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Building a Policy Framework: Why Having Data Matters Lessons Learned from the Canadian Experience Strengthening Child Protection Systems in Their Response.

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Presentation on theme: "Building a Policy Framework: Why Having Data Matters Lessons Learned from the Canadian Experience Strengthening Child Protection Systems in Their Response."— Presentation transcript:

1 Building a Policy Framework: Why Having Data Matters Lessons Learned from the Canadian Experience Strengthening Child Protection Systems in Their Response to Violence Against Children: Turning Evidence into Policy and Results Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina, September 18th, 2012

2 Background-Child Welfare in Canada Child welfare and child protection often used interchangeably in Canada to refer to the system of services in place to address issues related to violence against children. Long-standing recognition of abuse and neglect as phenomena requiring State intervention in Canadafirst child protection legislation was passed in 1893. Child welfare is a provincial responsibility: Each of Canadas 13 provinces/territories have their own legislation, policies and procedures, funding and service delivery structures. 5 forms of maltreatment considered under most provincial statutes: physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, emotional maltreatment; and exposure to domestic violence (i.e., adult conflict). Ontarios child welfare program (the largest in Canada) is managed by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services: Allocated annual budget of $1.5 Billion. Ministry divisions dedicated to both policy and operations.

3 The Role of CASs The work of child welfare carried about by designated Childrens Aid Societies (CASs). Child protection legislation gives CASs their mandate to intervene even on an involuntary basis: Articulates duty to report suspected child abuse and neglect; Outlines grounds for finding a child in need of protection. Mandated services provided by a CAS include: Receiving reports of suspected abuse/neglect; Investigating allegations of maltreatment; Providing ongoing protection services to children and families; Finding and supervising placements for children in out-of-home care; and Facilitating adoptions.

4 A Tale of Two Policy Frameworks: Child Protection vs. Family Support Child Protection Remedial focusfamilies eligible for service only after maltreatment has occurred/significant risk of maltreatment. Individual focusmaltreatment usually framed in terms of parental deficits. Investigative approach gathering evidence to substantiate maltreatment, identify perpetrator(s) and take corrective action. Intervention focuses on preventing recurrence of maltreatment and risk assessment/risk reduction. Separate system from supportive/voluntary services; stigma for service users. Usually embedded within a residual approach to social policy. Country examples include Canada, the U.S. and Australia. Family Support Preventive focuseligibility for services based on the notion that a child might fare badly. Welfare of children is the responsibility of families, community and society. Holistic assessment of family needs required to promote healthy development and wellbeing. Intervention focuses on supporting families to care for their children, and may address structural factors. No separation between services to support families and protect children. Often part of an institutional approach to social policy. Country examples include Sweden, New Zealand.

5 Developing a Policy Framework The development of a Child Protection vs. Family Support Framework is influenced by: Dominant beliefs about the root causes of child maltreatment; Accepted definitions of abuse and neglect (VAC); Ideology about the role of the State intervention in the private sphere of families; Importance ascribed to primary prevention/public health; Level of integration of protection services into a broader range of services for children and families (and availability of such services); Available resources (human and financial) to support the system.

6 Why Having Data Matters In Canada the system is protection-oriented/residual, influenced by: Dominant cultural values of individualism and self-reliance that have framed State intervention into family life as negative; Legacy of the discovery of the battered child syndrome (Kempe et al., 1962). Scholarly and practitioner interest in child sexual abuse starting in the 1980s. Narrow definitions of abuse/neglect employed in legislation focusing on parental actions/inactions. These influences have supported a belief that reports to child welfare predominantly involve children at imminent risk of harm at the hands of their parents. Data tell a different story about who needs services and why.

7 Types of Substantiated Maltreatment in Canada-Data from the CIS* From Trocmé, Fallon, MacLaurin, Daciuk, Felstiner, Black et al., 2005 *Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect

8 Signs of Harm 6% Harm Treatment 14% No Harm 80% Harm NO treatment 7% Harm With Treatment 3% No Harm 90% I InvInv Rates of Physical and Emotional Harm From Trocmé, Fallon, MacLaurin, Daciuk, Felstiner, Black et al., 2005

9 Poverty From Trocmé, Fallon, MacLaurin, Daciuk, Felstiner, Black et al., 2005

10 Endangered Development and Well-Being Data support the notion that many reported children are at risk of endangered development and well-being (Trocmé and Chamberland, 2003) as opposed to imminent physical harm. This calls into question the appropriateness of a protection- oriented model for the majority of cases. CIS data have supported the adoption of a differential response model in three provinces: Alternative to a traditional, forensic investigation where the focus in on gathering evidence to substantiate maltreatment. Use of DR may act to mitigate some of the differences between a child protection versus family support orientation (Trocmé et al., in press).

11 Some Advantages of a Residual Model Allows child welfare workers to focus scarce time and resources on those most in need (i.e., the most serious cases). Limits the number of referrals and thus the costs of child welfare services. Works reasonably well if there is also a well-developed and adequately funded range of universally available and targeted services.

12 Sustainability for the Future Despite long-term experience and a significant budget, Canada continues to struggle with many child welfare policy issues: Limited outcome data. Over-representation of certain marginalized groups, e.g., Aboriginal families, single mother- led households. The role of structural factors (i.e., poverty) in abuse/neglect. Sustainability of the system due to rising costs. Fragmented childrens services system. Issues of accountabilityboth to the public in terms of value-for-money and between the Ministry (funder) and CASs (service providers). Canadas system and original legislation came about through the persistent advocacy efforts of a small group of reformers. It has subsequently gone through multiple major reforms with more on the horizonthe system needs to continually adapt to changing population needs and fiscal realities. Careful analysis of data rather than anecdote or reaction to high profile events should guide these changes wherever possible.

13 Advocating for Change: Lessons Learned Crises can act as catalysts for change, BUT: Be cautious about basing the substance of reforms on reactions to rare / unpredictable events; could lead to unsustainable change or unintended consequences. In Ontario, the most effective reforms have been a happy combination of natural opportunities (i.e., high profile inquests, financial sustainability issues that make decision-makers open to change) that also involved a planned, thoughtful review of the options and evidence, by people with the right knowledge and expertise.

14 Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, its the only thing that ever has. Margaret Mead

15 Some Helpful Links To download the full CIS-2008 Major Findings Report: For examples of recent reform efforts in Ontario:'d%20July%2011- ek.pdf

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