Legal Services as a Component of a Multidisciplinary Family Services Model

Legal Services as a Component of a Multidisciplinary Family Services Model2017-03-03T18:33:19+00:00

Introduction

            In the previous chapter, multidisciplinary family services approaches were examined with a particular focus on community health centres and the early learning initiative in Ontario.  This chapter shifts to the fuller vision of multidisciplinary paths to family justice, which is characterized by the integration of low-level legal services into multidisciplinary family services models that do not have legal services as their primary orientation.  The focus, more specifically, is on the provision of low-level legal services revolving around legal information, legal consultation, and very informal community dispute resolution within a non-legal model for family services.   These low-level legal services are ones that help to meet the needs of families where the family problems and family challenges are at a very early stage.  Their provision in a multidisciplinary family services model are designed to be proactive and preventative.  They constitute early and multiple entry points for families into the family justice system in Ontario.  If, however, these legal services are effective, they will result in very limited further interaction with the family justice system – in particular the courts — by many of the families who are provided with the services.

 

 

Why Integrate Legal Services into the Multidisciplinary Delivery Model

            The principal reason for integrating some legal services into a multidisciplinary family services model is that many of the problems and challenges that families in Ontario face have some sort of legal dimension.  This is obviously the case when marriages and other forms of intimate relationships breakdown.  Legal issues such as property division and income support as well as child support, custody and access abound.  Many of the other challenges and problems faced by Ontario families likewise have a legal dimension:  immigration, housing, and employment.  Therefore, if a multidisciplinary family services team of professionals genuinely wants to help families with their problems or challenges, it makes sense to acknowledge the important value a legal professional could add to the team.

            This logic was widely accepted by other professionals working on multidisciplinary family services teams when we interviewed them.  They virtually all reported working with families who would have or did benefit from having some measure of legal information, legal consultation, or informal dispute resolution.  From their perspective, these families did have among their pressing needs legal needs.  And given the commitment to meeting these needs in a holistic multidisciplinary way, collaborating with legal professionals is a reasonable extension of the delivery model.

            Multidisciplinary collaborative teams result in much more predictability in the quality of the service provided.  People working on the team are experts in their particular job.  The way information is shared among the team allows the family to only have to tell their story once.  This avoids inconsistencies and the risk that something may be left out when the individuals are required to retell their story again and again.  This sort of collaboration is also valuable as a preventive tool, especially in the case of domestic violence.  The failure to put together a complete picture of what is going on is regularly cited as an explanation for domestic violence deaths; multidisciplinary collaborative teams are much more likely to put together all of the pieces of the puzzle and reduce the frequency of these deaths.[20]  As well, because these teams handle many different kinds of problems, not just legal ones, there is a comforting anonymity for the family members to enter into a multidisciplinary family services site.  

            Indeed, there is a compelling perspective that the absence of this sort of multidisciplinary professional collaboration constitutes a type of barrier to justice.  For without the collaboration the legal dimension of the issue may be invisible to both the person in need and the community at large.    As Law Society of Upper Canada Treasurer W.A. Derry Millar observed in 2009, overcoming a barrier to justice can, “be as basic as identifying a problem as a legal problem.”[21]   A legal services component to the family services can help, in other words, to make the legal need visible.  People who need family services do not always identify themselves as being at that point of crisis and would not think to seek out help from the police or a lawyer, or in the case of victims of domestic violence a women’s shelter.  They are much more likely to turn for help to a more holistic multidisciplinary family service such as a community health centre, a family counselling centre, or an early learning centre.  Once they have taken this step, in order to resolve the situation, there has to be a sense of closure in terms of a resolution and a belief that justice has been done.

            Not only are legal needs often a component of the family challenges or family problems that multidisciplinary service delivery teams address, but also the legal needs cannot be separated from the other needs of the family.  This means that in some instances it is deeply problematic to respond to the legal need without also addressing those other needs.  John McCamus, Chair of Legal Aid Ontario, notes, “We recognize that we need to come up with ideas that will help both the legal and social service communities work more effectively together, with existing resources.”[22] 

 

 FLICs and Community Legal Clinics

            There exist at present in Ontario two very important publicly funded and accessible networks – community legal clinics and Family Law Information Centres — that provide legal services for families in Ontario.  There are 80 community legal clinics, including 17 specialty clinics, funded by Legal Aid Ontario.   These clinics are designed to provide low-income individuals in Ontario with high quality legal aid services in a cost-effective and efficient manner.   There are 68 Family Law Information Centres (FLICs) housed in courthouses across the province of Ontario.  FLICs provide individuals, regardless of income, with pamphlets and publications on family law concerns in Ontario, legal services, the court process and paperwork, as well as linking them to resources in the community.  Various required forms are also readily available in all FLICs.  Some FLICs also have advice lawyers available for low income individuals to provide referral services for mediation and other forms of alternative dispute resolution  as well as legal information. 

