If you have concerns about a child call: 905.333.4441

Meet Gail

"The program has helped remove the negative label so often given to child welfare agencies"

Gail is a child protection worker based at the Our Kid’s Network Milton Hub at a community school. Her role includes responding to referrals in the surrounding community, the school and the Vanier Centre for Women, a women’s provincial jail in Milton.

“Pregnant women in jail suffer the trauma of not being able to choose where their children will be placed once they give birth,” says Gail. “In the past, when a woman in the jail gave birth, the CAS would immediately take the child.” Now, Gail is proud to say a pro-active new model uses a strength-based approach that allows pregnant inmates to be part of the decision-making process. They have a say regarding the placement of their children. While the situation is still painful, it is mediated. Having one designated child protection worker responding to the needs of the staff and inmates at Vanier increases communication and smoothes the process.

Gail tells the story of one inmate who gave birth a few years ago knowing that her baby would be more than a year old by the end of her sentence. Working together, Gail and the woman made formal plans with her sister to care for the child until she leaves prison and she is able to support the baby herself. “It’s not ideal, but she has something to look forward to and build on,” says Gail.

Gail and her co-worker’s community contribution is a monthly group program at the centre. Feedback from inmates tells Gail that it’s been important to them to learn how to navigate the child welfare system so they can make informed choices and understand their rights as parents. The program has also helped to remove the negative label so often given to child welfare agencies and for the women to see children’s aid societies as supportive and fair.

Gail says she’s learned a lot from the incarcerated women—as much as they have learned from her. Working with them has increased her awareness. “They may be in jail, but they are people with rights and they deserve respect.”