Working together to keep vulnerable children in their families

My family, my community

© Image courtesy – The Action

Sebastien Trudel, Maison Oxygen de Juliette, Lionel Carmant, Madeleine Dion, Regional Coordinator for “My Family, My Community”, Isabel Sauer, Marieze Poparte, President and CEO of CISSS de Lanaudière, Christian Pelletier, Director of the Youth Program at CISSS de Lanaudière and Annie Plante, Deputy Director General of CISSS de Lanaudière.

Reducing the movement of children to foster families. This is the aim of the “My Family, My Community” program that opened on 2 May at the Center André-Hénault and that will soon be implemented at the MRC in Juliette. The project’s regional coordinator, Isabel Sauer, presented the objectives and stages of this initiative, in which child protection is a “collective responsibility”.

The Lanaudière Integrated Center for Health and Social Services (CISSS) has launched the “My Family, My Community” programme, which will primarily target children aged 6 to 11 years. Ms. Sawyer explains that CISSS and several stakeholders have agreed that this age group should be prioritized as it represents 37% of the total number of children in the Juliette MRC. However, given that there are multiple reports in Lanaudière and the number of cases per 1,000 children exceeds the county’s rate, the project organizers intend to eventually expand the service to young people aged 18 or younger.

Isabel Sawyer lists the main goals of the programme, which are to reduce the number of children who will have placements and their duration. The coordinator also wants to prevent siblings from being separated in different accommodation centers as much as possible and to promote placements in close proximity 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 able to stay in the same school, have the same friends and the same activities,” Ms. Sawyer identifies.

decision-making team

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 by taking into account the needs of children and vulnerable families.

The partners will then have a duty to oversee the collective decision-making process (TDP), i.e. the meetings between the child’s parents and various stakeholders. These two-hour meetings will be organized with the aim of discussing concerns, strengths and solutions that will be put in place to improve the family situation and child safety. Other experts may also participate in these discussions. “If there is spousal violence, an organization that specializes in domestic violence can come and talk to us about the impact of violence on children,” explains Isabelle Sawyer. The facilitator adds that the EDP should end unanimously on whether the child can remain in their environment or whether they should be transferred instead. So the auditor from the DYP will be part of the meeting and will assess the situation during the discussions in order to make a final decision on whether or not to place the child.

Ms. Sawyer explained that although the phrase ‘my family, my community’ has been used to prevent a child being taken out of his or her family home, this situation still exists. In this case, the third strategy of the program is to create another committee of partners that will be responsible for the recruitment and support of accommodation resources. Since 71% of children aged 6-11 have been displaced outside their family lands at RCM in Joliet, organizers will first consider keeping the child in their community, for example by finding an entourage who agrees to take them. Otherwise, the committee will look for a host family located as close to their surroundings as possible, to prevent the child from being uprooted from their environment. Isabelle Sawyer emphasizes that uprooting can lead to a difficult reunion: “If a parent wants to go out for ice cream with their child, but they live an hour away, it becomes difficult to do these kinds of small reunion events.”

Finally, the committee will be responsible for following up on all steps taken during the process and evaluating whether or not the program objectives have been achieved. The Minister of Health and Social Services, Lionel Carmant, who attended the opening, said he was “enchanted” by the programme. While only two regions of Quebec have published “My Family, My Community” on their territory, the minister is satisfied to see Lanaudière added to this list. “Every child deserves to develop and grow in a safe, nurturing and stable environment for their growth,” says Mr. Carment. The latter wanted to thank the various communities for the support they would provide to the families: “The project will undoubtedly be a great success for the benefit of the children of the region and all over Quebec.”

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