Recent amendments to Nova Scotia's Department of Community Services (DCS) Child and Family Services Act are affecting our province's most vulnerable children.
The changes within DCS has created many challenges for those working within the child protection system. Most importantly, the changes are impacting Nova Scotia families as they experience a disorienting level of service.
This level of service continues to negatively impacts families.
We're advocating for change.
Social worker private practitioners, who work with DCS through Policy 75, have drafted the letter below for the Minister of Community Services Kelly Regan, outlining the impact of these changes:
Dear Minister Regan,
The undersigned social workers, most of us involved in the provision of counselling services for clients of the Department of Community Services, Child Protection section, are writing to express our serious concern regarding the current service delivery and significant stressors in DCS Child Protection.
The following three areas appear to us to reflect problems we have observed in our involvement with DCS-Child Protection colleagues and clients over the past year:
- Difficulties with regard to human resource management
- Systemic impact resulting from new legislation on DCS-CP and Dept. of Justice (including silos between provincial agencies and the federal government)
- Children and family care planning
These are particular examples of the issues noted above:
- high caseloads which are challenging the quality of case management and increasing risk to vulnerable children and families
- dramatic increases due to a variety of possible reasons, in absences or turnover of staff
- significant difficulty reaching workers to discuss service delivery
- lack of departmental direction and policy to improve culturally competent DCS service delivery to clients, and/or children, of African Nova Scotian descent
- despite some changes, there continues to be evidence of chaos in the arrangement of visitation for families, resulting in already traumatized persons losing low wage work time, and sometimes losing jobs
- reduction in salary of case aides
- impact of the passage of new legislation which effectively shortens time lines for child protection matters before the court, resulting in increased pressures on families, legal aid lawyers and child protection colleagues
- passage of new legislation without the corresponding increase in the resources necessary to meet it requirements
- insufficient administrative support for front line social workers, requiring them to spend unreasonable amounts of time in paperwork, administrative tasks, and requiring them to function as resource organizers rather than social workers focused on case management and direct service delivery
- lack of essential coordination between DCS and Revenue Canada to address the enormous gap in timeline for the return of the Child Tax Credit for very poor families - at their time of greatest need after meeting the requirement for return of children to their care.
- social workers not wanting to speak out for fear of potential disciplinary action, and clients fearing to speak out from concern that their matters with child protection will be negatively impacted
While we are not ourselves front line child welfare social workers, and recognize the limitations of not being inside the DCS, we are sufficiently involved, with considerable experience, to be able to comment on our observations with credibility. We ask that our concerns be heard, and that serious consideration be given to the implications for vulnerable families.
Please respond at your earliest convenience with an opportunity for us to meet with senior staff.
Lanna MacLean (Dartmouth), Jackie Barkley (Halifax),Beth Toomey (Sydney), Debbie Reimer (Kentville), Ian “Tay” Landry (Dartmouth), Marlene Furey (Halifax), Pam Roberts (Halifax), Roger Godin (Halifax), Elizabeth Shein (Halifax), Diane Nickerson (Pubnico), Marie Meagher (Antigonish), Robert Wright (Halifax), Annemieke Vink (Dartmouth), Cheryl Thompson (Hansport), Marion Sheridan (Antigonish), Marjorie MacDonald (Sydney), Donna Fitzpatrick (Amherst), Andrea Boyce (Sackville), Ken Osbourne (Halifax)