Here are some things to know when making a complaint about child protection services.
A reporter, a filmmaker, a project manager, SEO expert, and an understanding of organizational structure, legislation, governance and the HR run-around – all skills I did not have before making a complaint about child protection services. Unbeknownst to me, these skills would be required to have my concerns – at the very least – acknowledged.
First, you request a complaint procedure pamphlet. Here, it breaks down the complaint procedure into two categories, each with their own legislated steps. The internal process, along with the external process both start with making your complaint in writing. Then a determination is made as to whether your complaint meets their criteria for review. So, if you want your complaint to be heard, you need to know the criteria that would make your complaint eligible for review. Here is where you start to study the legislation. I will be writing about the internal process, as the external process typically comes with a publication ban that does little to afford accountability – the ultimate goal.
Next comes the meeting. It could be with a manager, the Director of Service, or both. Here’s where it is important to understand governance. There is not a whole lot the Director of Service can do to change the business practices of the agency. These decisions are made by the executive director along with the board of directors and CYS ministry. So, if your complaints are organizational in nature (ie, understaffing) you can expect the complaint to fall on deaf ears at this stage of the process. If your complaint is about anything else, you can expect the typical HR response that admits no wrong or severely minimizes the impacts of poor service delivery in child protection services.
If you have been recording your interactions with the agency, now is the time for careful review. Posting video/audio publicly can help generate feedback from peers. Using basic movie editing software can help attract more viewers and add pressure to the agency. The agency may even retract their statements that you made public. Using the agency’s name repeatedly in public postings also impacts their SEO (or google-ability) stats. This will help future complainants in knowing what to expect from the complaint process, should they google the agency.
If you have not yet been coerced into thinking your complaint has been addressed, next comes the internal complaint review panel. This is the final step of the internal process. You may be asked to sign an undertaking that says you will not record the meeting.
What is the end-result for making a complaint about child protection services? You may get an apology letter. You may get an apology letter that blames you. Your children will not be apprehended and your file will not be re-opened for making a complaint about service.
You also impact the agency’s performance indicators. Performance indicators are used by the agency to measure quality of service to the CYS ministry. An agency serving 1000 clients, receives about seven complaints a year. Does that mean the agency is doing a good job? Or is the ministry using systemic oppression and structural barriers to its advantage? Because anyone who has been involved with a child protection agency can effectively utilize this process to be heard, right?
The agency thanks you for your interest in making a complaint, however only those selected for review will be contacted.