Shawenim Abinoojii Inc. (SAI) shares the sacred duty to love, protect and nurture children in its care by providing unique and needed services and programs that aim to fulfill the needs of the child, family and community. SAI placement programs are available exclusively to Southeast Child and Family Services (SECFS).
The Family Reunification Program (FRP) utilizes a holistic approach to collaborative care to support families in moving toward long-term reunification. This is a voluntary program. Biological parents reside in the licensed foster home with their children (in-care) and receive mentorship from a skilled team of care providers that includes a Mentoring Caregiver, Helpers (Support team) and Program Staff. The program aims to prepare families for independence from the child welfare system through supportive practice of daily parenting and affiliated life-skills. The objective is to successfully prepare parents for long-term reunification and independence from the child welfare system.
The FRP embraces a holistic approach to collaborative care rooted in Indigenous approaches to safety, parenting and wellness. These approaches are guided by the four quadrants of the medicine wheel framework which includes mental, spiritual, physical and emotional needs to support overall balance. This program honors the inherent connection of children and families to their identity and recognizes the inherent rights of Indigenous families to care for their children.
Key to the successful operationalization of the program is a positive relationship between the biological parents and the helpers in the home, and most specifically the Mentoring Caregiver. The Mentoring Caregiver is responsible for working as an ally to biological parents through ongoing critical self-examination and learning. The Mentoring Caregiver and key helpers (support staff) are required to participate in learning experiences alongside the Biological Parent, including parenting programs and parent-child programs as directed by the program Supervisor. The family is supported in healing relational trauma through attachment focused interventions.
· Strengths-based Approach
The FRP utilizes a strengths-based approach that identifies and builds on individual, family and community capacity to empower individuals and families in achieving sustainable outcomes guided by individual and collective strengths. The caregiving team is required to utilize a strengths-based approach in all aspects of delivery of care.
· An environment of safety, security, stability, and predictability:
Structure and nurturance work hand in hand to establish safety in the home. The development of the household routine is initially led by the Mentoring Caregiver with consideration of specific goals and objectives identified by the parent and guardian agency. This is a scaffolding process that supports and empowers the biological parents to build skills to move toward establishing this routine independently. Establishing an environment of physical and emotional safety and a sense of belonging is foundational to all other work.
· A developmental approach integrated within the holistic teachings of the Medicine Wheel:
Service planning for children and families must be done in the context of developmental needs, including cultural, spiritual, mental, physical, and emotional aspects of self and family unit. Caregivers work to support the children, youth and parents to heal and to meet developmental milestones and case plan objectives.
· Support family relationships and identity:
The FRP recognizes the importance of family, community and identity. All children and families remain embedded in their families, communities and identity throughout their participation in the program. The FRP caregiving team ensures the social and cultural context of the family and community is a fundamental part of service delivery. Safe and healthy family contact within and outside of the home is encouraged and supported.
· Supported follow-up on discharge:
Post-reunification family wellness services will be provided. This is a voluntary service that may be accessed, as needed, for an undetermined length of time. The Therapeutic Support, Family Wellness Worker and Transitional Family Mentor will have developed a relationship with the family during their time at the FRP and will continue to provide in-home support to the family following their move from the FRP home. The purpose of this service is to provide non-judgmental, culturally relevant support to preserve the family unit and prevent family breakdown and will include assisting the family with developing a network of support, assisting with ensuring the children have a smooth transition to new schools, helping the parent develop good routines in the home, and assisting with further development of parenting and life skills such as budgeting.
- Engaging the family;
- Assessing their strengths and needs;
- Assisting with development of a comprehensive plan of care based on a developmental model and reflecting the dimensions of the Medicine Wheel;
- Coordinating and implementing the plan of care effectively in conjunction with the family, community and service partners;
- Reviewing the achievement of the plan of care objectives;
- Evaluating the service provided to them and its outcomes;
- Terminating services appropriately and effectively;
- Ensuring meaningful follow-up for the family.
- Biological Parent(s): The parent and primary caregiver of the children. The lead decision maker for the family unit.
- Extended Family: The primary circle of support for the family unit, as determined by the biological parent.
- Identified Supports: Community-based resources selected by and available to the family throughout and following the reunification case plan.
- Mentoring Caregiver: Mentors and supports the Biological Parent in providing primary care of the children and meeting specific case plan objectives to support reunification.
- Respite Worker: Provides intermittent relief for Mentoring Caregiver and assists the Biological Parent in place of the caregiver.
- Helpers (Support Worker team): Provide assistance to Biological Parent in providing care for the children, including accessing supports and resources that aim to assist successful post-reunification living.
- Case Manager: Participates in collaborative assessment of individual and family strengths and needs and in response, coordinates suitable services to assist families in meeting their goals. Provides direction and support to caregivers and helper teams. Facilitates monthly collaborative meetings.
