A formal partnership between Until the Last Child, the Southern First Nations Network of Care Child and Family Services Authority, the First Nations of Northern Manitoba Child and Family Services Authority, the Metis Child and Family Services Authority, the General Child and Family Services Authority and the Province of Manitoba (Department of Families).
Approximately 76% of kids in our 2016 – 2018 Manitoba Bringing Families Together Pilot Project found permanent loving homes.
The Manitoba Pilot Project is a two year pilot with the objective of increasing permanency opportunities for children in care. The pilot is intended to explore additional ways that the Manitoba child and family service system can engage with children, families and communities to establish lifelong connections and create a strong sense of belonging for children in care. The Manitoba Pilot Project recognizes that all children have a right to be connected to their family, community and culture and that these connections are vital to one’s sense of belonging and identity. Child welfare has too often disrupted these connections and needs to work in partnership with families and communities to maintain and strengthen these connections.
The pilot does this through a dedicated team of workers that use Kevin Campbell’s internationally recognized Family Finding practice approach (www.familyfinding.org) to establish lifelong connections for children in care with their family and community. The pilot went live in September 2016 and will serve approximately 150 children over two years from agencies across the four Child and Family Service Authorities, with a primary focus on serving sibling groups and other children in Winnipeg’s emergency care system.
This leading practice approach shifts how we work with families. As a part of this practice approach these dedicated workers use specific skills and strategies to locate and engage family and community connections who are or have been significant in the child and family’s life and that may have been disrupted as a result of the child coming into care, and include them in planning for the child’s future. The goal of this process is to restore the child’s natural family and community support network and ensure these supports are lifelong and are not dependent on long term child welfare service. Once this support network is in place, the network shares the decision making responsibility for the child’s safety, permanency and well being.
The pilot is a formal partnership between Until the Last Child, the Southern First Nations Network of Care Child and Family Services Authority, the First Nations of Northern Manitoba Child and Family Services Authority, the Metis Child and Family Services Authority, the General Child and Family Services Authority and the Province of Manitoba (Department of Families). Until The Last Child works alongside child welfare agencies, encouraging and supporting innovation. They provide funding and other necessary resources to enable enhanced, stable outcomes for children in care— outcomes that cannot be achieved with public-sector resources alone. In many cases, child welfare agencies already have the creativity and best practice models they need, but lack the funding to implement.
What is Manitoba’s Definition of Permanency?
Manitoba’s definition of permanency was developed by the four Child and Family Services Authorities and is inclusive of each of the four Child and Family Services Authority’s unique perspectives on permanency.
Children require safety and stability from childhood through to adulthood. Fundamental to the required safety and stability is “certainty of responsibility” –caregiver(s) who accept lifelong responsibility and commitment to care for the child and whom the child mutually understands and accepts to be a trusted support. Manitoba’s definition of permanency recognizes that all children have natural certainty and belonging through their family and community of origin and that these connections are vital to maintain.
The four markers of permanency are intended to provide children the connections, supports and understanding they require to find ‘certainty of responsibility’ following child and family services involvement with the child and their family. Each marker has specific and important intended outcomes:
- Knowing one’s story and history – this provides the child with a distinguishable sense of belonging, culture and identity.
- Safe and stable home – creates a safe, stable and reliable place for the child to learn life skills, grow and develop
- Certainty of responsibility - establishes trusted caregiver(s) in the child’s life who will provide the supports and resources for the child into and throughout adulthood. Provides the child with the security of an ongoing lifelong connection with supportive caregiver(s).
- Lifelong connections – emphasizes the importance of making every effort to maintain connections with the child’s natural network of support and extended family whenever possible. Creates the safety and security required to foster resilience and ensure the child has the connections and supports in place to pursue education, employment and any other aspirations into and throughout adulthood.
Although difficult to measure, each marker of permanency is also rooted in providing the opportunity for the child to love and feel loved. Love is an imperative part of a healthy and safe childhood, and a key aspect of a successful transition to adulthood.
What will this mean for Manitoba in the Future?
The four Child and Family Services Authorities, The Department of Families and Until The Last Child are very excited about the potential of this partnership. There will be ongoing evaluation throughout the pilot project that will look at implementation of the practice approach and permanency outcomes that include a child’s lifelong connections to a support network of family and community and their sense of belonging. The lessons learned from the evaluation will inform the development of a possible strategy to implement this practice approach on a broader scale within the system.
Northern Manitoba Pilot: The Road to Success
Executive Director of Opaskwayak Cree Nation Child and Family Services, Ron Ranville, talks about the goals of the agency and his journey to connect children in care with their lifelong families.
In 2011, as the new Executive Director of Opaskwayak Cree Nation Child and Family Services, the belief and values of the agency was to have “family looking after family”. The process was to search for family and make connections for children coming into care. Although we developed processes of finding family members, something was missing.
In February of 2016, I was fortunate to participate in the Family Finding Boot Camp in Woodstock, Ontario hosted by Kevin Campbell. Kevin developed the Family Finding model, which offers methods and strategies to locate and engage relatives of children currently living in out-of-home care. During the Family Finding Boot Camp, we learned of processes we could adopt and useful tools for the agency.
In February and March of 2017, we held a Family Finding Boot Camp in Opaskwayak, Manitoba. We invited the Northern and Provincial agencies to attend. The vision for the agency is to ensure we make life long connections for our children to family, community, and nation.
On January 8, 2018, we furthered our efforts and hired a Family Finding worker for the agency through the assistance of Until The Last Child and their Bringing Families Together pilot project located in Winnipeg, Manitoba. In this short time, we have engaged 19 children in care, and 8 families currently working with the Family Fining worker. Our goal by the end of June is 40 children in care referred to the Family Finding worker. The bench mark for the agency is to have all children in care connected to lifelong families.