Academic journal article Canadian Psychology

Protecting Visible Minority Children: Family-Caseworker Dynamics and Protective Authority Intervention Strategies

Academic journal article Canadian Psychology

Protecting Visible Minority Children: Family-Caseworker Dynamics and Protective Authority Intervention Strategies

Article excerpt

In Canada, the expression "visible minorities" refers to members of cultural minorities, other than Aboriginal peoples, who are non-Caucasian in race or non-White in colour (National Council of Welfare, 2014). According to the National Council of Welfare (2014), members of visible minorities are a relatively young and growing population. Most live with family members, and they are often highly educated but have lower incomes than people who are not visible minorities. Like Aboriginal peoples, members of visible minorities are more likely to face systemic discrimination on the basis of their physical appearance or certain easily recognizable cultural attributes (Chan, 2008). Visible minority families may be first-generation immigrants or born in the host community. Our study was done in the Montreal area of the province of Quebec, where visible minorities account for 32% of the population (Ville de Montréal, 2013).

Not all visible minorities families are vulnerable or in difficulty. Furthermore, the trajectories and vulnerabilities observed vary depending on whether the members of visible minorities are new immigrants or not (Dettlaff & Earner, 2012; Hassan et al., 2011). Nevertheless, they often face numerous systemic obstacles as they seek to provide for their needs (LeBrun et al., 2015). Members of visible minorities face high levels of poverty: 22% compared with 9% for nonvisible minorities (National Council of Welfare, 2014). Such forms of adversity may cause considerable stress and put pressure on family relationships (LeBrun et al., 2015). In addition to those common to all children, some risk and protective factors for child maltreatment could be specific to visible minorities, although the available evidence is mixed (LeBrun et al., 2015).

Caseworkers run up against a number of difficulties when they offer services to parents from visible minorities. Among sources of misunderstanding (Dufour, Hassan, & Lavergne, 2012), communications problems, relations between men and women, lack of receptiveness on the part of clients, difficulty reassuring clients, and the presence of a third party may hinder the development of a rapport. The language barrier can adversely affect the assessment of the family situation and children's needs, as well as isolate some family members from the treatment plan and thus jeopardize the intervention. Differences between caseworkers' and clients' representations may complicate the casework relationship, its outcomes, and the content covered. Caseworker and clients may not share a common understanding of the nature and intent of social services and their work together. Beyond the predictable clashes between their respective values (what is deemed valid and important) and customs (habits and practices), the true culture shock lies in the differences in the ways clients and caseworkers construct meaning, not necessarily attributing the same explanation to a problem. Their differing views of the origin and consequences of a problem are crucial because they influence whether those involved recognise that there is a problem or not, the sources of the problem, and how to solve it. For example, quite distinct views on child rearing and children's needs may clash. The difficulties may be so great that caseworkers feel they are dealing only superficially with problems (Denis, 2004).

In child protection, as in other situations involving imposed assistance, there are challenges that can hamper work with families (Cahalane, 2013). More than half of youth receiving protection services in Montreal are members of visible minorities (Lavergne, Dufour, Sarmiento, & Descôteaux, 2009). Families' rights and freedom to choose are limited by the law. Caseworkers assess whether parents have the capacity to be fit and then compel them to comply with established service standards (Lemay, 2013). The difficulties can be exacerbated when child protective services (CPS) are involved, as in cases of child maltreatment. …

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