Many of the professionals on multidisciplinary family services teams told us that they have recommended to families with identified legal needs that they go to local community legal clinics for help. The general view of these legal clinics by non-legal professionals was very positive.  There are, however, several features about these referrals that should be noted:

·         Because the community legal clinics are available only for individuals with low incomes, they are unable to service all families in Ontario.

·         The community legal clinics are not part of the interdisciplinary family services teams, which means that in practice the team does not follow up the recommendations they make.  Indeed, it is extremely doubtful that any community legal clinic would even reveal that a particular individual had made contact with them.

·         Community legal clinics do not operate everywhere in Ontario.

·         Perhaps most importantly, there is a clear sense that the kind of help that community legal clinics offer is unlikely to be especially proactive and effective at preventing conflict.  

It is imagined that whatever legal services might be provided through a multidisciplinary family services delivery team, these services should be viewed as complimentary to the ones provided by community legal services. 

            A similar point can be made about the Family Law Information Centres.  Very few family service professionals we spoke with steered their clients to the FLIC in their community for help.  Several different reasons were given for this:

·         The most common reason was a perception that clients would be uncomfortable with entering a courthouse, which is where FLICs are based.  For many, this is because of their unease with having to pass through high levels of security as you walk in through the front doors of the courthouse.  For others, this is because of apprehension about the justice system.  Others living in smaller cities report  unease about the public visibility of going into the courthouse.  For others still, it is because they did not view their issue as significant enough to bring to a courthouse setting.[23]

·         Another reason given to us was that introducing a client to a FLIC entailed escalating the issue and “buying into” an adversarial approach.  In other words, they questioned how proactive this measure is.

·         Others questioned the usefulness of the services provided by the FLIC to meet the particular needs of their client.

·         One individual, representing a women’s shelter in a smaller city, reported to us her staff had been physically assaulted twice by the abusive spouse of the woman they were accompanying in the parking lot of the FLIC.  Since then, they have stopped recommending to clients that they should go to the FLIC.

 

Like with community legal clinics, the legal services that might be provided through a multidisciplinary family services delivery team can be viewed as complimentary to the ones provided by the FLIC in the community.  FLICs are now being envisioned as the formal entry point for families into the family courts.[24]  They are designed to meet the needs of families who anticipate becoming part of the court system.  Many families with legal needs are unlikely to require the courts to meet their needs and for this reason it makes sense to have different access points for other legal services.

            Community legal clinics and FLICs are clearly a very valuable part of the family justice system in Ontario today.  What distinguishes them from other family service providers, however, is that their primary orientation is in the provision of legal services. They are not, in other words, multidisciplinary family service providers.  Other family service providers in Ontario are aware of the specialized legal services offered by community legal clinics and FLICs and refer their users to them, especially in situations where the needs of the user are for more than low-level legal services.   From a resource perspective, community legal clinics and FLICs have a concentration of professionals able to provide low-level legal services.  The concluding chapter considers the promising practice of using advanced information technology to make these legal professionals virtually accessible to users of other family service agencies located in physical spaces other than the offices of community legal clinics and FLICs.

 

 

           

Examples of Multidisciplinary Family Services with Integrated Legal Services

            There already exist in Ontario a number of multidisciplinary family services teams that integrate to some degree legal services into their delivery model.  Five of these are briefly described below.  Unlike community legal clinics and FLICs, all provide a lot more in terms of family services than just legal services.  By reflecting on the experiences of these teams as well as through a review of developments in other jurisdictions, we gain some insight into promising practices for integrating legal professionals into multidisciplinary family services delivery models.

