Presentation on theme: "CHILD PROTECTION PRACTICES: VOICES OF WORKERS This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Judy Hughes & Shirley."— Presentation transcript:
CHILD PROTECTION PRACTICES: VOICES OF WORKERS This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Judy Hughes & Shirley Chau
Research Project Individual Interviews with 24 child protection workers and two groups interviews with 13 support workers at two agencies in Winnipeg. Average of 11 years of experience and the majority identified as White (28), First Nations (4), Non-White or Mixed Race (4). The majority are women (32) and only 5 men. Asked to reflect individually and collectively on their practice experiences with families experiencing domestic violence and described “typical” cases and practice situations with which they have worked in the past.
Findings Two major findings: The importance of relationships with parents Intervention when domestic violence occurs between parents
First Finding: Building Relationships Workers described the need to have a particular attitude that was variously described as accommodating, approachable, positive, understanding, respectful, and non-authoritarian: “You need to be accommodating and approachable and understanding as opposed to walking to the door, banging on it and saying, “we’re child protection, open up.” You have to establish that connection immediately, that’s what we have to do right, that sets the tone. So if we’re going to be gruff and argumentative with our clients, it’s not going to go well.”
Examples “Some people are very angry. It’s going to be de- escalation; it’s going to be standing at their front door maybe for twenty minutes until they have time to just kind of listen to why you’re there and listen to why it’s important that they talk to you. Sometimes you just have to let people yell and acknowledge that they’re angry, acknowledge that they really don’t want to talk to you, but we really have to talk. Just usually giving people time and not escalating further and not taking anything personally, ever.”
Examples “I go in more along the lines of, ‘You know we’re [name of agency], we work with families, what are your needs that we can work on? Do you need help with basic needs, like housing and food?’ Sometimes that helps. If you’re coming with something to offer and a food hamper really works. And if you can try to be positive and really focus on their needs. I don’t come in with expectations like, ‘You have to take this program, you have to do this, and you have to do that.”
Relationships Challenges Hindered by: 1) bureaucratic work requirements and high caseloads 2) Waitlists, lack of funding for some good programs, and CFS as a dumping ground 3) Best interest of the child mandate
Second Finding: Domestic Violence If children are directly physically harmed, then the risk is high (immediate apprehension). Differences in response to intimate partner violence: Some stated that all situations of involving domestic violence are harmful inherently risky. Others questioned whether one incident of domestic violence, should be a “child protection concern:” “a family who has never had a history and we were getting a call for them with no history, no concerns, the parents got in a huge argument and they were you know screaming and yelling at each other, I mean that’s not a child protection concern.”
Making Decisions about Risk Age of the child (if the mother is pregnant and the younger the higher the risk). Combined issues (DV, mental health, substance misuse, cognitive delays, little support). Past history of the parents (criminal record and child protection involvement), and Willingness of the parents to work with the agency.
Willingness Being honest about the issues identified in the referral – the workers were more concerned if parents minimized: “she was kind of saying that well it really was my fault and he was so stressed and sometimes he can’t deal with the stress, so she’s minimizing plus taking responsibility for his actions.” The ability of the parent or parents to complete the case plan Protectiveness of the parent (mothers) to keep children safe – safety plans.
Low Risk Examples For some, low risk referred to situations where children are over the age of twelve and they can seek help, parent and teen conflict: “the ones that are really, really low that are truly voluntary, I would say somebody calling in and asking for respite because they’re going through an operation.” Others highlighted the willingness of the parents to talk about the violent incident that occurred and use community resources to seek help, the impact on the children, and the parents’ recognition of this impact.
Low Risk Examples “The couple was saying, “yeah, this I did.” You know, some admittance to it, “yeah, okay we argued and she actually shoved me and then I told her like just get lost or I’m going to call the cops and she called the cops first and so then they came down and I’m like okay, great. So now we’ve got a no contact order.” And then you interview the kids, but they’re not scared of them and they don’t see hitting. The parents are committed too. They get that this affects their kids and that this isn’t good for them and that it stresses them out and you’re like, “okay.” In a nutshell that would be a low risk, it hasn’t happened a lot, it didn’t escalate, and the kids are okay with it.”
Moderate/High Risk Examples Moderate or high risk situations similar: factors considered include, source of the referral (i.e. police) and multiple issues, including the number of children, their ages, history, and impact on children. Distinction focused on the parental willingness and awareness and particular to domestic violence the victimized parent’s ability (usually the mother) to keep the children safe.
Examples: Willingness & Awareness Willing to talk about what had occurred, motivated to make changes, and remain in contact with community services: “She was pretty forthcoming about all sorts of issues in their relationship and the jealousy and why they are where they are. They’ve been together for seven years and this cycle keeps happening. This time she feels done with it.”
Examples: Safety Planning “I mean we’re talking to the mom the next day about what happened and she said that she does have some plans that she puts into place when they want to drink. And so they have a maternal grandma who lives just two houses over. So the older one’s go there, the baby goes to bed, the little ones are in bed and then usually that’s when they’ll start drinking. She just said, “I told them to stay in their room if they hear yelling and stuff like that. So she’s done some safety planning with her kids.”
Importance of Parental Willingness “If they are willing to work with us, if they are willing to admit that there is an issue, that there is risk, things are starting to escalate, if they want to address whatever the issues are. But more so if they are willing to work with us and willing to follow the recommendations as set out in the case plan between the worker and the family. If the family is saying “you know what, I’m not going to any domestic violence counselling” then 90% of the time it’s going to protection because we are quite concerned that they’re not addressing the issues, they’re minimizing, they’re putting themselves in situations where they could be at risk and also their children.”