Federation Research Bulletin: September 2019

This month’s research bulletin includes articles and reports about adoption, permanency, child protection case management, family preservation, women fleeing abuse, housing needs of women fleeing violence, and mobility and work spaces in child protection and social work.

  1. BC Adoption & Permanency Options Update (2019)
  2. Child protection cases, one size fits all? Cluster analyses of risk and protective factors (2019)
  3. Re-establishing their Lives: Issues Relating to Affordable Housing for Women and their Children Escaping Violent Relationships in Northern Manitoba (2019)
  4. Housing Needs of Indigenous Women Leaving Intimate Partner Violence in Northern Communities (2019)
  5. Using GPS to explore the mobilities and geographies of social work and child protection practice (2019)

For more information, additional research, or if you have feedback about how we can make this member service more useful or informative, please contact us—we’d love to hear from you.

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1. BC Adoption & Permanency Options Update (2019)

In June 2014, the Representative for Children and Youth (RCY) issued a report entitled Finding Forever Families: A Review of the Provincial Adoption System. This review was prompted by the Representative’s concern about the nearly 4,000 children and youth who were in the continuing custody of the ministry at that time—1,000 of whom were eligible for adoption. At the time the report was released, the Representative committed to issuing periodic updates on the status of BC’s adoption program. This is the fifth and final adoption and permanency options update RCY has released.

The numbers presented in RCY’s BC Adoption and Permanency Options Updates capture some of the efforts made by MCFD to find legal permanency but do not provide adequate information on the breadth and quality of permanency planning. Due to changes in the ways in which permanency and adoption are understood, and the views held about adoption by First Nations, Métis and Inuit leaders, communities, and families, the Representative has decided that future monitoring reports will take a broader view on permanency.

Future work by the representative’s office around adoption and permanency will be informed by youth in and from care who have added their voice to the reconceptualization of permanency suggesting that relational permanency is more important to them than legal permanency.

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2. Child protection cases, one size fits all? Cluster analyses of risk and protective factors (2019)

This study explored the extent to which subgroups can be distinguished within child protection populations (based upon the prevalence of risk and protective factors) in order to enable case management approaches that better fit the specific needs of those subgroups.

The authors framed their research with questions like: What are the most commonly registered risk and protective factors in child protection cases? Can we distinguish representative subgroups or clusters of risk factors? Is there multi-dimensional interplay between clusters of risks and protective factors?

This study found five distinct parental subgroups within the child protection population building on the interplay between risk and protective characteristics on the child, parental and environmental levels: (1) major life events, (2) social-economic problems, (3) poor parenting skills, (4) multiple parental risk factors, (5) no parental risk factors.

The prevalence rates of risk factors reported in this study can offer insight into the actual scope of specific problems or risk factors which would enable local policy-makers to (1) better allocate their budgets, (2) stimulate targeted interventions to address problems in housing, employment, or parenting support in certain geographic areas, and (3) shape case management approaches to better fit specific needs of client groups.

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3. Re-establishing their Lives: Issues Relating to Affordable Housing for Women and their Children Escaping Violent Relationships in Manitoba (2019)

This qualitative report looks at the experiences of women and children escaping violent relationships when they leave temporary solutions such as crisis centres in Northern Manitoba. This research explores both (1) the geographic moves women make as they seek safety and shelter for themselves and their children and (2) their reasons for making these transitions.

Most importantly, this study shows the gaps in services and supports for women and children exposed to do­mestic violence. It confirms the need to address housing issues and the need for a coordinated service re­sponse to reduce vulnerability and increase the support to women and children affected by violence. It also shows a need to address poli­cies and government programs that increase the availability of houses, transportation, as well as second-stage and transitional housing for women to stay and work on long-term solutions that prevent them from having to re­turn to their violent environment.

