adopt a “not knowing” stance that will
encourage workers to come up with their own family-centered solutions (Alderson &
Jarvis, 2003).

       How can we reunify the family and build a safety net for the child?
       If you were _____________(birth father, foster parents, etc.), what would you
       want to see happen?
       Describe a resolution in which everyone wins.
       What has happened so far on this case?
       What information are we missing?
       On a scale of 1 to 10, how ready is mom to parent?
       What are the birth mother’s strengths?
       How can we build on her strengths?
       What would it take for dad to show he’s overcome his substance abuse problem?
       How willing are the birth family and the foster parents to participate in a child and
       family team meeting?
       What would such a meeting look like?
       How can I help you bring together the team?
       How can we help the child feel more connected to both the birth family and the
       foster parents?
       How do you (as worker) see your role in helping this plan come together?
       How do you think others (the grandmother, the mother, other agencies, the court)
       see as their roles?

       Always ask yourself: “Is this how I would want to be treated if this was
       happening to me?” This question will help you assess your interactions with
       families and with workers you supervise. (Alderson and Jarvis, 2003)

Survey of Supervisor’s in the field - Possible Questions for Supervisor’s Focus groups
Another set of questions that may aid supervisors to make the transition to a greater
collaborative point may be for them to self-reflect on what their values are and why they
entered the profession of child welfare. These Questions drafted for Supervisory Focus
Groups are simply examples to use, edit or ignore should you choose to survey
supervisors about the hopes and fears of supervisors and the meaning of their work.

       What brought you to the field of Child Welfare in the first place?
       What were your hopes & dreams when you first got promoted to the role of a
       What were your biggest fears?
       What keeps you in the field?
       What approaches do you use in supervision that helps you engage your staff?
       What works for you in various situations (crisis consultation)?
       Do you approach new workers and experienced workers in the same way?
       What would your workers say you do really well in supervision?
       What was the most important thing you learned from a supervisor when you were
       on the front-line?
       What do you think about the following: Supervision should focus on supervising
       the worker; not the work?
       How do you manage up i.e. how do you interact with the person who you report
       to in your agency?
       What advice would you give to a new supervisor just starting out?
       What is the best question(s) you use in supervision to lead or focus your staff?
        How do you know when your supervision is having a positive impact on clients?
       What do you feel are the most salient factors that create or increase
       disillusionment in our workers?
       What are the most dominant or frustrating barriers for you in being a supervisor?
       What could the agency do to enable you to provide the kind of supervision you
       want to provide?
       If you were to write your career epitaph or eulogy – what would it be? OR What
       would you want the field or your colleagues to say about you as child welfare
       professional if you happen to leave the field?
       Write the going away speech you would like to hear from your colleagues and
       Do you have any other comments?

With all of the above discussion on clinical supervision, the field must not lose sight of
the significant role of the instrumental needs of staff and supervisors. The most crucial of
these is the precious and expensive commodity of time. With a heavy workload and all
the urgent and important demands on staff time, the pressure on workers and supervisors

to be all things to all parents and children can sometimes mean all the best intentions
around relationship building does not make the priority list.

Just as workers should not forget the immense value in some practical or instrumental
assistance to parents and how that plays a role in relationship building – (summer camps,
drives, clothing, advocating for services etc.), the field and funders should not forget the
reality of the instrumental needs of the worker to spend time with the parents and the
supervisor to spend clinical time with the workers.


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In order to understand what children in care needed from their workers, four youth who
were in care presented to the Project Committee. They were lead by Judy Finlay the
Child Advocate for Ontario. These note provided the impetus for some of the
recommendations at the end of Section 2 of the Project Position Paper. Other published
papers from the Office of Child and Family Advocacy present the importance of the
worker in the life of a child in care. These have been quoted from extensively in the
body of the report. T

he Project Committee felt that it was important for the readers to see how these concepts
were supported by the comments from the four youth in care who presented. In some
instances their statements have been structured slightly for additional clarity while not
changing the meaning or intent. The comments are presented below. A Youth
Coordinator from the Advocacy Office provided the questions to the children who would
then respond individually to each question.

What has been your experience with the worker you had?
“My first worker was all right. Nice. Felt comfortable. The second worker…she did not
care. I would speak to her once a month. No communication. I would run wild. I was
14 years old. I have five charges. I did not have anybody so I did as I pleased. 3rd
worker – close - I talked to her. She showed me that she cared – it helps.”

 “I had four workers. The first worker just made me feel comfortable – gave me money
for clothes. I wanted to get more freedom. In my home I was a prisoner. My worker
now has helped me through rough times. Encouraged me to get going. Supportive
words. Helped me get my own place that is safe.”

“In my experience I had the same worker for ten years. I rebelled. I did not want to
listen. Rules in place were hard. I realize that I am grateful to her. The worker here is
different from the one in Ottawa – just there. Staff at the group home helped. Got me
back to Toronto. The worker that I have now is nice…she talks to me. The other acts
like she cares but she doesn’t. She did take me to the doctor”.

What are qualities of good workers?
“Actually listen. Never judge. Supportive.”

“Help me with independence. Provide enough resources for me to live on my own.
Learning to cook. PARK (a drop in program for older teens) they help you to find a job.
Talk to other children in care. Open a bank account.”

“My worker was very consistent. She never gave up on me. If I had to yell and scream
she would just let me. No judging.”

“I would have a problem and the staff from the Group Home would call. She took the
time to call me and speak to me and ask me what happened. She would say “how can I
make this better for you?” She wanted me to be happy and feel comfortable. It is the
way you approach me.”

Took me to doctor appointments. She would meet me…be there for me. She was really
nice. Wants me to succeed.

What qualities did you not like?
“Read my Position Paper (file) and have an assumption about you. I have to act out for
you to show me that you care and give me attention.”

“Talk to me and don’t make up your mind already.”

“I ran my plan of care. I wanted to be involved. I wanted to take on the responsibility.”

“I think that my worker should have checked out the places to live herself – it was not a
very safe setting.”

“I felt that my worker was trying to help me back from my family. At support visits you
just want to be with your mom alone. It is awkward when the worker is listening – it is
very difficult. At the time it was hard. I realize that now. She put a lot “by the book”.

“They did not call us to see how we are. They only call if they need something signed or
if the group home called.”

“I lost all of my identification. She knew she was transferring and said she had looked
after it. When I got my new worker I found out she had lied and did not do it.”

What would you like the worker to do?
“I came from a different environment – in care for different reasons. We always blame
ourselves for being in care. I felt like it was my fault. My worker doesn’t care how I
feel. Show us you care.”

“Sometimes we just want attention. Hear what we have to say. Not be held back. Now I
talk to her. She wants to know if I am okay. It surprised me that she cared about me.
Not just a file number – this worker was not like us.”