 

The Family Violence Project of Waterloo Region[25]

The Family Violence Project of Waterloo Region is housed in the Mosaic Counselling and Family Services Centre, which is located in a stunning new building in an older neighbourhood in downtown Kitchener.  The large red brick building is aesthetically pleasing and inviting.  As you enter the building it has a very warm welcoming atmosphere.  The main reception area helps visitors to the centre get directions to where they need to go depending on what type of service they are seeking.  It provides multiple access points to services in an atmosphere of anonymity.  There is a waiting room and quiet area that proudly displays a column with donor acknowledgments.  The richness of this environment can be seen throughout the building. 

The Family Violence Project of Waterloo Region was launched in March 2006.  The project is dedicated to domestic violence intervention and prevention through the provision of a range of comprehensive services to individuals where domestic violence is the reason for the child welfare response.  The project values a collaborative multidisciplinary service approach when working with families and other service agencies.  At its core is a partnership between different agencies that work together to support and empower victims and their families by providing access to a number of services all located in one place. 

Mosaic Counselling and Family Services is one of the partners involved in the Family Violence Project of Waterloo Region.  Mosaic is a professional counselling agency that is committed to providing a seamless delivery of services to help children and families.  It provides individual counselling, group programs, and community outreach to all individuals at a one-stop access point.  Mosaic offers a wide range of counselling and support services to help people find solutions to deal with life’s challenges and opportunities.  The building houses a variety of services that include:  Counselling Services; Pathways to Education; Community Outreach Programs; Credit Counselling; Immigrant Outreach; Family and Children’s Services; Children’s Group Room and Interview Area; Children’s Play Therapy Room; Community Action Programme for Children (CAPC); Family Violence Project; Waterloo Region Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Treatment Centre; Women’s Crisis Services Outreach Centre; Waterloo Region Police Domestic Violence Investigation Unit; Domestic Violence Crown Attorney; Victim Services Unit; Victim/Witness Assistance Program; Elder Abuse Response Unit; Community Care Access Centre; and the Mosaic Workplace Program. 

The team of professionals in the Family Violence Project of Waterloo Region includes intake workers, family service workers and counsellors who compose the domestic violence team.  There is also a Crown Attorney with specialized domestic violence training.  The team works together to ensure that the safety and needs of domestic assault victims and their children are given top priority.  The Victim/Witness Assistance Program provides information and assistance throughout the court process to victims and witnesses of serious crimes in order to help them understand and participate in the criminal justice system.  Referrals for the program are received from the Crown, Police or the victims themselves.  Clients can request interviews with multiple services on-site at the same time to prevent inconsistencies and make information sharing on the part of the client less stressful.  The Crown Attorney in the Project also sometimes advises victims of domestic violence to explore alternatives to the courts.[26]

            An important partner in the Project is the Waterloo Regional Police Service‘s Domestic Violence Investigations Branch, which has a team of detectives who investigate incidences of domestic violence. The Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Treatment Centre is a regional program that provides emotional support, counseling, medical examinations and a collection of forensic evidence to victims of assault.  The Victims Services Unit is a police-based program that is staffed by civilians.  They help people deal with victimization or tragic circumstances by providing emotional support and information regarding community resources, the Criminal Justice System and court processes.  These are just some of the co-located partners of the Project.  The programs and services provided by the Project continue to expand.

            On April 21st, 2010, the Ontario Attorney General’s Victim Services Awards of Distinction honoured the Waterloo Region Family Violence Project as an innovative model for hosting 14 agencies and services with 130 professionals seeking greater collaboration and coordination in victim services.[27] 

 

LAMP Community Health Centre[28]   

LAMP Community Health Centre (LAMP CHC) is a multi-service, community based, non-profit, charitable organization housed in Etobicoke in the west end of Toronto.  Since 1976, the centre has been providing a wide range of programs and services that reflect the needs of their local communities.  The centre offers a collaborative integrated approach to health and personal well-being.  Health professionals work as a team to link clients to medical services and other programs that they need.  Social, community and recreational programs are available for children and their families, especially those who face barriers when trying to access services.  LAMP CHC partners with other agencies and charitable organizations in order to ensure all the needs of the community are met.  Its mission statement says:

LAMP C.H.C. uses a multi-disciplinary approach to health and well being.  A range of services are offered through an integrated approach to wellness which links clients to the programs they need to maintain good health. This could include counselling, access to food, help with housing issues, joining a social group, literacy or information on income support…We are committed to helping everyone in our community get access to the resources and supports they need.[29]

Since 1976, LAMP CHC has strived to improve the quality of life of its clients so they can reach their full potential by addressing new and emerging community needs, providing health care services, community programs and advocacy initiatives.  Inclusiveness is the core value at the LAMP CHC centre.  They believe that people from diverse backgrounds and perspectives should be valued and respected, and that they have the right to live in a healthy community.  Everyone also has a right to contribute to and be helped by their community, and have access to the resources they need.  It’s understood that some clients have greater needs and fewer choices so they require more support.

