Academic journal article Child Welfare

The Call-Centre: A Child Welfare Liaison Program with Immigrant Serving Agencies

Academic journal article Child Welfare

The Call-Centre: A Child Welfare Liaison Program with Immigrant Serving Agencies

Article excerpt

Alberta, Canada, welcomed nearly 16,000 landed immigrants in 2003, of whom more than half came to the Calgary area. Approximately 200,000 immigrants of various ethnic and cultural groups now live in the region. Many of these new arrivals have no natural support networks while struggling with language, cultural, and economic barriers. Recognizing these difficulties, the Calgary and Area Child and Family Services Authority (CFSA) joined with several Immigrant Serving Agencies to develop guidelines and procedures to direct staff working with diverse cultures, including the Call-Centre pilot project, which provided CFSA staff with a one-stop telephone contact for information about an immigrant or refugee family, their culture, and available culturally-appropriate resources. The Call-Centre, which is currently being evaluated by researchers at the University of Calgary, will gradually expand to all CFSA sites in the region. This article describes the Call-Centre and the first phase of the evaluation.

Families in North America today come from many different backgrounds and a variety of cultures, languages, life experiences and lifestyles. According to Statistics Canada (2003a), approximately 18.4% of the Canadian population is born outside of Canada. Calgary, a western Canadian city with a population of nearly 950,000 (2003 Civic Census), reflects the increasing diversity of cultural tradition. Statistics Canada (2003b) reported that Calgary receives approximately 4% of all immigrants coming to Canada each year; that is, during the past 10 years, Calgary has welcomed more than 7,000 newcomers each year, and the number is increasing. In 2002, some 10,000 immigrants arrived in Calgary, 2,000 of whom were under the age of 14 (City of Calgary, 2003). Also, 21% of all Calgarians were born outside Canada, and nearly 35% of Calgary's immigrant population has lived in Canada for less than 15 years.

The Call-Centre program described in this article is based on a partnership between the regional Child and Family Service Authority (CFSA) and the four largest of Calgary's Immigrant Serving Agencies (ISAs). The purpose of the Call-Centre is to facilitate communication between CFSA and ISA staff to serve immigrant families more effectively. The first part of the article describes the Call-Centre program, and how it was developed through the collaborative efforts of the Serving Diverse Cultures Strategic Working Group.

The article also describes the first part of a two-phase evaluation: an evaluability assessment comprising of a literature review, a program logic model, and an evaluation plan for the second phase. The second phase of the evaluation is a process-outcome evaluation; at the time of this writing, data collection and analysis for this phase have been completed. Release of the findings in this article, however, would be premature.

Development of the Call-Centre Pilot Program

In Canada, child welfare falls under provincial jurisdiction. Ensuring the safety and care of Alberta's children and families is the responsibility of Alberta Children's Services who have appointed regional CFSAs to assess, prioritize, and plan child welfare services.

Calgary and Area CFSA (Region 3) serves a highly diverse multicultural community, with approximately 8% of its caseload involving immigrant children and families. Inevitably, cross-cultural issues have surfaced (e.g., communication barriers and misunderstandings about cultural customs), and CFSA's managers and frontline workers are recognizing the need for specific strategies to better address the difficulties confronting immigrant families.

To help develop those strategies, a Serving Diverse Cultures Strategic Working Group was formed in 2001. The participants in the working group were members of Calgary and Area CFSA staff and representatives from the four ISAs in the city: Calgary Catholic Immigration Society, Calgary Immigrant Aid Society, Calgary Immigrant Women's Association, and the Calgary Mennonite Centre for Newcomers. …

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