Transforming Front-Line Child Welfare Practices (2010)
Faculty of Social Work
In 2006, the Ontario government launched an ambitious and multi-faceted Transformation Agenda for child welfare services. Among this Agenda’s objectives was the development of more cooperative helping relationships in child welfare, reducing the system’s reliance on legal authority to engage families, creating community and service partnerships and increasing child welfare capacity to respond differentially to families. Within this shifting child welfare context, the Transforming Front-line Child Welfare Practice Project research’s main purpose was to understand how centrally located service delivery settings and service delivery settings that were more accessible to families affected front-line child protection practice. A second encompassing objective was to examine how partnerships with other service organizations and neighbourhood associations affected front line child welfare practice. This Transforming Front-line Child Welfare Practice research examined eleven separate accessible and central child welfare service delivery sites at six child welfare agencies in Ontario. These sites were selected to vary on these two dimensions of accessibility and partnerships. These two dimensions have also been identified in the literature as contributing to child welfare capacity to respond differentially or flexibly to familes (Cameron, Freymond, & Roy, 2003; Schene, 2001, 2005).
With one exception, accessible service delivery models in this research embedded front line child protection service providers in neighbourhoods or schools so that service providers would be more familiar and accessible to families. The philosophies of accessible programs emphasized collaboration with other community service providers, local community building and prevention. Central models located child protection service providers in agency premises that generally were not physically close to most of the families served. This was the more common service delivery setting for child protection services in the participating agencies and in other Children’s Aid Societies in Ontario.
Earlier exploratory research through the Partnerships for Children and Families program of research (Frensch, Cameron, & Hazineh, 2005a) at Wilfrid Laurier University found that different child protection service delivery settings had notable impacts on child protection service delivery including: (1) service provider accessibility to children and families, (2) the development of cooperative helping relationships with children and families, (3) the development of partnerships with other service organizations, (4) the development of partnerships with neighbourhood associations, (5) the levels and types of assistance provided to children and families, and (6) client and community image the child welfare agency.
This more extensive research built upon this earlier exploratory research. More specifically, this multi-faceted longitudinal research incorporated:
- An assessment of the impacts of accessible and central service delivery models on family functioning indicators and child protection system indicators (e.g. formal court applications, out-of-home placements of children, etc.).
- An exploration of how these different child welfare service delivery settings affected front line child protection service providers’ satisfaction with their work with children and families.
- An exploration of how these different child welfare service delivery settings affected parents’ satisfaction with their child welfare service involvements.
- An examination of how these different child welfare service delivery settings influenced the services and supports available to families.
- An assessment of the impacts of accessible and central service delivery settings on front line helping relationships in child welfare.
- An exploration of how accessible and central service delivery settings affected employment satisfaction and sustainability.
This research also discusses the development requirements of the accessible service delivery models and what practical lessons can be gleaned from these experiences. Finally, it looks at broader implications for how we understand and organize our efforts to keep children safe and help families.
Cameron, G., Hazineh, L., & Frensch, K.M. (2010). Transforming Front-Line Child Welfare Practice: The Impacts of Institutional Settings on Services, Employment Environments, Children, and Families (Synthesis Report, pp. 1–118). Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University, Partnerships for Children and Families Project (Transforming Front-Line Child Welfare Practices: The Impacts Of Institutional Settings On Services, Employment Environments, Children And Families).