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Standards for All Phases of Child Protection Service Delivery

Overview

This standard sets out requirements which are relevant to all the phases of child protection services described in this document. In other words, they are not specific to any one particular phase of service described in standards 1-8 (e.g. from the receipt of the referral to the closure of a case). In particular, this standard includes requirements with respect to the following:

  1. Consultation with First Nations
  2. French Language Services
  3. Cultural, Religious and Regional Differences
  4. Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
  5. Permanency Planning
  6. Supervisory consultation: Departures from the standards, placement decisions and ADR
  7. Contemporaneous case notes

Intent

The intent of this standard is to highlight key requirements CASs are expected to adhere to throughout the delivery of child protection services. Some of these requirements relate to the objectives of the Child Welfare Transformation Agenda (MCYS, 2005) including alternatives to court, permanency planning, and accountability. Others relate to legislated requirements regarding the provision of services to Indian and Native children and Francophone families in Ontario.

*For the purposes of this document, the term First Nations refers to an Indian Band or Native community under the CFSA; “Indian” and “Native” are terms used in the CFSA. Where the term “Aboriginal” is used in this document it refers to:

[A] collective name for the original peoples of North America and their descendants. The Canadian constitution recognizes three groups of Aboriginal people: Indians (commonly referred to as First Nations), Métis and Inuit. These are three distinct peoples with unique histories, languages, cultural practices and spiritual beliefs (Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, 2015).

Standards for All Phases of Child Protection Service Delivery

Standard
A. Consultation with First Nations

In accordance with the Child and Family Services Act (CFSA), there are a number of legislated requirements with respect to consulting with or providing notification to a child’s Band or a representative chosen by the child’s Band or Native community in the case of a child who is an Indian or Native person. In particular, the following are matters affecting Indian or Native children for which a CAS is required to consult with or notify the Band or Native community3 :

3 Note that this is not an exhaustive list of requirements to consult with or notify First Nations Bands contained in the CFSA but rather represents those that a particular case may involve during the phases of service described in standards 1-8. Section 213 of the CFSA includes additional requirements for CASs to regularly consult with Bands or Native communities with respect to certain matters affecting Indian and Native children. Please see the CFSA and regulations for additional information.
*If a CAS exercises these two noted powers, the CAS is required to provide notice to a representative chosen by the child’s Band or Native community by the end of the next day after exercising the power to request that a case consultation occur as soon as practicable but no later than:
Practice Notes
Consultation with First Nations

Consultation with First Nations in the case of Indian and Native children during various points of child protection service is consistent with the following additional purpose of the CFSA:

To recognize that Indian and Native people should be entitled to provide, wherever possible, their own child and family services, and that all services to Indian and Native children and families should be provided in a manner that recognizes their culture, heritage and traditions and the concept of the extended family (s.1(2)(5)).

Involving the Band or a representative chosen by the Band at key case decision making points identified in the CFSA reinforces the importance of First Nation involvement in child welfare matters affecting Indian and Native children.

Wherever possible, it is best practice to make direct contact with the Band or a representative chosen by the Band when consultation is required (e.g. via telephone or in person). First Nations people in Ontario may live on or off-Reserve (e.g. they may reside in urban centres). The majority of the First Nations population in Ontario lives off-Reserve (Government of Canada, 2011); however this does not negate the importance of engaging the Band in service planning. The worker may also need to seek out culturally appropriate services for families from Aboriginal agencies operating in neighbouring jurisdictions if none are available in the home community.

When a child who is eligible for membership with a First Nation, or is a member of a First Nation, is believed to be in need of protection and in need of a placement with an alternative caregiver, Formal Customary Care is a placement option which should be considered. It is an alternative to court-related processes and court-ordered care for Indian and Native children that enables them to remain connected to their culture and communities. For further information please see:

Formal Customary Care: A Practice Guide to Principles, Processes and Best Practices, Ministry of Children and Youth Services (2013).

Developing and adhering to local protocols between CASs and local First Nations can encourage collaboration and positive working relationships with First Nations communities, and clarify processes and procedures with respect to consultation and notification in matters affecting Indian and Native children. Protocols are also helpful in providing a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities of both CASs and First Nations staff in supporting First Nations children and their families. Additional best practices can involve encouraging the family to work with the Band, engaging the Band early on in a CAS’s involvement with the family, and linking the family with culturally appropriate services. The Band and community representatives are well positioned in regards to planning for the care of First Nations children and in identifying culturally appropriate supports for the child and his/her family.

Culturally Respectful Services

It is important for child protection workers to engage with and support Aboriginal communities (including First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities) in a culturally respectful manner. This includes both having appropriate knowledge of the unique cultures of which families are a part, the history of Aboriginal peoples in Ontario and respect for diversity within Aboriginal populations. It also involves having an understanding of one’s own world view and potential biases, and continually reflecting on how this can impact interactions with clients.

Standard
B. French Language Services

In accordance with the CFSA, there is a legislated requirement for CASs to, where appropriate, make services to children and their families available in the French language.

In addition, the French Language Services Act (FLSA) requires that some designated CASs provide services in French to Francophone clients.