“When my worker retired, I was scared. Before she retired she made sure that I was
okay. Also, set up with PARK. Another worker was there. School was set up. Workers
should set up systems for financial support. Have a savings account when you are young.
Help us find a job for the summer. She could help with the resume or reference.”

“How do you prepare for independence with your worker? Foster mother showed me
basic stuff including how to cook; to clean; how to save also. She showed me how to

open a savings account that we cannot touch until we are 18 – (another girl spoke up and
said 21).”

“They (the workers) teach you in a group home. You need financial support and goals
and stability. Living somewhere stable. You need goals for the future. You need

“You need independence… yes and caring too. Worker could help with the budget. My
friend will spend her money on clothes, rent, drugs and liquor. A worker should show a
healthy food plan – grocery list.”

“My worker splits my cheque $400. to pay for rent and then another amount for food and
other things on a different day. I can budget easier.”

Was there a cultural role with the worker?
“I was with a white family – they have different food – what is this? I do not think that
race has anything to do with it. You can be the same no matter what race.”

“Not for me – there are two different cultures in my background – my mother is Hindi
and my father is Christian. I do not go to church. Being forced to go to church is not
good. Everyone has their different ways.”

“I was in a foster home for five years. I was with a white family. I am black and white.
I never knew the black side of my family. They were racist. Tried to turn me against the
other part of me. I look white but I have a real ‘Afro’…. they shaved my head. I could
not have friends that were black. They blamed all rape on black people and also
robberies. They said God is white – God is what you believe in your heart. No colour. It
was hard for me.”

“No problem in mine. They had rules in the group home. No making fun of anyone. My
mom is racist to black people. All of my area was multi-cultural. My mom walks to my
school and spies on me. I would have to move away from my friends – tell them they
don’t know me. I was friends with everyone in the group home.”

“When I was in Ottawa everyone was white. They were racist. That year I never went to
school because it was hard. I lost a year of my education because of these people making
fun of me.”

Questions from the floor:
What do you have to feel in order to talk to your worker about something painful?
“I am really open – she has helped me. I am depressed and I didn’t know. You need to
let it out. It took awhile to trust her. My worker knew when I was ready to talk to her.
She just listened. Gave me the time to talk. I found out I have depression.”

What advice would you give to a 14-year-old coming into care for the first time?

“Take it easy – the CAS is not a bad thing. It is the best thing to help you at home. Do
not sweat the small stuff.”

“It is not going to be easy. You will have freedom.”

“When I first came into care my worker was not there. I did not trust anyone. I did not
tell them anything. “Speaks” helped.”

“I didn’t want my worker to freak out.”

“It is good to make the child feel welcome. Many kids need to get clothes. I was not
forced to wear something. I could pick out my own.”

New workers – How can they get that?
“Don’t judge. We act out. Get to know me. I am not a file.”

“When I first came into the group home, I was told by another that you walk in sane and
then you walk out insane. They smoke weed. Some girls (in the group home) want to
run everyone and they take their anger out on everyone.”

The worker could let a child know that I have been in that position before too. I had
trouble in school and she encouraged me.”

“Sometimes the workers are all mighty. Be ordinary people.”

“The Group Home staff should pay attention to children in care who are depressed. I was
in a room with a ‘cutter’. I did not want to see that. I wanted to try it then. That did not
teach me the right way. She should be in a room closer to staff or separate group homes.”

“My worker made me feel important and she said she was proud of me.”

“How do you let people know that the worker is supposed to listen to me? Lot of times
there is conflict. You feel that the worker is pushy. Ways to make the youth feel more in


*This is presented in the appendix of the paper in order to reinforce to readers that
thousands of CAS employees who use the title ‘social worker’ or who may believe in the
professions ethics, are bound to them. For those who are members of the Ontario College
of Social Workers and Social Service Workers, they are also legally bound to honour its
code of ethics or phase sanction.

A.      The Codes of Ethics of the Ontario Association of Social Workers and the
        Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers
The OASW has adopted the Canadian Association of Social Workers' Social Work Code
of Ethics (1994). OASW members agree to uphold and abide by the Code of Ethics
Philosophy. It maintains the following:

The profession of social work is founded on humanitarian and egalitarian ideals. Social
workers believe in the intrinsic worth and dignity of every human being and are
committed to the values of acceptance, self-determination and respect of individuality.
They believe in the obligation of all people, individually and collectively, to provide
resources, services and opportunities for the overall benefit of humanity. The culture of
individuals, families, groups, communities and nations has to be respected without

Social workers are dedicated to the welfare and self-realization of human beings; to the
development and disciplined use of scientific knowledge regarding human and societal
behaviours; to the development of resources to meet individual, group, national and
international needs and aspirations; and to the achievement of social justice for all.

Ethical Duties and Obligations
1.      A social worker shall maintain the best interest of the client as the primary
professional obligation.

2.      A social worker shall carry out her or his professional duties and obligations with
integrity and objectivity.

3.     A social worker shall have and maintain competence in the provision of social
work services to a client.

4.      A social worker shall not exploit the relationship with a client for personal
benefit, gain or gratification.

5.      A social worker shall protect the confidentiality of all information acquired from
the client or others regarding the client and the client's family during the professional
relationship unless
a)      The client authorizes in writing the release of specified information,
b)      The information is released under the authority of a statute or an order of a court

       of competent jurisdiction, or
c)     Otherwise authorized by this Code

6.      A social worker who engages in another profession, occupation, affiliation or
calling shall not allow these outside interests to affect the social work relationship with
the client.

7.      A social worker in private practice shall not conduct the business of provision of
social work services for a fee in a manner that discredits the profession or diminishes the
public's trust in the profession.

Ethical Responsibilities

8.      A social worker shall advocate for workplace conditions and policies that are
consistent with the Code.

9.     A social worker shall promote excellence in the social work profession.

10     A social worker shall advocate change
a)     In the best interest of the client, and
b)     Or the overall benefit of society, the environment and the global community.

B.     Social Work and Social Service Work Act, 1998.
Social workers and social service workers are recognized and held accountable through
the Social Work and Social Service Work Act, 1998. This Act was fully proclaimed on
August 15, 2000.

Anyone who uses the title "social worker," "registered social worker," "social service
worker," and "registered social service worker" in Ontario must be a member of the
Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers. (from the Ministry

The province of Ontario fully proclaimed the Social Work and Social Service Work Act,
1998 on August 15, 2000. College membership is required for any person in Ontario
who wishes to use the title social worker or social service worker and/or registered social
worker or registered social service worker. College membership is required if a person
represents or holds out expressly or by implication that he or she is a social worker or a
social service worker or a registered social worker or a registered social service worker.
The College is accountable to the Ministry of Community, Family and Children’s

Regulation of the profession of social work in Ontario defines its practice and the
boundaries within which it operates.