As part of the public health care system, LAMP CHC provides a range of services including:  Medical Services: Diabetes Education, Support and Counseling; Dental Clinic; Naturopathic Clinic; Occupational Health; Healthy Sex Clinic; Foot Clinic; and Nutrition Counselling and Services.  LAMP CHC also supports families with Early Years Services.  On site there is an Ontario Early Years Centre.  This centre provides programs, information, and resources for children up to six years old, their families and caregivers.  This drop-in program is free and is a place where adults and children can play together and meet other families living in the community.  The Ontario Early Years Centre is fully integrated into LAMP CHC.  The professionals in different agencies with LAMP CHC go into the centre and provide outreach to the parents and caregivers.   Scheduled activities for young parents include: pregnant teenagers; prenatal classes; nutrition support; parenting classes; parenting programs for dads; and specialized programs for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers including early learning, numeracy and literacy, are available.  Other activities for young people include the Preschool Speech and Language Program, Equally Healthy Kids Program, Street Level Youth Centre, Youth Assembly and Rathburn Area Youth. 

The ASK! Community Information Centre provides families and individuals with a range of support and services in a variety of languages.[30]  These services include:  Community Information, Referral and Support; Immigrant Settlement and Refugee Support for newcomers to Canada;  Free Legal Information and Advice Clinic; Commissioner for Taking Affidavits; Government Form Filling and Income Tax Clinics for individuals and families on a low income; Community Computer and Internet Access Program; Ontario Works Advice Clinic; Social Work Program/ Counselling Services; Infant Food Program; Lakeshore Adult Learning Program that helps adults improve their reading and writing; Among Friends assists people with mental health challenges; and Adult Drop-in and Out of the Cold Program for homeless people.  A number of services are available by phone or on a drop in basis and others are only available by appointment.  By providing these services LAMP CHC addresses their clients needs, improve their health and open up opportunities for a brighter future.

The Free Legal Information and Advice Clinic is run by a lawyer who volunteers his time one day a week.  He provides information related to consumer matters, notarization/affidavits, minor criminal offences, family/matrimonial law, wills/estates, power of attorney, property matters, landlord/tenant agreements, court/litigation matters, commercial matters and general legal matters.  He can also provide information or referrals to other legal services and clinics in the community.  This service is offered in three languages by appointment only.  The demand for this clinic is already so great that LAMP CHC does not advertise its operation beyond notices in their main entrance.

 

The Hincks-Dellcrest Centre[31]

            The Hincks-Dellcrest Centre is a non-profit, multi-disciplinary mental health centre for children and their families in Toronto.  It offers a comprehensive range of services to treat children with a variety of mental health problems. The Hincks-Dellcrest Centre was formed in 1998 when C.C. Hincks Treatment Centre and the Dellcrest Children’s Centre amalgamated.  Each year more than 8000 children and their families are helped through a variety of programs at the two Hincks-Dellcrest Centre locations.  Treatment is tailored to each individual child’s needs and can involve a number of different professionals including psychiatrists, social workers, early childhood educators, child and youth workers and psychologists who are co-located at the centre.  They also work directly in the local neighbourhoods offering prevention and early intervention programs.  The Hincks-Dellcrest Centre also conducts primary research and provides  education and training for more than 3000 clinicians and managers each year.

 Services at the Hincks-Dellcrest Centre are influenced by the respect they have for the dignity of all people and the responsibility they feel to provide the maximum benefit to the clients they serve as the community as a whole.  They value being responsive and accountable to the community; the need for their services to be personalized and holistic; that clients be involved in the service decisions; and respecting diversity within the community.  The founding philosophy includes the following two values:

·         Continuity of Care. The importance of receiving services that are well planned, coordinated, and integrated.

