After five years as a child protection worker, Rachel Davidson says the biggest misconception people have about her work is that it is always negative.
But that impression couldn’t be further from her reality.
“Every single week, there’s a different success story. There’s always good news,” says Rachel, one of the many front-line workers that Social Work Week recognizes and celebrates March 15-21, 2020.
“We are meeting with families on their worst days, but we also have the privilege of seeing them come out the other side,” Rachel explains. She often sees youth she has supported over the years at the grocery store or gym, and she is proud when she sees them thriving. It is also not unusual to have a youth come back to her office to say “hi” and keep in touch.
When she’s working with a family, Rachel says she always uses what she refers to as the “least intrusive measure available” as a response, so children can remain with their parents. This includes developing a safety plan with parents to address concerns and helping them access resources, counselling or other services to support them in creating a safer and happier home.
“I’m respectful but transparent with parents,” says Rachel, who highlights that being genuine goes a long way in building trust. “I tell them I know they are doing the best they can. Parents always have their children’s best interests at heart, and so do I.”
Upon receiving a child protection report, Rachel meets with parents to discuss the concerns and generally starts with a simple question: “How have things been going lately?” She interviews the children to learn their perspective of life at home and uses their own words when talking with parents to help navigate the conversation, working with them to develop an agreed upon plan to move forward.
The goal is always to preserve the family unit, but if a removal is necessary due to significant safety concerns, Rachel says the first alternative is finding extended family who can provide safe care. “I believe that identifying family members who love a child and have a pre-existing relationship with them can only support positive outcomes. At times there can be complex dynamics between parents and extended family members, and it’s always important to remind parents the purpose of involving them is to support family connections for their child, while also allowing parents the time to address the concerns we have for them.”
Recently, the ministry created a new position, a family finder, which is a networking role that specifically searches for extended family members who might be a good fit to step in and care for a child. In 2019, 4,522 children and youth were placed in out-of-care options, including in the care of extended family members instead of in the care of the ministry.
Rachel says she’s grateful for the supportive home she grew up in and the stories her mother, who worked with at-risk youth, and grandmother, also a child protection worker, shared with her. She says these relationships and experiences played a role in her finding this career path.
Considering the demands of her job, Rachel says her close-knit team and getting her “sweat on at the gym every day before work” are the key to a healthy work/life balance. “My team is always sharing success stories with each other. There’s a lot more positivity in our role than most people realize. I love being here and it may sound cliché, but I could not imagine working anywhere else.”
- As of Dec. 31, 2019, there were a total of 3,408 employees providing front-line work on behalf of the Ministry of Children and Family Development.
- At Delegated Aboriginal Agencies, there are almost 400 front-line and administrative full-time equivalent employees.
If you think a child or youth (under 19 years of age) is being abused or neglected, call 1 800 663-9122 at any time of the day or night.
Visit the BC Association of Social Work: https://www.bcasw.org/
If you are interested in learning more about becoming a front-line worker for the Ministry of Children and Family Development, visit: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/careers-myhr/job-seekers/featured-careers/social-work