Although it brings accountability, regulation also brings credibility to the profession.
Practitioners of a regulated profession are subject to a code of ethics and to standards of

Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers Code of Ethics:
A social worker or social service worker shall maintain the best interest of the client as
the primary professional obligation;

A social worker or social service worker shall respect the intrinsic worth of the persons
she or he serves in her or his professional relationships with them;

A social worker or social service worker shall carry out her or his professional duties and
obligations with integrity and objectivity;

A social worker or social service worker shall have and maintain competence in the
provision of a social work or social service work service to a client;

A social worker or social service worker shall not exploit the relationship with a client for
personal benefit, gain or gratification;

A social worker or social service worker shall protect the confidentiality of all
professionally acquired information. He or she shall disclose such information only when
required or allowed by law to do so, or when clients have consented to disclosure;

A social worker or social service worker who engages in another profession, occupation,
affiliation or calling shall not allow these outside interests to affect the social work or
social service work relationship with the client;

A social worker or social service worker shall not provide social work or social service
work services in a manner that discredits the professional of social work or social service
work or diminishes the public’s trust in either profession.

A social worker or social service worker shall advocate for workplace conditions and
policies that are consistent with this Code of Ethics and the Standards of Practice of the
Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers;

A social worker or social service worker shall promote excellence in his or her respective

A social worker or social service worker shall advocate change in the best interest of the
client, and for the overall benefit of society, the environment and the global community.

C.      The Relationship with Clients as Reinforced by the Ontario College of Social
        Workers and Social Service Workers

Principle I
The social work relationship and the social service work relationship, as a component of
professional service, are each a mutual endeavour between active participants in
providing and using social work or social service work expertise, as the case may be.
Clients and College members jointly address relevant social and/or personal problems of
concern to clients. The foundation of this professional orientation is the belief that clients have the
right and capacity to determine and achieve their goals and objectives. The social work
relationship and the social service work relationship are each grounded in and draw upon theories
of the social sciences and social work or social service work practice, as the case may be.

Clients and client systems with whom College members are involved include individuals, couples,
families, groups, communities, organizations and government. The following fundamental
practice principles arise from basic professional values. College members adhere to these
principles in their relationships with clients.

1.1     College members and clients participate together in setting and evaluating goals.
A purpose for the relationship between College members and clients is identified..
1.2     Goals for relationships between College members and clients include the
enhancement of clients' functioning and the strengthening of the capacity of clients to
adapt and make changes.
1.2     College members observe, clarify and inquire about information presented to
them by clients.
1.3     College members respect and facilitate self-determination in a number of ways
including acting as resources for clients and encouraging them to decide which problems they
want to address as well as how to address them. 1
1.4     Although not compelled to accept clients' interpretation of problems, College
members demonstrate acceptance of each client's uniqueness.
1.5     College members are aware of their values, attitudes and needs and how these
impact on their professional relationships with clients.
1.6     College members distinguish their needs and interests from those of their clients
to ensure that, within professional relationships, clients' needs and interests remain
College members employed by organizations maintain an awareness and consideration of the
purpose, mandate and function of those organizations and how these impact on and limit
professional relationships with clients.

1. Limitations to self-determination may arise from the client's incapacity for positive
and constructive decision-making, from civil law and from agency mandate and function.


                       BY ANDREW TURNELL, MA, BSWK
                (Reprinted with the direct permission of the author)

Andrew Turnell is an Independent Social Worker and Child Protection Consultant from Perth,

Constructive relationships between professionals and family members - and between
professionals themselves - are the heart and soul of effective child protection practice. A
significant body of thinking and research tells that best outcomes for vulnerable children
arise when constructive relationships exist in both these arenas (see Cashmore, 2002;
Department of Health, 1995; MacKinnon, 1998; Reder, Duncan & Grey, 1993; Trotter, 2002;
Walsh, 1998) Yet, relationships are a contentious issue in child protection practice (The
article follows the English convention of using the term partnership for the relationships
between service recipients and professionals working with them, and the term collaboration
for the relationships between professionals themselves)

Examining Partnership and Collaboration
A very senior child protection policy advisor presenting at an international conference once
stated, "Partnership doesn't work!" The policy advisor went on to describe several Case
examples in which she believed practitioners, in their attempts to build good relationships
with parents and in the name of working in partnership, had left children in highly
dangerous situations. This advisor seemed to want to erase the notion of partnership from
the child protection lexicon. Her vehemence might have been somewhat unique, but her
basic concern is frequently expressed by many academics, managers, policy makers, and
front-line practitioners The literature also relates this concern, describing relationships with
family members in which professionals overlook serious maltreatment concerns as "naive"
(Dingwall et al 1983) or "dangerous" (Dale et al, 1986)

While the concern about a relationship focus in child protection practice usually centers on
working with parents, relationships between professionals themselves can also be
problematic At the extreme, examples of poorly functioning professional relationships are
frequently highlighted in child death inquiries Child death Position Papers often describe
scenarios in which a child has experienced a pattern of increasingly severe injuries or
neglect within a family in contact with many professionals Each professional usually holds
only a partial picture of the situation, and when the professionals do not share their
knowledge with each other, the child is placed at greater risk It is not until the child dies
that the review team, by bilking to all the professionals, puts together a more complete
picture Frequently, the professionals say they were worried about the child; however, they
believed one of their colleagues would ensure the child was at least minimally safe. Meta-
analyses of child death inquiries such as Department of Health, 2002; Munro, 1996 and 1998;
Hill, 1990; Reder, Duncan & Grey, 1993 suggest that poorly functioning professional

relationships of this sort are as concerning as any situation in which a worker overlooks or
minimizes abusive behavior in an endeavor to maintain a relationship with a parent.

Some of the problems that typically befall child protection relationships ate raised here not
to dismiss the notions of partnership and collaboration, but to set the scene for a careful
examination of what constructive child protection relationships might look like Locating
relationships at the heart of the child protection endeavor is neither problematic or naive,
although written accounts of how child protection relationships should function often
display both these attributes (Healy, 1998 & 2000; Morrison, 1995). Too often, proponents
of relationship-grounded child protection practice have articulated visions of partnership
and collaboration that have been overly simplistic To be meaningful, it is crucial that child
protection relationships are framed in grounded ways that reflect the typically "messy"
experience of workers, parents, children, and other professionals who are doing the difficult
business of relating to each other in contested child protection contexts.

