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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Termination of Parental Rights

I have just had this article published. It discusses some of the very real challenges we face when trying to address issues if Termination of Parental Rights

Termination of Parental Rights: A Commentary
on Ben-David
Child Studies and Social Work, Mount Royal University, Calgary, Canada

Ben-David (this issue) introduced us to the complexity of the factors
that courts consider in termination of parental rights (TPR).
It is an opening to understanding which factors are taken into consideration
and how courts make these challenging determinations.
Yet there are other questions that must be asked before we truly
understand the TPR decisions made by courts across a variety of
legal jurisdictions. This commentary argues that we must take the
inquiry deeper, asking questions that will unpack the complexity
assisting researchers and clinicians. Thus, we will want to know
how courts weigh such important issues as the credibility of the evidence.
What is it about such factors as parental competence, failure
of remediation, and other issues identified by Ben-David that cause
courts to determine TPR is the best choice? Consideration is given
to how Ben-David’s work might be extended using a Canadian
Journal of Family Social Work, 18:243–252, 2015

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Make life "everyday" for foster children

I am fascinated by a study from the University of Leicester in the UK which looks at the value of simple everyday activities for children in care. It seems that engaging children in the kinds of typical day to day activities can positively impact the sense of well-being. This can be what seems mundane - take the children shopping; play games; help care for pets; get involved in fun activities like going swimming.

These various types of activities engage children with the family system and also expose them to low stress and rewarding experiences. It socializes the child in a different way than may be quite different than experiences prior to coming into care. These sorts of activities, the researchers note, help the children to find their place within the social environment. By being successful and belonging, they can then develop a sense of empowerment in their own world - they be become actors who can create positivity in their life and are not driven by protective reactivity.

This can also lead children into finding comfort and reward in activities that link them to prosocial environments and connections.

In the world of increasing budget constraints, ins't it wonderful to think of the power of these everyday types of activities when a child is included in them with the foster family and other peers. This can also mentor children into learning how to manage free time more constructively.

The report notes:

  • The participation of young people growing up in care is constructed in binary ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ terms. This research has found that this perception can lead to facilitated activities being overvalued and everyday participation being undervalued. The self-expression found in some forms of everyday participation feeds into young people’s sense of autonomy, yet this is not always recognised. 
  • Participation facilitated by the corporate parent and foster carers of young people in care has a positive influence on the choices young people make regarding their own everyday participation. But this works both ways and what they choose to do in their free time in turn influences their decision to engage with the types of participation on offer. 
  •  Safeguarding the well-being of young people in care is a priority for social services and carers. Ensuring and upholding this priority affects and takes precedence in different aspects of the young persons everyday life, including their participation. The requirement to safeguard can interrupt or even prevent participation inside and outside of the home. This leads to young people in care being treated differently and at times can lead to their exclusion.  
  • Participation for young people exists in different geographical locations. However, when a young person in care moves placement, participation can be disrupted or even discontinued. 

The latter point speaks to the need for stability so that children can make connections that they can then hold onto allowing them to expand their sense of place, belonging and worth.

If you would like to look at the report go here and follow the links.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

BC Child welfare system broken?

The Representative for Child and Youth in British Columbia, Mary-Ellen Turpel-Lafond, suggests that the child welfare system in her province is broken. She made the comments in a report presented by the ATPN media. One issue that she raises is that, for Aboriginal children, too often funding is linked to the child being in care versus prevention efforts to keep children out of care. Turpel-Lafond has many case examples to back up her worry.

Prevention needs to address issues that child welfare is not set up to manage. Poverty is the main reason that Aboriginal children are in care. Child welfare cannot solve that. They can only respond to the effects of poverty which are typically seen in the form of neglect.

As a new federal government takes shape in Canada, now is the time for at least three core  Aboriginal child welfare issues to be tackled:

  1. Start fully funding child welfare on reserves across this country;
  2. Implement prevention programs to keep children out of care; and
  3. When it is necessary to provide protection to child keep the child within the community and family system by providing needed supports for kinship care to be successful.

In my view, these are priorities. We should be getting them on to the agenda of this new government.

To view the ATPN report, go here.