N.L. needs more culturally responsive services: child and youth advocate


Published on April 18, 2017

After a traumatic situation in which children were removed from their parents’ home, the child and youth advocate is making a case for more culturally responsive services.

According to a report released Tuesday, the family had been living in Newfoundland and Labrador for four years after relocating from a different country. After a report about parental physical abuse, the Department of Children, Seniors and Social Development (CSSD) determined the children were unsafe and a warrant was issued for their removal.

As Newfoundland and Labrador works to increase its population to support economic growth, and welcome immigrants and refugees from diverse cultural backgrounds, the province must also ensure that available services promote cultural competence.

Jacqueline Lake Kavanagh, child and youth advocate

When the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC) and social workers showed up to remove the children, the mother, who was pregnant, indicated she didn’t speak English fluently. She asked that they come back when her husband was home.

According to the report, some of the responders didn’t know this beforehand.

CCSD and RNC management advised the responders to remove the children. The mother refused to let them in, so they forced entry.

“Professionals reported that this removal was a traumatic experience for all involved,” the report states.

Child and Youth Advocate Jacqueline Lake Kavanagh noted in her report several areas where services fell short as the children transitioned from temporary care back to their family home:

·      While a supervised access worker who spoke the family’s first language attended visits, no interpretation services were arranged for assessments.

·      Despite multiple recommendations that the children should be debriefed, it appears that never occurred.

·      Several professionals recommended one of the children receive a psychological assessment, but it took more than 10 months before that happened.

·      While in temporary care, the children didn’t access religious events and activities that had previously been a big part of their lives.

When the children were back in their parents’ care, the family moved to another province.

 

Recommendations

Kavanagh highlighted three areas where the system can improve, the first being diversity and cultural competence.

“As Newfoundland and Labrador works to increase its population to support economic growth, and welcome immigrants and refugees from diverse cultural backgrounds, the province must also ensure that available services promote cultural competence,” the report reads. “There are multiple examples throughout this case that demonstrate deficiencies in culturally appropriate responses and which identify opportunities for improvement in the provision of services that are diverse, inclusive and equitable.”

Kavanagh recommends that the Department of Advanced Education, Skills and Labour and other departments that provide services to “culturally diverse” individuals and families use culturally responsive interpretation services; implement mandatory training for cultural competence, diversity and inclusion; and analyze its services to identify areas for improvement.

The second area for improvement is in collaborative practices for joint removals. The RNC and RCMP are being asked to develop and implement policy in that area.

Finally, mental-health services have been identified as an area for improvement. It is recommended that all front-line staff with CSSD be given resources on debriefing and mental-health resources for children and youth.

The full report can be read online at goo.gl/zK6BWF.