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Connections responds to new Child and Family Services policy

August 10, 2015

Connections is pleased by and supportive of the new Child and Family Services (CFS) position paper, “Foundations of Caregiver Support.” Not only is it a solid, clear and supported rationale that can underpin programming and investment by CFS, but built in a consultative process, this guidance will ensure government and community start from the same point and head in the same direction.

In other social service areas, this approach to developing a shared guiding principle is not evident, and it shows.

We therefore are enthused to stand up and congratulate CFS and community partners for the “Foundations of Caregiver Support.”

Connections focuses on adults with cognitive challenges who are parents and they are often the subject of intervention, identified as parents who are expected to neglect a child. We are pleased to see attitudes shift away from presumption of guilt and towards a willingness to give parent(s) a chance to demonstrate the capacity to care for a child.
 
What continues to concern us at Connections is the tendency to cite cognitive challenges as the reason for potential neglect. In fact, research shows that cognitive challenges and child neglect are not correlated. Poverty and isolation are by far more significant factors that influence the ability to parent effectively. It is similarly concerning that parents who grew up in care are cited as unable to parent.

Given Connections’ 25 years of experience supporting people with cognitive challenges to parent successfully, we would offer the following perspective on the “Foundations of Caregiver Support:”

  • Multi-generational grief and loss is also common among people with disabilities, who, until the mid-70s could expect to be institutionalized as well as subject to eugenics.
  • Today, sexual health and reproduction are still effectively restricted and controlled and this lack of autonomy has significant implications, including trauma, for adults with cognitive challenges.
  • Cultural sensitivity is a significant issue in Alberta for all of our social services. Every individual is shaped by their upbringing and culture and everyone has those biases within, affecting how they respond to others. While this is important to highlight for Aboriginal populations because of our particularly poor history of respecting Aboriginal cultures, it is no less important for others. Every social support and program needs to build in a better response to and respect of an individual’s culture and unique roots.
  • This paper makes several calls for sensitivity to children and consideration of their situation. At Connections, we feel that same call is needed for parents and other family members. CFS has a large and difficult mandate and our perspective does not suggest that CFS’ mandate should be even further expanded. But we have watched parents’ rights and feelings be trampled while protecting the child and in most cases, it was possible to both protect the child and respect the parent. Since the focus of this document is the support to the caregiver, this point is pertinent.

Connections looks forward to participating in CFS’ evolving support practice and we’re particularly optimistic about the focus on caregiver support to help families manage a safe and nurturing home for their children.