Beyond Neglect:

Rethinking services and legislative frameworks for helping families facing mental health issues, substance abuse and addiction, family difficulties and crises in a context of poverty.

CWLC held a first meeting of advisors for the Beyond Neglect initiative in partnership with the Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada and Youth in Care Canada in March 2020, with thanks to start up funding from the Sandbox Project. Beyond Neglect seeks to garner a better understanding of how we can best respond to the conditions that place children at an increased risk of neglect, with a distinct focus on meeting the needs of children and families.

Poverty underlies the experiences of most families involved in the child welfare system by creating an additional burden and toxic stress that reduces their capacity to meet their needs. According to the Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect, children are most often removed from their homes when a caregiver experiences domestic violence (46%), has few social supports (39%) or is facing mental health issues (27%).[1] Families who live in poverty are more likely to experience chronic difficulties related to these challenges and exceptional interventions by the state – namely, the removal of their children through the child welfare system.

Lack of supports or limited access to resources can worsen the challenges vulnerable families face, decreasing parents’ ability to provide safe and adequate environments for their children.[2]  This is especially true for younger children, who are placed in foster care more frequently in regions with higher rates of absolute poverty.[3] Improving environmental circumstances can significantly reduce the risk of children being put into out-of-home placements.[4]

[1] Public Health Agency of Canada. (2008). Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect – 2008: Major Findings.

[2] Esposito, T. et al. (2017). Out-of-home placement and regional variations in poverty and health and social services spending: A multilevel analysis. Children and Youth Services Review, 72, 34-43.

[3] Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty. (2017). Financial causes and consequences of child maltreatment. Fast Focus, 27.

[4] Esposito, T. et al. (2017).

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