Collaborative planning and decision making in child protection cases

What is collaborative decision making?

When the Ministry of Children and Family Development has concerns about your child's safety, you and your family have the right to be involved in decisions about your child’s care. The ministry encourages you and your family to take part in planning for your child’s safety and well-being using collaborative (shared) decision making. This means that:

  • you and a child protection worker will negotiate (talk and work together) to reach an agreement about what's best for your child, and
  • a neutral person (someone who is not involved in making decisions about your child’s protection) guides participants through a process that lets each person share their story and be a part of the decision making.

You can use the following collaborative decision-making options to reach agreements with the ministry for your child's care. All options are private and confidential.

  • Family group conference is a special meeting of parents, children, relatives, and others involved in caring for your child to help you solve problems and plan for the support and care of your child. A coordinator sets up the meeting, but your family makes its own decisions. The child protection worker chooses whether or not to accept your family’s plan.
  • Traditional decision making is like a family group conference that also includes your community and lets you make decisions based on cultural traditions and values if your child is Aboriginal. If you want to know if this option is right for you, talk to a child protection worker and elders in your community.
  • Mediation is a meeting of parents, child protection workers, and others to talk about ideas and concerns for your child’s protection. The goal is to reach an agreement that is in your child’s best interests and acceptable to everyone. A mediator (neutral person with special training) leads the meeting and makes sure each person has the chance to speak and be heard. The mediator won’t make any decisions, but can help the participants put the agreement in writing.

When can I use collaborative decision making?

At almost any time in the child protection process, you can negotiate with the ministry to make a plan or agreement about your child’s care. As soon as the ministry raises concerns about your child’s safety, you can talk with the child protection worker to figure out what is best for your child. Even if your case is already in court, you can try to resolve the issues out of court.

Collaborative decision making is voluntary, so you can choose whether or not your family participates. If the child protection worker doesn't suggest using collaborative decision making, you can ask to use it. Collaborative decision making is free (it doesn't cost money) and you don't have to go to court.

By working with the child protection worker, you may be able to resolve issues faster than going to court and in ways that best suit your family. Issues that can be dealt with using shared decision making might include:

  • Where your child will live
  • How to keep your child safe
  • What services your family needs
  • Plans for your child to return home
  • How your family and community will support you and your child

What agreements can I make using collaborative decision making?

You may use collaborative decision making to work out any of these plans or agreements:

  • Support Service Agreement — Agreement for support services to help you take care of your child. You can make a support service agreement with the ministry whether or not your child needs protection.
  • Safety plan — Plan about how your child will be cared for during a child protection investigation.
  • Extended Family Program agreement — Agreement for your child to be in the care of a friend or family member for a limited time.
  • Voluntary Care Agreement — Agreement for your child to be in foster care for a limited time.
  • Plan of care — Plan for how to meet your child’s needs while the ministry is involved with your family; for example, where your child will live while your case is in court.
  • Access agreement — Agreement about when and where you can visit with your child if the ministry has removed your child from the home.
  • Any other arrangement you and child protection worker want to make during the investigation or court process, or even after you've been to court.

Important: If you want to make an agreement with the ministry or are trying to reach an agreement, talk to a lawyer and/or an advocate. A lawyer or advocate can attend meetings with you, explain your rights, or help you negotiate with the ministry. Before you sign a written agreement, have a lawyer look over the agreement with you. See our Tips about making agreements for the care of your child.

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