Part of the problem of framing relationships in a meaningful manner is that thinking and
theorizing about partnership and collaboration are usually undertaken by academics and
policymakers who are often very distant from she day-to-day specificities of child protection
work The people who know most about building relationships in child protection practice
typically are the service deliverers and service recipients Over the past 10 years, the voices
of parents and children on the receiving end have been increasingly heard through careful
research (see Butler & Williamson, 1994; Cashmore, 2002; Gilligan, 2000; Farmer & Owen,
1995; Farmer & Pollock, 1998; McCullum, 1995; MacKinnon 1998; Thoburn, Lewis &
Shemmings, 1995; Westcott, 1995; Westcott & Davies, 1996) and also through the work of
activist and self-help organizations representing service recipients e.g. Family Rights
Group, 1990. This body of work stands as an important resource for framing constructive
relationships from the perspectives of children and patents involved with child protection

There is, however, no equivalent body of inquiry regarding the perspectives of front-line
practitioners Child protection workers primarily receive attention when their practice is seen
to be problematic and, therefore, their knowledge and experiences of what works well are
usually undervalued or ignored. The most notable exceptions to this assertion exist in the
form of ethnographies prepared by practitioners themselves (see Crawford, 1994; de
Montigny, 1995; McMahon, 1993). It is vital that researchers and policymakers work more
closely with service deliverers and service recipients to better frame grounded and
meaningful child protection relationships.

Child protection workers do in fact build constructive relationships with some of the
"hardest" families - in the busiest child protection offices and in the poorest locations,
everywhere in the world This is not to say that oppressive child protection practices do not
happen, or that sometimes they are even the norm. However, worker-defined, good practice
with difficult Cases is an invaluable and almost entirely overlooked resource for improving

child protection services and conceiving what constructive child protection relationships
might look like.

In 1996, Murray Ryburn suggested that partnership is "an idea still in search of a practice"
(p. 16). While there certainly are child protection models that locate partnership and
collaboration at the core of practice (see Berg & Kelly, 2000; Department of Human
Services, 1997a & b; Keys, 1996; McCullum, 1995; Morris & Tunnard, 1996; Scott & O'Neill,
1996; Turnell & Edwards, 1997 & 1999), there is a very real sense in which the idea of
partnership and collaboration must be reinvented and certainly reanimated in every new
Case Rather like a marriage, partners can read many books about She subject but ultimately,
the marriage relationship has to be lived on a day-to-day basis in like manner, in every
situation of substantiated or alleged child maltreatment, relationships with family members
and between professionals need to be created afresh or refocused and reenergized in the
attempt to build sufficient safety for the children in question

The following Case study is a good demonstration of building constructive relationships in a
difficult child protection situation and was prepared by the author jointly with the
Caseworker and family.

Case Example
This Case involved a North African family of Zeinab (the mother), Asha (the 14-year-old
daughter), and Dawood (the 10-year-old son) Olmsted County Child & Family Services
(OCCFS) and the county police became involved with this family when Asha disclosed to a
school counselor that her mother had assaulted her with an electrical cord leaving bruises
on her shoulders and back. Both the mother and the children explained that Zeinab had
assaulted Asha to punish her for being out almost all night with a group of young men,
including two in their early 20s who were reputed drug dealers. The situation was further
complicated by the discovery that this family had previous child protection involvement in
another county. That county's Position Papers revealed that when Dawood was four, Zeinab
had poured boiling water on Dawood's genitals as punishment for soiling
At (hat time, both children were placed in care for 10 months.

Based on the past information and given the current incident, both children were removed
into foster care and four assault charges were laid against Zeinab Due to the severity of the
assault, She previous incident involving Dawood, and the opinions of professionals from the
other county, the investigating social worker and the cowl-appointed guardian ad litem
formed the view that the children should be permanently removed from Zeinab's care

Author's note: Over the past 12 years of creating and evolving the signs of safely approach with Steve Edwards, it has
been a fundamental practice for me to elicit worker’s self-defined examples of good practice with ‘difficult’ Cases.
More recently, I have begun to take the workers’ stories of what they view to be good practice and interviewing parents
to compare and enrich the perspectives and insights (see Boffa, Parton, & Turnell, forthcoming; Turnell & Edwards,
1999, pp 148-154; Teoh, Laffer, Parton & Turnell, 2003). This is a powerful process for generating rich descriptions of
constructive child protection relationships.

With the investigation complete and the children placed in care, the Case was handed to the
OCCFS long-term team Social worker Cindy Finch was given the Case before meeting the
family, Cindy and her supervisor Sue Lohrbach, with input from a cultural advisor, prepared
carefully for how Cindy would build relationships with Zeinab and the children, As a result,
and after introducing herself, Cindy asked Zeinab, "What needed to happen so that they
could create a relationship where they could discuss and deal with the very difficult matters
that had occurred?" Having been given the opportunity to guide how they began their
relationship, Zeinab asked Cindy to come to her home to share a meal and also meet with
the spiritual leader of her community On the same day she met Zeinab, Cindy also met
individually with Asha and Dawood to look particularly at what they wanted Zeinab and the
children wanted to get together, but since Asha and Dawood felt their mother might be angry
with them, Cindy supervised the initial contacts All parties requested more contacts promptly
and Cindy worked with the children to explore simple safety plans that would enable them to
feel comfortable. Cindy made sure Zeinab understood what she had negotiated with the
children Ail these things occurred within the first two weeks of Cindy's involvement and
demonstrated well some of the careful efforts Cindy made to build constructive relationships
based as much as possible on Zeitrab, Asha, and Dawood's priorities and perspectives

The careful relationship building that Cindy undertook laid a foundation for addressing the
tensions and issues that had given rise to assault. At one point, Cindy asked Zeinab if she
really knew how serious things were in regard to the charges and what might happen before
the court. Zeinab became quiet for a time and then said she didn't really understand what
had happened since her mother had hit her more severely and frequently then Zeinab had hit
Asha Zeinab emphasized that despise this she still loved and respected her mother and that
this was the way it had always worked in her country

Cindy also continued to spend time with both Asha and Dawood and allowed them to choose
when and where they met and to end conversations if they felt uncomfortable. At the same
time, Cindy was always clear with Asha and Dawood that no issue would be ignored In this
way, Cindy was able to talk to Asha and Dawood about die fact that at times they felt seated
of their mother, that Asha was angry with her mother for wanting to control so much of her
life, and that Zeinab's mother had organized an arranged marriage for Asha Cindy negotiated
with Asha and Dawood ways to then talk and resolve all these issues together with Zeinab.

From the outset, Cindy focused on how safe Asha and Dawood would feel in their ongoing
contact with Zeinab and facilitated an evolving conversation with all three to find ways of
dealing with future family problems that would not involve physical punishment Over time,
Zeinab, chose for herself to use disciplines such as time outs, removal of privileges, and
groundings and, above ail else, to focus on talking to her children more often Cindy also
created a unique context for the supervised contacts, making it clear to Zeinab that she was
not looking for her to be on her best behavior during the contact visits, but rather to react to
the children as normally as possible Cindy explained to Zeinab that when difficulties arose
dining the contact visits it would be an opportunity for them to explore specifically how
Zeinab could respond to the children without physical force when she was frustrated with

them. (Cindy believes that a situation that occurred in one visit when she helped Zeinab to
draw back from striking Asha was a major turning point in helping Zeinab lake up more
fully the use of her own alternative punishment ideas.)

