Working together to keep vulnerable children in their families

My family, my community

© Photo Courtesy – The Action

Sébastien Trudel, Maison Oxygène de Joliette, Lionel Carmant, Madeleine Dionne, provincial coordinator of “My family, my community”, Isabelle Sawyer, Maryse Poupart, president and CEO of CISSS de Lanaudière, Christian Pelletier, director of the youth program of CISSS de Lanaudière and Annie Plante, Deputy Director General of CISSS de Lanaudière.

Reduce the movement of children to foster families. This is the objective of the “My family, my community” program which was inaugurated on May 2nd at the Center André-Hénault and which will soon be implemented in the MRC of Joliette. The regional coordinator of the project, Isabelle Sawyer, presented the objectives and stages of this initiative in which the protection of the minor is considered “a collective responsibility”.

The Integrated Center for Health and Social Services of Lanaudière (CISSS) has launched the “My family, my community” program, aimed primarily at children aged 6 to 11. Ms. Sawyer explains that CISSS and several stakeholders have agreed that this age group should be given priority as it represents 37% of the total child population in Joliette’s MRC. However, as there are more reports in Lanaudière and the number of cases per 1000 children exceeds the rate for the province, the project organizers intend to expand the service to eventually include young people aged 18 and under.

Isabelle Sawyer lists the main objectives of the program which are to reduce the number of children who will undergo internships and to reduce their duration. The coordinator also wishes to avoid as much as possible the separation of brothers in different shelters and to promote placement in places close to the family home. “We want to keep the child in his environment, but if we have to move him, we want him to be in the same school, have the same friends and have the same activities,” Ms Sawyer specifies.

Team decision making

The “My Family, My Community” program intends to implement four strategies to achieve its goals. The first step is to mobilize partners from different backgrounds or organizations, taking into account the needs of vulnerable children and families.

The partners will then have the task of overseeing the team’s decision-making process (TDP), i.e. the meetings between the child’s parents and the various stakeholders. These two-hour meetings will be organized with the aim of discussing concerns, strengths and solutions to be put in place to improve the family situation and the safety of the child. Other human resources could also participate in these discussions. “In a situation where there is violence in the couple, an organization specializing in domestic violence could come and talk to us about the impact that violence can have on children,” explains Isabelle Sawyer. The coordinator adds that EDP must end with a consensus that the child can stay in her environment or whether he should be moved. A DYP reviewer will then be part of the meeting and assess the situation during the discussions in order to make a final decision on whether or not to place the child.

Ms. Sawyer made it clear that although “My Family, My Community” is used to prevent a child’s removal from his or her family home, this situation can still occur. In this case, the third strategy of the program is to establish another partner committee that will be responsible for recruiting and supporting housing resources. Since, in Joliette’s RCM, 71% of children aged 6 to 11 are displaced outside their family’s territory, the organizers will first of all have in mind to keep the child in their community, for example by finding a member of their entourage who is agree to welcome it. If not, the committee will look for a host family located as close to their surroundings as possible to prevent the child from being uprooted from his or her environment. Isabelle Sawyer points out that uprooting can lead to difficult reunions: “If a parent wants to go get ice cream with their child but lives an hour away, it becomes difficult to have these kinds of small events that help reunion.”

Finally, a committee will have the task of following all the steps undertaken during the process and assessing whether the objectives of the program have been achieved. Present at the inauguration, the Minister of Health and Social Services, Lionel Carmant, said he was “fascinated” by this program. While only two Quebec regions have deployed “My Family, My Community” on their territory, the minister is pleased to see Lanaudière added to this list. “Every child deserves to evolve and grow in a safe, caring and stable environment for their development,” says Carmant. The latter wanted to thank the various communities for the support they will bring to the families: “The project will undoubtedly be a great success for the benefit of the children of the region and all of Quebec. “

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