Child welfare in Ontario has been the object of much scrutiny over the last two decades. The field has experienced a great deal of change as the focus of child welfare shifts to meet the latest political agenda. The mandated role of Children’s Aid Societies has remained constant with child safety at its core and within this role child protection workers wield a great deal of power over families and the community.
At Brant CAS, an alternate to main-stream centralized child protection practice was created to shift to a model that shared the expert role of child welfare with community partners. This model is referred to as an integrated model of community-based child protection. As part of this model, child protection workers and community development programs were relocated to off-site community locations to work collaboratively with families and service providers. TheNew Beginnings Resource Centre is one of these off-site locations where a layering of services is available to families within the community as a means to increasing child safety.
This qualitative research project utilizes the New Beginnings Resource Centre as a case study to examine power constructs that exist in the field of child welfare to gain a better understanding as to whether power may be shared within a community-based model of child protection. Using a window metaphor, this study involves a textual analysis supplemented by additional stories that have come to life through my experiences working at the centre. This research project is grounded in an interpretative critical social work framework drawing from a Foucauldian perspective of power. The complexities of power will be explored as it relates to knowledge, use of self, and the development of relationships within the community. Emphasis is given to reflective practice as a means to deconstruct power. Although the origins of a community-based model are altruistic, there is concern that power may be used as a means of surveillance and social control. The purpose of this study is to gain insight into whether space can be created within community-based child protection to share power. Are we “neighbours” or “wardens”?