Cindy's direct work with the family was only one aspect of moving forward with this Case
Given that the matter was before the court, the judge, attorneys, and the guardian were
centrally involved in how the family's problems would be handled When a Case like this is
brought to a court setting (or any other highly professionalized context) it is common that
service recipients feel disenfranchised and the professionals dominate the proceedings It is
also not uncommon that competing perspectives and agendas dominate and undermine the
professionals' relationships.

In Olmsted County, through a Federal Court improvement project called the Children's
Justice Initiative, an innovative conferencing process has been created that fosters
collaboration and partnership in child protection Cases that are before the court. Working
with county judges, attorneys, and guardians, OCCFS Director Rob Sawyer and supervisor
Sue Lohrbach created a conferencing approach called the Parallel Protection Process (P3),
which diverts matters away from the typically contested court process. The most unique
feature of the P3 is that it privileges the family members' own perspectives regarding the
problems and what should be done. (See Lohrbach and Sawyer's article on page 26 for a
full description of this collaborative conferencing approach.)

In this Case, Cindy prepared Zeinab for the P3 conference so she knew what to expect. The
conference was a large affair, involving Zeinab, her attorney, and others including the
conference chairperson Sue Lohrbach, the guardian ad litem, an attorney acting for the
guardian, the prosecuting attorney, Cindy, and the foster parents. The children had chosen
not to attend.

In her role as conference chair, Sue began by asking Zeinab to describe all the members of
her extended family This first step allowed Zeinab to begin by addressing a subject in which
she was the expert Zeinab surprised everyone by including a wide array of both friends and
kin in her "family map," Zeinab explained that in her culture she saw family in much
broader terms than simply people with whom she had biological ties.

Following this, Sue asked Zeinab to describe the problems and incident that had led to her
involvement with child protective services and the court. Sue also questioned Zeinab about
the strengths she saw in herself and her parenting, children, community, and culture.
Finally, Sue asked Zeinab to describe her ideas to improve her family's life and to ensure the
children were not physically punished again. Sue white-boarded all this information under the
county's key assessment criteria: danger/harm, risk to children, complicating factors,
existing strengths/protective factors, and future safety. In this way, the parent's rather than
the professional's voice was privileged and Zeinab led all the professionals through her own
comprehensive risk assessment of her parenting and care. As a final step, Sue confirmed
with Zeinab that she agreed with everything recorded on the whiteboard.

This work took more than 90 minuses, during which time she other professionals
functioned as an audience to the process {All participating professionals in the P3 need to
be prepared for this) In effect, this conference created a challenging but supportive context,
in which, in order for her family to reunite, Zeinab had to speak directly to the key
professionals The P3 is structured so that the professionals can respond after a short break.

In this Case, the county attorney spoke first and immediately slated that, on die basis of what
he had heard, he would he dropping three of the four charges against Zeinab and that he
would be seeking a non-custodial sentence in prosecuting the fourth charge The guardian's
attorney then stated that they had intended to recommend that the children be placed in care
until they were 18; however, their position had shifted While they would not yet recommend
reunification, they were now open to that possibility.

The last task was to draw up a settlement agreement based on the proceedings As part of
this, it was decided that a family group decision making (FODM) conference should be held
as a follow-up to the P3 conference. (See Burford and Hudson, 2000, for more information
about FGDM conferencing, which is effectively identical to what is called family group
conferencing outside of the United States)

Eighteen people whom Zeinab described as "cousins" came to the FGDM conference.
During the "family alone time," the family and its network came up with the following plans:

• Zeinab was to spend time with two community members to help her talk and think through
She issues surrounding raising teenagers in America.
• Plans were drawn up and people identified to whom both Asha and Zeinab could go if the
situation in the family home became too stressful
• People were identified to transport Asha and Zeinab to family counseling
• People were identified to provide babysitting for Asha and Dawood so that Zeinab could
pursue activities important to her
• People were identified to support Zeinab with issues regarding school and translate notes
and Position Papers for her.

Within two months of the FGDM meeting, the children had returned home and Cindy was still
visiting regularly on both an announced and unannounced basis for several months In total,
Asha and Dawood were out-of-home for just less than six months

Zeinab was very keen for her family's story to be told in this Case example. (The example as
written here is a summated version. A fuller description of the Case will be published in
Boffa, Parton, & Turnell, forthcoming). Zeinab held great fears about how she would be
dealt with by the professionals and had talked to many members of her community in
Minnesota and across America who advised her not to trust or even work with child
protection services From Zeinab's perspective, her trust in and respect for Cindy created a
context with which the problems could be dealt.

As is well demonstrated in this Case, forward-moving child protection relationships involve
participatory processes that focus on building safety directly related to the maltreatment

A Purposive Focus: Organizing Child Protection Work Around Future Safety
Child protection Cases commence because there is a concern about the well being of a child
and it is vital that a thorough and detailed exploration of the maltreatment concerns and
attendant issues is undertaken. However, for partnership and collaboration to remain
forward moving, it is important that the problems are seen as the starting point, and not the
organizing loci of the work. Child protection practice is always at risk of becoming
dominated by everything that is wrong with the family under Investigation. For child
protection relationships to be constructive it is vital they have a purposive focus.
When this happens the relationships between the professionals and with the family members
tend to become debilitating and "problem saturated" (White, 1988).

For child protection relationships to be constructive it is vital they have a purposive focus
This purposive child protection practice begins when professionals and family members
alike can look squarely and openly at (lie problems as well as strengths in and around the
family This focus, however, is simply a survey of the past. A purposive focus evolves only
when the relationships are organized around building sufficient future safety to address the
problems that will allow the child protection agency to close the Case.

Over the past decade, as strengths-based thinking and practice have begun to influence the
child protection field, a polarization of professional positions has sometimes arisen between
being problem-focused and strengths-based This has been an unproductive and unhelpful
development No meaningful relationship, whether personal or professional, functions well
by solely focusing on everything that is hand, by dying to optimistically focus on everything
that is positive Instead, the more difficult the child protection Case, the more important it is
that professionals and family draw on every ounce of hope, resource, and strength they can
imagine to energize the collective capacity to honestly focus on the maltreatment concerns
and build safety to the dangers..

