by Krista Lamb, Communications Specialist
Charmaine King, Child Protection Supervisor – Ongoing, is seated at a table with a group of staff and community partners, listening as the details of a high risk CCAS case are discussed. She takes it all in and then, when the moment is right, quietly and firmly adds her context and opinion. It’s a complicated case and her voice is an important one – she is explaining her understanding of the feelings of the parent being discussed. It is a perfect example of her role as a Supervisor – asking questions and providing objectivity to ensure the case is looked at from all sides.
High Risk Conferences are held if a case is deemed to have a higher level of risk than the average. In each case, the goal is to find a way to work with a family successfully while ensuring the safety of children. The child protection staff meet with the branch manager and a member of one or more community programs to discuss the case and decide the best steps to take. Charmaine likes that someone from a community agency is in attendance to bring a fresh perspective from outside the sphere of child welfare.
Charmaine is an advocate for incorporating outside opinions into our work. Part of her role as a supervisor is to manage CCAS’s involvement in the Keeping Families Together (KFT) programs with the Griffin Child & Youth Centre and with the Jamaican Canadian Association and Millan & Associates. When I arrive to shadow her for the day, she is already meeting with a worker from the Griffin program to go over cases we have referred to them – something she does about once a month.
KFT programs are short-term service options for families where the protection concerns may be resolved with the support of community services. The program serving African-Caribbean families started last year and has been a huge success – providing service support in the home on evenings and weekends to make them more accessible, while also ensuring cultural sensitivity. Charmaine spends a portion of each day working on referrals to the program and meeting with the staff as needed.
Like most supervisors, Charmaine’s job is technically nine to five, but in reality she is available whenever her staff needs her. “I say to my team, if you’re working, I’m working.” That means she is on call if a staff member is out in the community early in the morning or late in the evening. Her job is to be there when they need support.
I sit with her while she goes through a case with one of her staff. It’s a common story – the parent came to Canada to work and then sponsored the children a few years later. The children arrive and have difficulty adjusting – the relationship is strained after so much time apart and issues arise that result in CCAS being called. In this case, the outcome is a good one – the Child Protection Worker is able to work positively with the family, they are guided to community supports and the case will likely be closed soon. Both the children and the parents are in a better place.
Charmaine talks the worker through the case – asks questions, takes notes, follows-up on points from their last discussion. She asks for the worker's thoughts and probes for more information. “It’s important to always have objectivity in every situation,” she says. “My staff know the details and character of the families and their story. My job is to provide that objectivity, to ask questions and work with them to find solutions.”
For Charmaine and her team, collaboration, community support and teamwork are integral components of a successful day.