Stories to Inspire

Eastman conducts CFS information sessions with educators

July 2017—Eastman CFS has spent the past several months taking presentations on child and family services on the road. The presentations are hoped to encourage positive and open communication between themselves and school divisions, childcare facilitators and hospitals.

The main goal is to work together with staff from these areas to “help them understand the way child and family services operates,” as well as to support and advocate for children, Alberto Blandon, program manager, Child & Family Services, Eastman, told a group of support staff from Seine River School Division during one of the presentations in May.

“This allows us to partner together and bring safety to children and good service to everyone in our community.”

Another purpose of the presentations, conducted and enhanced by Blandon and Rhonda Dagg, a CFS program specialist, is to create a link between the school divisions and CFS.

By introducing the basic elements of the Practice Model and explaining what matters should be brought to the attention of CFS, the two groups can use a “shared language” when it comes to the safety of children,” said Blandon at the May presentation in St. Norbert, where he and Dagg spoke to about 100 clinical support teams, clinicians, guidance counsellors, resource teachers consultants and assistant supervisors from Seine River School Division.

Dagg and Blandon gave similar presentations over the winter and spring of 2017 to more than 250 child care workers, among others, which they felt have been successful in opening the lines of communication.

During their discussion with schools, key talking points included “how we come to decide there is a safety concern in families,” and “Is this a CFS matter?”

Dagg and Blandon’s presentation included:

• An outline of how the of how the Practice Model works
• How CFS assesses danger and safety
• Possible indicators of abuse
• Duty to report for teacher and staff
• Life as a foster child
• Reunification issues

The bulk of the discussion with the Seine River staff was over “duty to report.” Blandon and Dagg said that CFS relies heavily on its “communication partners” such as schools to help keep children safe.

“A significant number of referrals come from schools,” said Dagg.

Blandon emphasized that while it is the staff’s responsibility to report, it is the responsibility of CFS to investigate—and that pressure should never be felt by guidance counsellors or aides, for example.

There were several questions from the Seine River staff about what happens if a child discloses abuse to a teacher.

Staff do not need management’s permission to report abuse, Dagg said. Under the Child and Family Services Act, individuals can be prosecuted for not reporting, Dagg noted. The group was assured that under no circumstances do they need to identify themselves.

“It is your duty and obligation to report. It is our duty to protect the names of those who call us,” said Dagg.

Another discussion ensued about whether schools should photograph any injuries. Blandon recommended leaving it to the experts at the Child Protection Centre. If an injury is reported, “there is immediate action taken by our team. We have to answer it right away,” said Dagg.

One area of communication between schools and CFS that needs improvement is the follow-up after a file is created, the pair said. Often, staff are not informed if and when a child will be returning to school, or if they are being sent to stay with other family members, for example.

Dagg said this is an area of noted concern for CFS and work is being done to improve follow-up with those who work with the children in the schools so they are aware of what is happening.

Blandon said moving forward, it is hoped that a closer relationship will be forged between schools and CFS.

“By coming together, we can provide better service to kids and families. We alone cannot do this work.”