In the summer of 2021, the Ministry of Social Services was searching for family members of six siblings in care.
Many people are unaware that most children who come into care aren’t necessarily placed with foster families but are more often placed with extended family members. There are times when extended family members locations may not be known. This is where Stacey Braun comes in.
Stacey is a Child and Caregiver Support worker who has been with the Ministry of Social Services for 10 years. Since the spring of 2021 her work has been focused on family exploration. Prior to this, she worked in the area of child protection. In her day-to-day role, Stacey receives lists of children in care and makes it her mission to find the extended family members of those children. She spends her days learning about children, calling their potential family members, putting together family trees, and seeking out family members who may be a good fit for the children.
“I feel really good about reconnecting kids with their families, especially knowing that our goal as a ministry is to reconnect children with families and their culture,” said Stacey.
There are times when a willing family member faces barriers to taking in children. When this happens, workers from across the ministry work with our community partners to break down the barriers preventing the family member from caring for the children. These barriers can be anything from inadequate housing to past involvement with child protection services. Oftentimes, the right supports and services can be found to help the family. The most important thing is that the placement is successful for the children.
“We build relationships with our clients, especially if there was past involvement with us or past traumas. We can work with them despite what might have been a barrier before,” said Stacey. “There’s a lot of teamwork across the ministry to prevent a more traumatic situation for a child.”
Debbie Sykora has been working in the human services field for 29 years. This will be her seventh year with the Ministry of Social Services. As a Family Connections Planner with Social Services, she completes Place of Safety and Extended Family Assessments with family members. Gathering information, assessing capacity, and creating space for families’ stories is an important part of her job. She has witnessed how social work has changed over time and has adapted to work better for clients dealing with intergenerational trauma.
Debbie talked about one recent instance involving reconnecting a grandmother with her grandchildren. The grandmother in this case had a history with Social Services previously as a parent. Social Services staff were able to recognize the generational impacts that the residential school system had on the family and considered this while assessing the grandmother to be a care provider. Staff acknowledged she may require ongoing supports as she works through her own grief and healing, but also recognized the healing that could occur for the children and family if they were placed with her. Today, the grandmother continues to care for her grandchildren with ongoing supports and services in place from the ministry. Other extended family are also involved in caring for the children.
From a young age, Debbie knew she wanted to help families and children. As a Métis woman who has experienced her own trauma in the past, Debbie often shares her background with her clients if it relates to their situation.
“I try to be authentic because we are asking our clients to be quite vulnerable with us,” she said. “When I work with Indigenous families, I get to tell their story. In my career I have come full circle, being able to share my Indigenous perspective within the ministry and help create change for our families. I am honoured to be part of the process that brings children back to their families, where they belong.”March 20 to 26 is National Social Work Week. In Saskatchewan, there are thousands of people who work within the social work sector. Across the province, social workers can be found working in public or private practice, for community-based organizations across the health and mental health, education, justice, disability, and child welfare sectors. They may also be engaged in policy, planning or administration. Every day, social workers help individuals and families experiencing crisis. They provide crucial supports and services to help their clients overcome complex challenges, including substance misuse, domestic violence, mental health crises and intergenerational traumas.