To the editor,
I am writing about Stephen Kimber's article ("Lost Children," The Coast, Oct. 25). The tragic situations he describes highlight the complexities involved in child welfare work and illustrate factors that have an impact.
As social workers, we could not write a story like this one because we are not at liberty to discuss specific cases. This also means we cannot share the more positive stories that occur on a regular basis and which are obscured when a particular case is singled out for intense scrutiny. It also makes it difficult to address the tendency to hold individual social workers responsible for limitations that are systemic and over which they have no control. But we can point out ways we think the system could work more effectively and advocate for the recommendations of the Nunn Commission and the development and implementation of a poverty reduction strategy.
Social workers in child welfare agencies are involved in the planning and delivery of many services in addition to child protection, such as family support, advocacy, foster care, group-home care and adoptions. Social workers must evaluate a variety of factors related to the child, the family and the community. They have to balance the child's safety and well being with the rights and needs of the family. Professional social work judgment serves both children and families well in a majority of situations.
The system could be more effective. Increased resources would support social workers, whose services have made differences to lives of children and families. Approaches like the Family Group Conferencing, mentioned in the article, also lead to better outcomes and unfold better in a well-funded system.
The Nova Scotia Association of Social Workers, through its professional and regulatory roles, supports competent and ethical social work practice. We hope that Nova Scotians will recognize the complex nature of child welfare work and will throw their support behind efforts to ensure that the system effectively addresses the needs of children and families.
By Anne Vaughan, president, Nova Scotia Association of Social Worke