·         No infant, child, or youth exists in isolation; therefore, to prevent or overcome mental health problems, services need to work and collaborate with relevant family, school, and community systems.[32]

As you enter the Hincks-Dellcrest Centre at the Sheppard Site, you turn left and go into the reception office to let the staff know that you have arrived.  The office is spacious and bright and it looks into a much larger waiting area.  The waiting room has a tall ceiling, with lots of comfortable seating and small tables and chairs for children to sit at and draw, read a book and so on.  The walls are filled with information about the centre, colourful pictures that talk about bullying and words to promote self-esteem.  It is here that visitors wait until a staff member comes to greet them and take them to the appropriate service provider. 

            The centre has three streams of service for children and their families:[33] 

·         mental health prevention and early intervention programs;

·         voluntary treatment programs;

·         mandated programs. 

The first stream of service focuses on prevention and early intervention programs for infants, preschoolers and school-age children.  The services are designed to prevent problems occurring and from increasing in intensity and frequency.  Some of these services are offered within the school system.  These programs include:  Family Support Network; Children’s Caravan, Ontario Early Years Centre; Building Brighter Futures (CAPC) and the Prenatal Nutrition Project; Healthy Babies Healthy Children; Child-Focused Consultation and Training; Specialized Children’s Groups; Peer Mediation Training; and Parent Education Presentations.  Parents enrol in these programs without going through the formal intake process.

            The Ontario Early Years Centre at Hincks-Dellcrest offers a variety of programs for young children including:  Early Learning Activities and Literacy Programs; Parent/Caregiver Workshops and Resources; Programs for Families with Special Needs Children; and Pre/Postnatal Resource and Information.  Some parents who are participating in the parenting workshops are fulfilling court mandated requirements.  Staff reported to us that although some of the families who participate in their programs clearly have legal needs, at present the Early Years Centre offers no programs that address these needs.

Prevention and Early Intervention Programs provide outreach to children and their families, through community-based services and home visits, which increase their knowledge, skills and sense of community.   These programs benefit children, their families, and the community in a variety of ways including:  improved cognitive, physical and social development in children; more success in school; more prosocial attitudes and skills in children and adolescence; less delinquency in adolescence; less stress within the family and community; improved parenting and less child abuse and neglect.  These services are also cost-effective.  For every dollar spent on these services, seven dollars are saved in future social and health care costs.  They reduce short-term health care costs for children and long-term for children and their families.

            The second stream of service focuses on Voluntary Treatment Programs.  Parents must go through the formal intake process, through the Intake Coordinator, in order to access these programs.  Once a parent makes contact with the Intake Coordinator, a decision is made to determine if the request is part of their mandate and the family lives in the catchment area. If it is not, the family is referred to another resource.  The Community Treatment Program provides outpatient counselling and treatment services for children and youth up to age 17 who have mental health problems or have behavioural, social or emotional issues.  Family, individual and group therapy as well as training in child management services are available.  The waiting list is 1 to 10 months and sessions with the family average one session per week or twice monthly.  Approximately 850 families are seen by seven direct-service staff, on-site, each year for an average of six months. 

The Day Treatment Program services children and youth who have a chronic emotional disturbance that affects their daily lives.  These difficulties manifest themselves in the school setting and require more intensive treatment that cannot be delivered in an outpatient basis.  A specialized school program, family, individual and group therapy are provided for children that need more intensive treatment than can be provided on an outpatient basis.  The wait for placement is between 2 and 9 months.  Program staff may begin to work with the family until the child is placed in the program.  Six direct-service staff and four teachers from the Toronto District School Board work with 24 children in the program at a time.  Staff work with the families after the treatment on average 18 months helping to support the child’s transition back into their community school setting.  This assistance also includes helping the family connect with community resources to help maintain or enhance gains the child has made.  Residential Treatment Programs are provided off-site for seriously emotionally disturbed children and youth when family and community-based treatment has been tried and is not sufficient to meet their needs.  It is a safe and therapeutic setting for children and youth who cannot manage at home, at school and in the community.

The third stream of service focuses on Mandated Treatment Programs for Youth.  An Open Custody/Open Detention Residence is provided off-site for male youths convicted under the Youth Criminal Justice Act who may have significant mental health needs.  Youths aged 12 to 17 years are sentenced to a defined period.  They provide a day program, aftercare counselling and consultation services to other agencies.  Admission is not voluntary and is determined by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services.  Each youth is required to go to school, have a job or be receiving job training while in the program. The length of stay is determined by the Youth Court.  This residence along with the Day Program and Youth Assessment Program is serviced by 20 staff.