The supposed disjunction between a problem and a strengths focus is a poor argument. In
counter, it is suggested here that child protection practice is simply too serious to not be
strengths-based However, sensitivity to strengths does not itself solve problems Information
about both problems and strengths are best interpreted, and make most sense, when
considered in the light of a participatory exploration of solutions and safety Professionals
and family members do not really know the seriousness of the problems or the significance
of the strengths and resources at hand until they collectively begin to envision and enact
solutions Put simply, if professionals and family members cannot work together to build
safety, the risk equation worsens; if they can, the risk lessens This logic is well demonstrated
in the Case example Cindy consistently took great care to focus on how she, Zeinab, Asha,
Dawood, and others saw the problems, while drawing on strengths to energize solution- and
safety-building discussions. In the P3 conference, Zeinab's ability to meaningfully describe
her own ideas and actions toward building safety significantly altered the professionals'

assessment of the problems and the strengths within the family. Cindy and Sue's work also
highlights that strengths-based practice is much more than generating lists of family
members' strengths It is most crucially about approaching service recipients as people who
can contribute meaningfully to the solution-building process

The logic of safety-organized practice not only sharpens a purposeful focus for child
protection relationships but also casts a different light on risk assessment Risk assessment is
central to the child protection task; however, risk assessment typically has a narrow problem
focus It privileges the professional perspective, excluding family members from the
assessment equation, and leaves practitioners with a sense of seeing problems more clearly
but with little guidance about what to do about the situation

Over the past six years, a number of Australian child protection professionals in several state
jurisdictions have sought to re-envision child protection risk assessment to create simple, yet
rigorous, assessment formats that practitioners can use with family members to elicit, in
common language, the professional and family members' views regarding concerns or
dangers, existing strengths and protection, and envisioned safety (Boffa, Parton & Turnell,
forthcoming; Department of Community Development, 2000; Department of Human
Services, 1999; Turnell & Edwards, 1999). These formats deepen and balance the usual
problem saturation of most risk assessment and see assessment as most constructive when it
is undertaken between the professionals and family members. The idea that risk assessment
can be, and in fact, is best done in partnership with parents and children is a profound
challenge to the usual thinking in the child protection field The theme of relationship-
grounded risk assessment is developed more fully by Julie Boffa and Heather Podesta on
page 36

Constructive, Participatory Processes
While the logic of problem-founded, strengths-based, safety-organized practice brings a
purposive focus to the child protection endeavor, the capacity to do this depends on
processes that underpin she relationships. There are very useful descriptions of constructive
relationship building in child protection (Department of Health, 1995; Jeffreys & Stevenson,
1997; Trailer, 2002; Turnell & Edwards, 1999); however, there are three processes that are
not always well articulated in the literature. These include the ability of professionals to:
• Exercise authority skillfully
• Make judgments constructively
• Use an inquiring approach and adopt a position of humility about what they think they

Exercising Authority Skillfully
Any grounded exploration of constructive child protection relationships needs to address the
issue of using authority. Unfortunately, there has often been a soft-shoe shuffle skirting
around these issues in much of the child protection literature on partnership and
collaboration. Some literature suggests that constructive child protection relationships are
characterized by "choice in entering the partnership," that there is "equality or near equality

between the partners," and even that "power is shared" (Department of Health, 1995). In
like manner, Ryburn (1991) speaks of "service user control and leadership," and Mittler
(1995) speaks of "equality between service users and professionals".

It appears ludicrous to talk about equality or near equality between parents and child
protection workers when the latter have the statutory capacity to instigate investigations into
the intimacy of family life, remove children, and undertake other powerful statutorily
mandated actions. Further, service recipients do not in the vast majority of Cases choose to
enter the relationship with a child protection worker, and they certainly do not control the
decision that determines when the relationship is to be concluded- Even family group
conferencing, which is probably the primary international exemplar of relationship-
grounded, safety-organized child protection practice, is not a process for which families and
their networks volunteer. Despite the enthusiasm for this approach by proponents of
strengths-based practice, families only participate in family group conferences in the context
of being caught up in a child protection system, and there is inevitably always some level of
coercion (hopefully, skillfully exercised) to garner their participation

Partnership can best be achieved when all professionals (including those writing about it)
are frank in their thinking about power and authority in the child protection relationship In
studies of child protection service recipients, the service recipient, like Zeinab, knows the
statutory worker is the more powerful partner (See Farmer & Owen, 1995; McCullum, 1995;
MacKinnon, 1998; Cashmore, 2002)-

The service recipient consistently wants straightforward information about where they stand
vis-à-vis the authority of the worker (hence the frequently asked question: "Are you going to
take my child away from me?"). When the worker is both comfortable with and clear about
the nature of his or her authority in the relationship, u solid and honest foundation is
established for a working partnership between worker and family On this foundation,
partnership can be further enhanced by workers who then purposefully and skillfully
minimize the power differential by building dust, involving the family as much as possible,
sharing information, utilizing participatory planning processes, providing choice wherever
possible, and fostering family input at every possible opportunity. These aspects of practice
are well exemplified in Sue and Cindy's work with Zeinab, Asha, and Dawood.

Making Judgment Constructively
Just as helping professionals are usually ambivalent regarding the use of authority they are
also inevitably trained to believe that being non-judgmental is a core principal of their
professional outlook. However, the reality for child protection professionals is that they
must constantly make judgments. Furthermore, the day-to-day anxiety-provoking situations
that child protection workers face escalate the instinctive human reaction lo jump to
judgment Research in child protection and other areas affirms that humans naturally tend lo
make judgments very early in complex situations and subsequent events are organized to
confirm the original judgments (Kahnerman et al., 1990; Munro, 1996 & 2002; English &
Pecora, 1994.

The notion of being non-judgmental is a problematic professional aspiration, as human
beings, whether professional or otherwise, cannot, not have opinions In aspiring to be non-
judgmental, professionals potentially distance themselves from being human, instead, social
workers need lo reclaim and reenergize judgment, making it a vital and integral aspect of
good human service practice generally and constructive child protection practice in

Ah Hen Teoh, a Chinese-Malaysian Australian with eight years' experience on the receiving
end of child protection services, including a (bur-year period when his children were in care,
confirms this point. Ah Hin comments:

I felt that the department and the residential borne saw me as a useless person, just out
of prison They had decided I was some sort of Asian drug lord criminal, but they were
not going to come out and lay it openly; instead they bid behind talking about "the best
interests of the children,". They were scared I was using my children to stay in the
country and that feeling of theirs messed everything up, but we could never get to talk
about it. It always felt like they had a bidden agenda became they'd get me to do one
thing, then they wouldn't be certain that that was enough so they'd come tip with
another thing (Teoh et al., 2003, p 151)

When professional judgments become bidden agendas, that "we could never get to talk
about," those judgments - however sound - create problems in she relationship with service
recipients. Ah Hin recognized that the child welfare department had to make judgments
about him, his parenting capacity, and his children. However, that was not of concern to
him. The problem was the judgment-making process and how the judgments were used.

