Perspectives From the Field: Difficulties and Possibilities
A child protection investigator with Child and Family Programs in Saskatchewan has noticed the hardships that the families they support are facing as well as the hardships of effectively supporting them during COVID-19.
“Issues that families were facing are being exacerbated by COVID-19 and the ability to provide help is less. Community organizations are still primarily providing virtual services which isn’t a great fit in the child protection context … The demographic I work with isn’t served well in terms of funding on the best of days, but COVID-19 has made this worse. Waitlists are high, programs are slashed or focusing on immediate needs instead of long-term goals.”
“Children staying home and isolating to stay safe isn’t a great option in a child protection context and there haven’t been any other ideas to come forward to date,” the service provider expressed.
Service providers are putting their best efforts into navigating COVID-19 and adapting their programs to meet the needs of the families they serve, which has not always occurred with ease.
“Learning to use technology platforms to complete day-to-day casework, being the ‘first and last line of defense’ in terms of being in people’s home and assessing safety, a sense of greater responsibility with less ability to provide tangible or effective help, building rapport through technology, wearing PPE to conduct child protection investigations [which] has had negative feedback from children and adults,” the service provider listed as some predominant struggles they are experiencing during COVID-19.
The difficulty of supporting families during this time has not only affected the families themselves, but the service providers tasked with the responsibility of ensuring the safety of those they are supporting as well as their own families at home.
“Thoughts of: am I selfish to take a leave when the people I serve cannot escape their situations? Am I selfish to continue working while my family may bear the consequences? It has also been emotionally taxing to watch family stability deteriorate without access to services. Giving the message of ‘it’s COVID so we are limited in what we can do’ isn’t easy when you’re working in these contexts,” they recounted.
While it has not been easy, the service provider applauds the work done within the community to come together and support people accessing services during these unprecedented times, stating:
“Community organizations have been able to work as a team to identify and fill gaps within service delivery systems … When an agency has to shut down due to a COVID exposure or outbreak, other communities step up and fill the gap. Fluidity in services has also been seen – services are being provided that may not have been prior to COVID-19.”