Date of Award
Master of Social Work (MSW)
In 2006, the Ontario government introduced and implemented a provincial client complaints policy through changes to the Child and Family Services Act. The aim of this study was to explore the experiences of complaints managers in Children's Aid Societies under this new policy. Data was collected through semi-structured, in-depth interviews with six complaints managers from Southern Ontario. Analysis of the data revealed that the client complaint mechanism is procedurally driven and contradicts the spirit of Child Welfare Transformation, compelling child welfare staff to spend significant time complying with rules and regulations with there being less emphasis on outcomes. The public presentation of the complaint process and the resulting practices contribute to service recipients having false expectations of what can be accomplished. As well, the power differentials that already exist in the relationship between service users and professionals are exacerbated. Although the mechanism appears to have been designed with the intent of holding Children's Aid Societies accountable for their actions and decisions, it is not linked with other accountability mechanisms and does not include a process for provincial review. The process was implemented in a climate where Children's Aid Societies face persistent negativity and it is not surprising that child welfare staff unconsciously shield themselves through defensive responses. Service recipients have a right to raise concerns. Power imbalances must be challenged to ensure inclusive practices are developed and that demonstrate satisfactory outcomes are desired and achievable. The value of truly 'hearing' complaints is that we open ourselves to the possibility of improving practice and being more inclusive of client voices.
Horning, Julie, "Client Complaints in Child Welfare: Lessons Learned" (2008). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 4690.
McMaster University Library