LONDON - Avoiding cultural sensitivities, a leading children aid association in London has changed its protocol to cope with the Muslim community, turning into a role model for British foster care.
This is good social work practice, Jane Fitzgerald, executive director of Children's Aid Society of London and Middlesex, told The London Free Press on Thursday, December 6.
We are doing what we aspire to be doing, every day.
The society's success with Muslim community started three years ago after entering a protocol that involves respected leaders and members of the Muslim community.
Started by a London Muslim resource centre, the protocol has proved so effective after changing the way CAS does business across the board.
Under the new protocol, CAS, with the consent of the family, involves members of the resource centre and Muslim community in dealing with every new case.
The society is taking steps toward developing a similar model for every family it comes into contact with.
What we have here is a very unique London model I think we must share, Fitzgerald added.
In the last three years, not one Muslim child has been put into care with the Children's Aid Society of London and Middlesex.
And, of 26 Muslim kids who were in care three years ago, all but six are back with their families.
Admitting pressures on parents struggling to maintain traditional values while raising kids in a more liberal environment, Children's Aid officials praised the impressive statistics.
Instead of making it shameful for the family, we've learned to work with families where it really is about assisting them by getting them to a better place, Fitzgerald noted.
Our intent is not to remain involved with these families as a never-ending story, our intent is to wrap that family around them . . . By having the Imam and the community support that work, it really reduces the shame.
Proving successful, CAS plans to expand its Muslim protocol into other British areas, including Ottawa, Kingston and York Region.
I'm really excited we will be able to share this, said Mohammed Baobaid, head of the Shared Journeys, the Muslim Resource Centre for Social Support and Integration (MRCSSI), recognized internationally for his extensive work tackling domestic violence in Muslim communities.
In the beginning there were so many misunderstandings, he said, adding cases can be complex, involve pre-migration experiences and often involve conflicts between parents and female teens.
The expansion was planned thanks to a $275,000 grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation.
Through a two-year project called MRCSSI, CAS will start training social workers in Ottawa, Kingston and York Region.
Ontario's Ministry of the Attorney General is also contributing about $70,000.
The Trillium grant was awarded because it was clear the model would unquestionably benefit other communities, Trillium program manager Marilyn Struthers said.
Thanks to the partnership, CAS workers were able to avoid cultural misunderstandings and preconceived notions that could affect how the entire case was handled.
It is unprecedented in my career, said CAS assistant executive director Regina Bell.
You have an incredible community who truly cares and the leadership and the impact has been significant.