- Therapeutic Support: Provides trauma-informed care to all members of the family and caregiving team.
- Support Work Coordinator: Identifies helper (support staff) needs in homes; places helpers in homes and supports them in their role. Manages time sheets for helpers in homes. Provides orientation, training and problem solving to helpers in homes.
- Family Wellness Worker: Provides cultural support and advocacy for development and maintenance of positive and healthy family and community connections.
- Family Program Coordinator: Provides parenting skill and life skill training
- Transitional Family Mentor: Provides pre- and post-reunification supports to families to ensure families are supported in moving into and out of the program; ensures that networks of support are established and service delivery is seamless during transition.
- Team Lead and Program Supervisor: Provide direction, support and oversight for program delivery and placement service team.
- Direct Service Worker: Initiates referral process; provides family history and specific case plan direction; participates in monthly service meetings; and takes necessary action as the guardian agency to facilitate reunification. Works collaboratively with Case manager and SAI team to support stated case plan goals.
The SAI FRP is a voluntary program for families being served by SECFS with children in-care (Apprehension, Temporary or Permanent status, Voluntary Placement Agreement) and for whom the SECFS Direct Service Worker has identified reunification as a case plan objective.
Program Duration: 6 – 18 months
- Intake Circle, Orientation and Goal Setting
- Integration (move in)
- Learning and Practice
- Communication and Reporting
- Transitional Services (move out)
- Post-Reunification Supports
In order for the program to meet the needs of families, it is necessary to ensure that there is a comprehensive admission process so that:
- Families are admitted to the program based on suitability, need, readiness to take this next step and willingness to work within the program model;
- the program staff and caregivers are fully aware of the current and past needs, strength and social circumstances of the family being referred;
- the family, program staff, caregivers and SECFS have a clear and cohesive understanding of the expectations for participating in this program, the case plan steps and objectives.
Therefore, the admissions, intervention and discharge process will include the following:
- The referral will include at least:
- an updated social history which includes:
i. a description of the family background, needs and strengths;
ii. identification of any individuals who, for safety reasons, are not approved for involvement in service delivery;
iii. identification of any individuals who may be considered supports to the family, including the other biological parent and their role with the children;
iv. a description of the circumstances that led to the children or youth coming into care;
v. an overview of the family’s current level of involvement in the care of their children;
vi. an overview of what steps have already been taken to move toward reunification including addictions treatment, sobriety supports, therapy, and parenting programs.
b. An up-to-date case plan identifying:
i. what the service objective is for the family
- why it is likely to be successful,
- what the risks to the success are and what services are needed to address those risks,
ii. the purpose of the placement at the FRP and how it fits with the SECFS service objective,
- why this path was chosen and why it is expected to work,
iii. the level of engagement of the family in determining case plan steps and outcomes
iv. who else will be involved and how (extended family, supports, community resources, etc.)
c. A contingency plan for the family in the event that the case plan is interrupted or is not achieved.
Once the referral package is received, an Admission Review is facilitated by the SAI Reunification Team to assess need and suitability, to determine if the family is selected for program admission. This is a collaborative assessment meeting between SECFS and the Reunification Team to further discuss the referral package.
Intake Circle, Orientation and Goal Setting:
If it is determined that the family meets admission criteria, an Intake Circle will be facilitated by the SAI Reunification Team, Caregivers, SECFS DSW, the biological parents and any others who will be involved, to discuss how the FRP will be utilized to facilitate the case plan objectives and to build the plan and process. All members would then participate in a joint orientation session to clarify roles and responsibilities in an effort to support organized service provision. Concrete service goals are set and progress is evaluated on a monthly basis through collaborative family meetings which include the Reunification team members, the SECFS Direct Service Worker, the Mentoring Caregiver and Helper team, the Parent and any supports they identify to participate in this process.
The SAI IRP recognizes the value of a team-based approach. Essential to successful implementation of the FRP model is healthy, respectful and engaged relationships between all parties. Open communication and trust building is a foundational and integral piece of this program. A positive and connected relationship between the Biological Parent and the Mentoring Caregiver is key to success in the program. To promote positive relationship, the Parent and Mentoring Caregiver are encouraged to participate in activities that are focused on building relationship as agreed upon by the Parent and FRP prior to move in as well as within program duration. Additionally, all involved parties, including SAI team members, SECFS workers and collaterals are encouraged to work together in respectful, collaborative ways that include open communication that always includes the parent, attending all monthly progress meetings, and engaging in the process together as a team with common goals.
In addition, any parenting or related programs prescribed to the Parent, including Parenting Programs provided by SAI, must also be completed, in tandem, by the Mentoring Caregiver. The purpose of this approach is to improve distribution of duty and support cohesive delivery of care for the children.
