Child Welfare Expertise
When families come into contact with the child welfare system, they often require an advocate. Faced with a powerful entity such as child welfare, which at times can feel intimidating, parents are often unsure of their rights and responsibilities. Improving outcomes for vulnerable children and families requires a collaborative approach that allows parents to have a voice in the decisions made for their children and the services implemented. With over three decades of combined experience in child protection social work, Melani and Jane have comprehensive knowledge of provincial legislation, agency policies and procedures, court processes, and the Signs of Safety Model.
Melani and Jane have assisted parents, grandparents other caregivers and foster parents to communicate with Child and Family Services. They help individuals to understand their rights and responsibilities, accompany them to meetings with Child and Family Services staff, formulate safety plans for children, advocate for family placements for children in care and provide support and provide education regarding court matters
Melani and Jane also provide consultation and litigation support to the legal professionals assisting clients with child welfare matters.
Separation & Divorce
When a person is faced with the ending of a long term relationship, either marriage or common-law, it can cause great distress and chaos in their life. The challenges that individuals require professional help with depends on their unique situation. Clients without children often require an alternate type of support than those who are parents, and we are aware that their priorities can be different. During the intake process we identify each client’s specific priorities.
Assistance with issues such as problem solving prior to a separation, uncoupling effectively from an ex-partner, individual therapy to address specific unresolved concerns, and transition planning, can be helpful to all individuals. Separating parents have to consider their children’s needs in a timely manner. Melani & Jane can assist them by focusing on addressing co-parenting issues and starting a positive child-focused approach to working with the child’s other parent. Individualized parenting plans are essential for all family members, to ensure that everyone understands their new role and that expectations are clear.
It is important that parents explore a narrative for telling children of the new family structure and are able to incorporate practical strategies that can be used when behavior changes are seen in their children once they are aware of the impending separation. The turmoil of losing significant relationships may affect both parents and children and the negative effect can be lessened if strategies are used that decrease conflict and improve co-parenting relationships. Assisting parents to implement de-escalation strategies and work on respectful communication have positive benefits for children.
Developmentally sensitive guidance is provided on how to discuss information with children of all ages, along with other issues that may emerge, such as introducing children to new partners, discussion and implementation of shared custody, positive exchanges of children and the sharing of information between households.
There are many individuals who offer parenting coordination services, not all of whom are professionally regulated. Social workers at Positive Choices Counselling are registered with and regulated by the ACSW. As social workers, we believe that working in a child-centered model, while offering support and assistance to both parties to be the best parents that they can possibly be is the most effective approach. We are able to offer practical assistance and strategies, in-home appointments, and timely responses in an effort to reduce the anxiety of our clients and to form a positive professional relationship. Our extensive education, training, and experience place us in a unique position to fulfill the role of parenting coordinator. Other professionals who offer these services may have a different approach. For example, lawyers are often focused on dispute resolution, while psychologists are primarily concerned with mental health issues. We take a holistic approach to provide the best possible outcome for our clients.
Parenting coordination is most useful for parents who already have a parenting plan and a permanent court order. The Implementation of the parenting plan terms and the court order will be the focus of the sessions, once they are in place. This offers parents who are in high-conflict disputes ongoing guidance and the direction of a consistent and qualified professional using a less expensive child-focused process. Parents who agree to engage with a parenting coordinator rather than go back to court will meet with us and sign a parenting coordination agreement. The agreement outlines the role, objective, and scope of the services, as well as the rights and obligations of each parent. The agreement will usually last for an agreed upon time of not more than two years, unless both of the parents or the parenting coordinator agree to end the process, or when the retainer expires.
When parenting disputes arise, either parent may contact the parenting coordinator. The coordinator will gather information from both parents and efforts will be made to resolve the issue in a consensual manner. If the parties are not able to reach an agreement, the parenting coordinator will make a decision which both parents will be bound by. Each time a dispute arises the same process will occur.
Along with resolving disputes, the parenting coordinator will assist both parents in their communication with one another. Strategies will be suggested, especially to deal with identified issues that repeatedly cause conflict. Other services, such as mediation, can run concurrently with our services. Parenting coordination does not usurp the role of the courts, however, whilst parents are engaged in this process they are expected not to apply to court for an order different than the decision of the parenting coordinator.
Supervised Visitation Services
Observational Supervised Visits
Supervised visitation allows parents in high conflict or high risk situations access to their children in a safe and supervised environment that supports and promotes the parent-child relationship. Supervised visitation may be ordered by a court to minimize visitation-related conflict between custodial and non-custodial parents, to support the development of parenting skills, to assist in rebuilding a healthy parent-child relationship or to prevent child abuse.
Positive Choices Counselling offers supervised visitation services both in the parent or child’s home, as well as in the community. We ensure whenever possible that the visit supervisor remains consistent to ensure continuity and compatibility for the children involved. Our supervisors receive ongoing training and consultation from registered social workers.
Therapeutic access involves a higher level of intensity and skill from the visit supervisor and utilizes interventions that are specifically chosen to meet individual needs, are researched based and attachment informed. Our visit supervisors are licensed in a mental health profession and have a comprehensive knowledge of child developmental stages, psychosocial development and attachment styles. Visits are pre-planned and structured to ensure the child’s needs are met while promoting optimal outcomes for the parent-child relationship. Parent coaching and specialized support are available where estrangement or parental alienation are factors. Our visit supervisors are regulated, provide objective, behavioral based reports and are experienced providing testimony in court