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Promise of Hope - Commitment to Change
 
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Differential Response
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Swan Lake First Nation
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Headingley, Manitoba  R4H 1C8


Southern First Nations Network of Care
Policy and Strategy
Differential Response
 

The New Approach – Differential Response

“But yet there is hope. As it is said in the time of the Seventh Fire… A new people shall arise.

What you are doing, what you are trying to do is part of what they are talking about.”

Bawdway widun Benaise

Eddie Benton-Benai

Healing Our People Everyday (H.O.P.E.)

About a decade ago a question was put to Aboriginal People. The question was, “if we were to gain control of Child Welfare what would we do differently?” How would we deal with the myriad of children and families coming into care? Collectively we had come to a crossroads in time where we were asked if we wanted to continue down a path that simply apprehended children or embark on a new one that held prevention as the answer.

From children on down to elders the path chosen was to be one that held the most “hope”. That hope rests with a decision to deal with children and families that were coming into care with a different eye. An eye that looked at not only the negatives that brought them into care but an eye that also looked at the positives that would act as a glue to keep the families together. That new look or new way of doing things is now upon us.

In clinical circles it is something called, “Differential Response”. However in the eyes of the people (Clients and CFS workers) it is called a “New Approach” that is anchored in helping families in crisis get through their ordeal intact as a family with community help. It is felt that this is to be a new time, a new era filled with the hope of rekindling a new relationship that draws on the strength of the First Nation’s community.

Is the road going to be easy? The short answer is “no”. But the long answer is that there is tremendous hope that this “New Approach” will do two things over time. It will bring back a trusting relationship between CFS workers and the people it serves and at the same time strengthens the idea that “it takes a community to raise a child.” That it will bring communities back to a balance that was enjoyed not so long ago. With that balance we will effect a change that forever strives to keep First Nations families together.

Differential Response (DR) is a new approach in how child and family services (CFS) supports families through prevention and early intervention to care for their children/youth at home. Working with a family’s strengths in a way that is culturally sensitive and inclusive of community partnerships, DR aims to keep families together while ensuring children are safe and protected. This new approach can help address problems before they become crises and also make for healthier family relationships. Providing services that account for all of a family’s needs helps children, youth and families live in stable, nurturing environments while continuing to include protection services when it may be required to keep children safe. The new approach to practicing child welfare in Manitoba will strengthen our communities and ensure better outcomes for our children.

Key Elements of Differential Response:

When a child or family enters the child welfare system they are assessed through an Intake process. With differential response, all intakes have an assessment component that is based on safety and risk. The Safety Assessment determines the immediate safety of the child. The Risk Assessment determines whether the child is at risk of being harmed, abused or neglected in the next 12 – 18 months if there is no intervention. A thorough Strengths and Needs Assessment is also conducted to determine a family’s needs and what types of services are required to support the family. A determination is then made at Intake whether the case is “prevention” or “protection”. (There is ability to move between the two while the case is active). One of the great strengths of using differential response as a new approach is its increased flexibility in responding to families with different needs to ensure child safety and their well-being. Some of these differential responses may be:

  • Brief Services
  • Referrals to community resources
  • Family Enhancement (FE) Services
  • Protection Services

DR also involves children, youth and families in the decision making and case planning of their situations. As well, CFS agencies work with community based resources to meet the needs of the family.

This co-operation between families and CFS agencies in Manitoba is a new stream of service called Family Enhancement (FE). It begins with completing a strength-based family assessment and working together to develop a plan based on the family’s needs. Once this plan is developed, an agreement is made between the agency and the family. This agreement, called a Family Enhancement Service Agreement, provides services through 90 day agreements, and can be extended based on the family’s needs.

Some of these services provided may include things such as in-home support, parenting programs, adolescent supports, individual and family counseling, addictions education, anger management, healing and cultural teachings just to name a few. For more information contact your local Agency office.