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4. Housing Needs of Indigenous Women Leaving Partner Violence in Northern Communities (2019)

This report is a companion piece to the qualitative research study above titled Re-establishing their Lives: Issues Relating to Affordable Housing for Women and their Children Escaping Violent Relationships in Northern Manitoba. It aims to understand and explore the contradiction inherent in fleeing abuse—although women are often supported in making the decision to leave, the act of leaving creates an entirely new set of challenges.

The problems of intimate partner violence and housing insecurity are independent issues and each worthy of discussion on their own. However, for women in northern communities, these issues are often co-occurring. Violence is a major con­tributor to women experiencing homelessness, but the threat of homelessness can be an ever-present concern in a place where access to housing is, in its own right, a challenge. This report outlines the best current literature on housing needs of women fleeing violence and identifies gaps to be addressed by policy-makers and service delivery organizations.

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5. Using GPS to explore the mobilities and geographies of social work and child protection practice (2019)

Social work is an inherently mobile and spatial profession. Child protection social work occurs in and necessitates visiting diverse spaces, such as homes, schools, courts, and hospitals. But there are increasing concerns around how bureaucratic systems are effectively immobilizing practitioners and there is a very little understanding around how mobility is actually experienced and what implications there might be in terms of social worker wellbeing and practice.

This paper reports on innovative research methods using GPS (Global Positioning System) devices to trace social workers’ mobilities and explore the use of office space, home working, and visits to families in order to reveal how mobile working is shaping social care practitioner wellbeing and practice. The paper explores the changing relationship between mobile and sedentary work (i.e., desk work) and the gradual seeping of work into the home environments of mobile social workers.

The use of such technology does involve navigating some complex ethical issues, and the authors have been explicit in arguing that GPS technology as a quantitative tool to measure workers’ performance is problematic. However, this article uniquely demonstrates the utility of GPS-enabled technology for capturing data about social worker mobility and the researchers argue that this technology, with the proper safeguards, could be used effectively to learn more about other areas of practice.

The Research to Practice Network: Mental Health Literacy and Community Social Service Practice

Last year, The Federation re-launched our Research to Practice Network with two popular short articles on street-involved youth and gender-based violence. This month, we are excited to share another piece of learning prepared specifically for those working in the social care sector.

Mental Health Literacy & Social Service Practice

In this article, Patti Ranahan from Concordia University’s Department of Applied Human Sciences explains and explores the concept of mental health literacy—the understanding of mental disorders and their treatments, awareness of stigmas related to mental disorders, and ways to enhance help-seeking efforts.

The short article unpacks how mental health literacy shows up in front-line practice and proposes ways people and organizations working in the social care sector can improve their mental health literacy.

“Instead of framing avoidance as resistance or noncompliance, social service practitioners can recognize disengagement more as a program or organizational challenge to be understood and addressed. Improving mental health literacy requires understanding help-seeking differently and realizing that overcoming these barriers are not the individual’s sole responsibility.”

You can access and download the article on the Research to Practice webpage. (You can also review past articles and an archive of Research to Practice publications from 2008 and 2013).

As always, if you have feedback about this program and/or how we can improve it for Federation members, please let us know. There’s a lot of information and research out there and The Federation is committed to keeping our members informed and engaged as best we can.

Get involved—Community Organization Staff…

Is there an area of practice your staff members are keenly interested in? Is there a community issue or aspect of service delivery that your team wants to better understand? Help guide the direction of the Research to Practice Network by identifying topics and issues for future articles. Contact Marshall Watson at The Federation office with your ideas and input!

Get involved—Associate Members…

We’re inviting professors, students, and researchers to submit short articles and research summaries that can help improve front-line service delivery in BC’s community social services. If you know of and/or are working in areas related to reconciliation and decolonizing practice, youth in care, early years, child and youth mental health, residential care, autism, housing, seniors, substance use, resiliency, or training and supervision of staff, please contact us!

And help us get the word out by circulating this call among your students and faculty members. If you are interested or have any questions, please contact Marshall Watson at The Federation office.

Rebecca Ataya Lang
Director of Programs and Services

Download the Report

Click on the cover image below to view and download the report!