Monthly collaborative meetings will be held and are based on the Signs of Safety Model. Each meeting will document the strengths and successes of the past month as well as the challenges and worries, and will document goals for the month and identify who is responsible for associated tasks. These meetings form the roadmap for how the family will move forward toward the over-arching goal of being ready to move out of the FRP home and parent their children independently.
Two integration options are available, based on the needs of the family in the areas of child developmental need, parental and child stability, parental engagement prior to program admission, and preferences of the family:
A) Joint Integration: The Biological Parent and child(ren) move into the home on the same date. This is the preferred move-in option as it provides opportunity for parents to meaningfully engage in the development and implementation of a structured routine for the kids.
B) Individual Integration: The child(ren) move into the home prior to the parent. This is the second option for specific circumstances that require structured routine be developed prior to the parent moving into the home (e.g., if a parent is pending completion of a residential treatment program).
Learning and Practice
The Parent(s) are primarily responsible for the actualization of the case plan goals and objectives, with supportive assistance and guidance from the caregiving team, program staff and SECFS DSW. The caregiving team is responsible for empowering the Parent in achieving goals, documenting progress and/or needs, and ensure the SECFS DSW and SAI Case Manager are informed of the current family status.
A) The Case Manager will be expected to monitor the plan closely by having weekly to bi-weekly in-person contact with the family and regular phone and email contact as needed, to review progress and address any issues that might affect the plan.
B) Therapeutic Support and Wellness team members will regularly visit the home to offer trauma-informed care and provide cultural teaching and healing opportunities for all family members.
C) Programming staff may attend the home to provide guidance on attachment focused parenting practices and life skills guidance on topics such as budgeting and cooking.
D) The SECFS DSW, Reunification team members, caregiver(s), family and any supports are required to participate in a once monthly case plan review and update meeting.
Communication and Reporting
At the monthly collaborative meetings, detailed notes are taken and are provided to all members of the caregiving team, including the parent. These notes serve as progress reports and identify goals and people assigned to complete the goals. In addition,
the Mentoring Caregiver and Helper team is responsible for providing daily logs and detailed monthly reports that capture needs, strengths and progress with respect to the case plan goals and objectives. This documentation must utilize strengths-based language (speaks to objective behaviours and not moralizing opinion). The monthly reports are provided to the Reunification Team Lead or Supervisor. House Logs are reviewed on a periodic basis and copies are to be made available to the SECFS DSW upon request. The Reunification Admin then forwards reports to the SECFS DSW. All members of the caregiving and service delivery team have the duty to report suspected child maltreatment to the appropriate child welfare agency. Any concerns should be directed to the SAI Reunification Case Manager and/or Supervisor as well as the SECFS DSW.
In this work, there will be disagreements, interpersonal conflict, and at times, relational or communication breakdowns. Any challenges or conflicts will be addressed through a dispute resolution process guided by the FRP team. The response is therapeutic and seeks to promote relational healing and reconciliation. The goal of this is to promptly respond to concerns that might harm case plan process and/or the collaborative relationship between the caregivers in the home. In the event there is a difference of opinion with regards to caregiving approach between the caregiving team and the Parent, the responsibility lies with the caregiving team to compromise and adapt to the Parent’s preferred approach granted there are no identified concerns surrounding the protection and safety of the child(ren). The FRP is to respond to the needs of families.
The Mentoring Caregiver is responsible for creating a welcoming environment for immediate and extended family and chosen supports to participate in daily living and assist with meeting case plan goals and objectives. The aim of this program is to work in a collaborative, open and supportive way with SECFS and other collaterals. Should there be disagreements about process or communication breakdowns, it is the expectation that both parties will work toward repairing the communication breakdown and move forward with openness, connection and collaboration toward shared goals.
Transitional Service (moving out)
Transitional discharge planning should commence at three to six months prior to program discharge. The Transitional Family Mentor, along with Therapeutic Support and the Wellness Team, is the program staff person responsible for assisting the Parent in making appropriate arrangements in preparation for reunification; including but not limited to:
- School for children
- Education and Employment for parent
- Support – family, friends and community resources
The Discharge/Transition Plan will be constructed jointly by the team as part of the Monthly collaborative meetings, having reviewed:
- All areas of progress and an overview of current family status reflective of needs and strengths;
- The family’s support system and home environment;
- An agreement amongst the team and the family that the family are ready for reunification;
- Details of the resources and services that will be given to the children and their family to support the case plan after moving from the FRP home;
- The Contingency Plan in case the family experiences future need for child protection services.
Following program discharge, the family will be provided follow-up support from the Reunification team as determined in the Discharge Plan for not less than six months. This is a voluntary service for families.