Judgment making tends lo be more constructive when professionals clearly specify their
judgments and find ways of making (his information overt in the relationships between
professionals and family members Cindy continually worked with Zeinab and the children to
convey the seriousness of the situation and to talk about the judgments that were and would
be made about her parenting plan. Part of the power of P3 is that it brings together the key
professionals and family decision makers and makes the judgment-making process a
human, interactional, and participatory process At a micro level, Cindy continually made
judgments and exercised her authority in focusing attention on the key issues that she,
Zeinab, and the children saw as contributing to Zeinab's use of violence Cindy continued
so take this further by requiring and ensuring that Zeinab and the children, with her help,
discuss these issues together.

Practicing From a Stance of Inquiry and Humility
Paternalism, which most simply slated is a situation in which professionals act as if they are
the experts in the nature of the problem and what is required to solve it, is the default setting
of child protection. Not only do workers find it difficult to resist the temptation of
professional certitude, there are innumerable systemic pressures on child protection
organizations to "get it right" when facing the anxiety of child abuse Professionals and

agencies who believe they are right tend to be dismissive of oilier perspectives whether they
come from other professionals or family members.

The most skillful practitioners are those who can be explicit about their role, concerns, and
expectations while making their actions, assessments, and authority vulnerable to family
members and oilier professionals. Munro (2002, p 141) states it simply: "The single most
important factor in minimizing error is to admit that you may be wrong" Workers who are
best able to do this are ready to make judgments but continually try to approach their
professional colleagues and clients from a stance of humility, informed through a spirit of
inquiry. Gerald de Montigny, a Canadian child protection worker, articulates the same view
when he writes "I learned that good social work is not marked by confident
pronouncements, certain decisions, and resolute action, but by an openness to dialogue, self-
reflection, self-doubt and humility" (1995, p XV) This surely is a stance that can serve to
antidote the paternalistic default In the human services field throughout the past decade,
some professionals have set themselves up as experts regarding what constitutes "anti-
oppressive" and "culturally sensitive" practice Adopting an expert stance about these
aspirations is a concern, since, as ever, good intentions in child protection are a volatile
medium for fueling paternalistic practice. In this Case example, in contrast to taking an
expert stance, Cindy demonstrated an inquiring stance by continually asking Zeinab and the
children to guide how the professional-family relationships should be established and
function to fit their culture and context.

The American poet, potter, and educator, Mary Caroline Richards writes, "The world will
change when we can imagine it differently, and, like artists, do the work of creating new
social forms" (1996, p 119) Partnership and collaboration located in the center of
constructive child protection practice is a social form whose creation continues to require
our best imagination and effort Relationship-grounded practice is a philosophy that lies
lightly on the surface of a child protection field that, because of myriad pressures, tends to
constantly default to paternalism and managerialism. In this sense, partnership and
collaboration continue (o be ideas in search of meaningful practices.

The ongoing challenge is to imagine and create ways of building relationships between
professionals and with family members that can function within the pressurized, day-to-day
realities and imperatives of child protection organizations and the messy, uncertain business
of going into the lives of families where children are at risk In this endeavor, worker- and
service recipient-defined rich descriptions of good practice in difficult Cases is an invaluable
mid almost entirely overlooked resource. It is crucial that the child protection field
continue to imagine and build conferencing, assessment, and planning procedures that
enhance partnership and collaboration. The child protection field rarely gives much
attention to the experience of front-line practitioners. The words of Gerald de Montigny may
help remedy this a little:

Social workers need to recognize the structured regulations posed by a clock and an
organizational calendar, and they must struggle to build a practice regulated by the
beats of a heart, the cycle of seasons and the paths of a social life. As social workers we
must not abandon judgment, but we do need to identify the relations of power and
inequality between the judgers and the judged We need to judge our practice and our
organizations alongside, or in solidarity with those who are clients and those who are
poor, native, black and marginalized (1995, p-226).

Questions regarding this article can be directed lo Andrew Turnell via Resolutions
Consultancy, PO Box 56 Hurswood, WA 6100, Australia; e-mail

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Knowledge and practice skill in crisis intervention model is a necessity for those
practicing in child welfare. Child welfare clinicians must be prepared to handle the many
different types of crises that occur in the life of the clients we serve. Issues such as no
money to pay the rent or to buy food, the school Position Papering that their child has
been suspended again, and acts of violence between caregivers can be regular
occurrences in the lives of our clients, and a skilled child welfare worker must be
prepared to assist their client in getting through the crisis event.

Crisis intervention is focused in the present, with the issue for intervention being the
situation or problem itself. Therefore, it focuses on the here and now, with the goal to
help the client mobilize the support, resources and coping skills to either resolve or
decrease the imbalance the crisis event has caused. Crisis theory suggests that most crisis
interventions can be limited to a period of four to eight weeks (Hepworth, Rooney, &
Larsen, 1997; Roberts, 1996, 2000). During this time, when clients are in an active state
of crisis, they are more open to the helping process, which can facilitate the completion
of concrete tasks within a limited time frame.

“The immediacy and action orientation of crisis intervention require a high level of
activity and skill on the part of the social worker. They also require a mutual contracting
process between client and the social worker, but the time frame for assessment and
contracting must be brief by necessity. People experiencing trauma and crisis need
immediate relief and assistance, and the helping process must be adapted to meet those
needs as efficiently and effectively as possible” (Roberts, A. R. and Knox, K, 2001, p.
185). Child welfare workers, therefore, must have the time, and access to resources to be
able to assist their clients effectively in their time of crisis. Concrete help, such as
emergency access to food, shelter and safety, are the first priority in crisis intervention.
The child welfare worker must be able to advocate, network and broker these necessities
for their client in a timely fashion.

As well, the emotional imbalance that occurs to the client during a crisis event is
important for the child welfare worker to acknowledge. “Ventilation of feelings and
reactions to the crisis are essential to the healing process and the practice skills of
reflective communication, active listening, and establishing rapport are essential in
developing a relationship and providing supportive counseling for the client” (Robert, A.
R. and Knox, K, 2001, p. 186). The child welfare worker must be able to respond to the
client’s trauma effectively, in addition to establishing the concrete tasks necessary to
resolve the crisis.

Stages of Crisis:
There are four stages of crisis that a client will pass through following the traumatic
event. Although not every person will work through these stages in the exact same way,
many theoretical frameworks for crisis intervention follow these steps.

1) Outcry

This stage follows the initial reactions after the crisis event. Here the reactions are
emotional and reflexive, and can include panic, screaming, shock, anger, crying,
defensiveness, and flat affect. Every client we work with will reactive differently to their

2) Denial or Intrusiveness
Outcry often leads to denial, which blocks the impact of the crisis through emotional
numbing, dissociation or minimizing. Outcry also can lead to intrusiveness, which is the
involuntary excess of thoughts and feelings about the crisis event, such as flashbacks,
nightmares, and preoccupation with what has happened.

3) Working Through
This stage is the recovery process in which the thoughts and feelings of the crisis are
expressed, acknowledged, explored, and reprocessed through healthy coping skills and
strategies. Otherwise, the client may experience a blockage and develop unhealthy
defense mechanisms to avoid working through the issues and emotions associated with
the crisis.