Practice Notes

It is important for CASs to offer French services to Francophone clients as per the legislated requirements and also because it is good practice for meeting the needs of vulnerable Francophone children and families. Some important factors to consider are that:

It is a best practice for CASs to actively offer services in both official languages from the moment they begin interacting with the public/clients, and throughout the provision of child protection services.

Standard
C. Cultural, Religious and Regional Differences

In accordance with the CFSA, an additional purpose of the Act, so long as it is consistent with the best interests, protection and well-being of children, is:

To recognize that, wherever possible, services to children and their families should be provided in a manner that respects cultural, religious and regional differences.

Practice Notes
Diversity

Ontario has significant diversity with respect to cultures and religions and also contains vast regional differences. It is important for child welfare professionals to have an overall awareness of the diverse backgrounds of the families served in each community and in particular, to engage families in dialogue about their backgrounds. Families’ lived experiences can have an impact on their world views and in particular how they raise their children.

Working and developing partnerships with community agencies serving specific cultural or religious groups can also enhance understanding and awareness of the backgrounds of the client populations CASs serve in their communities. It can also assist CASs in providing culturally appropriate supports to families.

Anti-Oppression Approach

An Anti-oppression (AO) approach includes an analysis of power imbalances based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and identity, ability, age, class, geographic location and other social factors. These factors can affect one’s social location, and in particular their access to power, privilege and resources. Those from marginalized social locations may not have the same access to power and resources as more dominant groups, and they can often be overrepresented in child welfare and other social service systems (OACAS, August 2010).

In order to address power imbalances, child welfare professionals should continuously reflect on their own social location so as to not inadvertently act in ways that recreate patterns of systemic oppression during their interactions with families. Some key strategies for working from an AO approach are to take into consideration the impact of historical and systemic oppression on marginalized groups, authentically listen to families’ identified needs, and to not take the position of “expert” when working with families (ibid.). Furthermore, “AO work also involves those who have privilege becoming allies of those who do not, by sharing power and creating authentic collaboration” (ibid, p.9).

Standard
D. Alternative Dispute Resolution

If at any time during the provision of child protection services, it appears that a child is or may be in need of protection under the CFSA a CAS shall consider whether a prescribed method of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) could assist in resolving any issue related to the child or a plan for the child’s care.

Practice Notes

ADR is a strategy to streamline court processes and encourage alternatives to court. It focuses on a more strengths-based, inclusive and collaborative approach to resolving child protection disputes, and encourages the involvement and support of the family, and may include extended family, and the community, in planning and decision-making for children. Although a CAS is required to consider the use of ADR (CFSA s.20.2), the use of ADR is voluntary and must be undertaken with consent of all participants (please see MCYS policy directive on ADR for further information).

Standard
E. Permanency Planning

Throughout the provision of child protection services, the CAS actively attempts to involve all interested relatives or members of the child’s extended family or community, including a representative chosen by the Band (where the child is Indian or Native) in planning for the child where appropriate. The CAS continually searches for persons who may commit to participation in planning for, and supporting the child and makes attempts to engage them in the service delivery process as appropriate.

Practice Notes
Permanency Planning

This approach to permanency planning is consistent with the following additional purposes of the CFSA to recognize that children’s services should be provided in a manner that:

Some of the benefits of engaging in early permanency planning are:

Standard
F. Supervisory Consultation: Departures, Placement Decisions and ADR

Supervisors must approve any departures from the Child Protection Standards for which worker discretion is not provided for in standards 1-8.

If at any time during the provision of child protection services, the placement of a child in out-of-home care with extended family or community members (in or out of society care) or in a CAS placement is contemplated, the worker consults with a supervisor in regards to the situation. Similarly, a worker should consult with a supervisor when considering the use of ADR in a particular case.

Practice Notes

Supervisors play an important role in ensuring that any departures from the standards are linked to increased safety for the child and/or to better meeting the unique needs of the child and family. The primary focus of child protection service is always the safety and well-being of the child. It should be recognized however, that standards cannot anticipate all of the unique and often complex needs of every child in Ontario. The standards should always be applied in a manner that protects each child receiving service from a CAS, even if a departure from a standard is required to achieve that outcome. Departures from the standards for reasons beyond the control of the worker (e.g. the child and family are unavailable for interviews) are also acceptable if reviewed and approved by a supervisor.

The involvement of supervisors in key decisions affecting the safety and permanency of children contributes to enhancing the objectivity of child protection casework decisions, and the quality of the services delivered to children and their families.

Standard
G. Contemporaneous Case Notes

The child protection worker documents detailed information about the child and his or her family that is relevant to the delivery of child protection services and which is obtained through any contact, either internal or external to the CAS in contemporaneous case notes. At minimum, contemporaneous case notes must contain:

Furthermore, all significant case-specific content discussed with a supervisor is documented in contemporaneous case notes (by the worker or the supervisor).

Practice Notes

It is intended that detailed information about contacts with children, their families and other collaterals that take place during the provision of child protection services is contained in contemporaneous case notes in the case record. Case notes are to be completed in a timely manner (e.g. within 24 hours) after the contact takes place to ensure their accuracy given the impact that the length of time that has elapsed may have on the child welfare professional’s independent recollection of significant events.