4) Completion or Resolution
This final stage may take months or years to achieve, and some clients may never
complete the process. The individual’s recovery leads to an integration of the crisis
event, the reorganization of their life, resolution of the trauma.

Phases of Helping in the Crisis Intervention Model:
The following model was designed by Albert R. Roberts (1991, 1995) to define the stages
of helping using crisis intervention theory. This model can be used with a wide range of
crises with diverse clients, particularly clients in which violent or dangerous situations

Stage 1: Assess Lethality
Assessment in this model is ongoing and essential to effective intervention at all stages.
However, initially in child welfare, it is important to assess if the client is in any current
danger, and to consider future safety concerns in treatment planning. An evaluation of:
(1) the length and severity of the crisis, (2) the client’s current emotional state, (3) the
client’s immediate needs, and (4) the client’s current coping strategies and resources, is
necessary. The goals of this stage are to assess and identify critical areas of intervention,
while also recognizing the hazardous event and acknowledging what has happened. It is
important that the child welfare worker begin to establish a relationship with the client,
based on respect for and acceptance, while also offering support, empathy, reassurance,
and reinforcement that the client has survived and that help is available.

Stage 2: Establish Rapport and Communication
People in crisis find it difficult to establish trust at this time. Therefore, active listening
and empathic communication skills are crucial to establishing rapport and engagement of
the client. Many clients in crisis feel out of control or powerless, and therefore require a
positive future orientation, with an understanding that they can overcome current

problems, and hope that change can occur (Roberts, 1996). Even if the crisis situation is
the removal of their child for safety reasons, clients can be reassured that change is
something they can effect with effort. During this stage, clients need positive regard,
concern, and genuineness. Empathic communication skills can reassure the client and
help establish trust and rapport.

Stage 3: Identify the Major Problems
The worker should help the client prioritize the most important problems by identifying
these problems and how they are affecting the client’s current status. Encouraging the
client to ventilate about the event can lead to problem identification. This process
enables the client to figure out how and why the event(s) occurred, which can facilitate
their emotions, while providing the information to assess and identify major problems for

Stage 4: Deal with Feelings and Provide Support
It is critical that the worker demonstrate empathy and understanding of the client’s
experience, so their symptoms and reactions are normalized (Roberts & Dziegielewski,
1995). Client’s may be in denial about the extent of their emotional reactions and may
try to avoid dealing with them in hopes that they will diminish. They may be in shock
and not be able to access their feelings. However, delays in expression of feelings can be
harmful to the client in processing and resolving the crisis. Some clients will express
anger and rage about the situation and its effects, which can be healthy, as long as the
anger does not escalate out of control. Other clients may express their grief and sadness
by crying, and the worker needs to allow time and space for this reaction.

Stage 5: Explore Possible Alternatives
In this stage, effective workers help clients to recognize and explore alternative for
restoring their level of functioning. Such alternatives include (1) using situational
supports, which are people or resources that can be helpful to the client in meeting needs
and resolving problems; (2) developing coping skills; and (3) developing positive and
constructive thinking patterns, which can lessen the client’s levels of anxiety and stress
(Gilliland & James, 1997). The child welfare worker can facilitate healthy coping skills
by identifying client strengths and resources. The worker may need to be more active,
directive, and challenging in this stage, if the client has unrealistic expectations or a lake
of coping skills and strategies. Clients are still distressed at this stage, and professional
guidance could be necessary to produce positive, realistic alternative for the client.

Stage 6: Formulate and Implement and Action Plan
The success of any intervention plan is contingent on the client’s level of involvement,
participation, and commitment. The main goals of planning are to help the client achieve
an appropriate level of functioning and maintain coping skills and resources. It is
important to have an attainable plan, so the client can follow through and be successful.
Do not overwhelm the client with too many tasks or strategies, which may set the client
up for failure (Roberts, 1996, 2000).

The action plan should include attention to the four central tasks of crisis intervention
(Slaikeu, 1984): (1) physical survival (maintaining physical health and taking care of
oneself through proper nutrition, exercise, sleep, and relaxation), (2) expression of
feelings (appropriate emotional expression and understanding how emotional reactions
affect one’s well being), (3) cognitive mastery (developing a reality-based understanding
of the crisis event; addressing any unfinished business, irrational thoughts, or fears; and
adjusting one’s self-image/concept with regard to the crisis event and it’s impacts), and
(4) behavioral/interpersonal adjustments (adapting to changes in daily life activities,
goals, or relationships due to the crisis event and minimizing and long-term negative
effects in these areas for the future).

                          Figure 15 Crisis Intervention Model

                          Robert’s (1991) Seven-Stage
                           Crisis Intervention Model

                               Stage 7
                                             Up                       Crisis
                        Stage 6           Develop
                                         Action Plan

                  Stage 5                  Explore

          Stage 4                          Deal
                                       With Feelings

     Stage 3                           Identify Major

   Stage 2                          Establish Rapport

   Stage 1                           Assess Lethality

Roberts’ (1991) seven-stage crisis intervention model
Roberts, A.R. (1991). Conceptualizing Crisis Theory and the Crisis Intervention Model.
In A. R. Roberts (Ed.), Contemporary Perspectives on Crisis Intervention and Prevention
(pp. 3-17). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

The worker must ensure that the client is not overwhelmed during this stage, and the
focus should be on the most immediate and important problems needing intervention at
this time. The first concern in this stage is meeting the basic needs of emotional and
physical comfort and safety. After these have stabilized, other problems for work can
then be addressed (Roberts, 1998).

Stage 7: Follow Up
Hopefully, the sixth stage has resulted in significant changes and resolution of the crisis
for the client. This last stage should help determine whether these results have been
maintained, or if further work remains to be done. Final crisis resolution may take many
months or years to achieve, and clients should be aware that certain events, places, or
dates could trigger emotional and physical reactions to the previous trauma.

Crisis intervention theory is a model that is essential for child welfare workers to be
knowledgeable of and have the practical skills necessary for its use in their daily work.
Our clients irrevocably have crises in their lives, and to be able to assist them to work
through the event in a healthy way, the child welfare worker must be informed of the
stages and crisis and phases of helping. Even when the crisis event itself is triggered by
the appearance of child welfare intervention, a worker skilled in crisis intervention will
be able to guide their client through our involvement, while building a strong relationship
and addressing the very safety factors that prompted our investigation.
Throughout the crisis intervention model, specific attention is paid to the development of
a relationship with the client. This is cited as being paramount to enabling the client to
acknowledge and address the crisis event in the most appropriate way. To promote
positive engagement with our clients, to enhance our interventions with children and their
families, and therefore to promote a positive outcome for our families, crisis intervention
theory is a necessary tool for all child welfare workers.

Written by Kim Martin,


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