The Hincks-Dellcrest Centre provides very few legal services directly.  When a pressing need arises, they mostly refer clients to community legal clinics.  In practice, however, many of their clients with serious legal needs already have legal representation.  What was evident is that although the staff could see that their clients (and indeed staff) would benefit from low-level  legal services such as legal information, legal consultation, and informal community dispute resolution, there is a very genuine concern that layering on legal services is not a good fit to their multidisciplinary model because they see legal professionals as adversarial and likely to function in ways that are contrary to the best interests of the children they serve. 

 

North Renfrew Family Services[34]

North Renfrew Family Services (NRFS) is housed in the Deep River and District Hospital, which is located in the town of Deep River on the Ottawa River in scenic northern Ontario.  Since 1968, this non-profit community-based agency has provided counselling to families and individuals in the North Renfrew area.  North Renfrew is a large geographical area that extends from Chalk River to Deux Rivieres.  NRFS responds to families and individuals who are in crises, treating them with respect and building on their strengths.  The NRFS mission is: 

·         To provide a counselling and referral service for individuals and families of North Renfrew seeking to enhance their personal growth and strengthen their family life. 

·         To assist the community to respond to the changing social needs.[35]

NRFS has a three person staff, which includes an executive director/counsellor, an intake manager, and a family counsellor.

NRFS responds to a wide range of family and individual needs and circumstances through counselling and group programs.  The counselling provided includes crisis intervention, advocacy, education and referrals.  Clients are given advice on issues such as anger management, depression, financial difficulties, parenting and divorce responsibilities.  NRFS has a large selection of information and resource material that is available to all members of the community.  Programs are provided at minimal cost or are free and no client is denied a service if they are not able to pay. They strive to provide services and programs that are innovative, accessible and affordable to all members of the community.

In 2009, the North Renfrew Family Health Team co-located with NFRS and they have begun to work collaboratively together.  NFRS has developed over the past 5 years collaboration agreements with other outside organizations to address family and individual needs and issues.  Their partners include:  Women’s Shelter and Support Services; Renfrew County Legal Clinic; Community Mental Health; Family and Children’s Services of Renfrew County; Deep River Police Services; Renfrew County Legal Aid; Employee Assistance Service; Child Poverty Action Network; Living Without Violence Incorporated; and Probation and Parole Services.  NFRS helps locate resources for families, individuals and other professionals in the community.

Many of the individuals and families who utilize NRFS have legal needs.  It often functions as a bridge to its numerous partners who provide legal services, in particular, the Renfrew County Legal Clinic and Renfrew County Legal Aid.  NRFS frequently refers its clients to both the legal clinic and legal aid; this includes scheduling appointments.  In practice, the NRFS staff often support their clients by preparing them for appearances in criminal and family court.  This preparation focuses on providing them with information in order to prevent their clients from being blind-sided by the legal process.  For many of their other clients, the issues revolve around disputes over disability benefits and rental housing.   The staff regularly provide information, advice and guidance in the completion of forms that are necessary to resolve these disputes.  In some instances, staff will accompany clients to tribunal meetings for social benefits or housing.  Although NRFS benefits from some local professionals who volunteer their time and services free of charge, no local lawyers in private practice are among these professionals.

As a provider of family services in northern Ontario, NRFS faces some challenges that are especially pervasive in that part of the province.  Geography in particular presents itself as a major challenge for NRFS.  The area it services is huge.  The professionals who provide family services in Renfrew County are spread out.  Often, NRFS clients are referred to partners 45 minutes drive away.  Transportation between services is a significant barrier to access.  Throughout northern Ontario, there has been a gradual disintegration of public transportation, in particular the railways but also bus service.  Often, users of NRFS cannot afford to own or operate cars.  The operating budget of NRFS does not have the flexibility to provide transportation grants to individuals.  At present, NRFS does not have the information technology resources to develop virtual connections between providers along the lines that are discussed in Chapter Five below.     

 

Durham DRIVEN[36]

            Durhan Regions’s Intimate-Relationship Violence Empowerment Network (Durham DRIVEN) is a community-based initiative that provides victims of domestic violence with access to free co-located services.  This one-stop service model makes it more efficient for the client.  The agencies involved in the project have been working together since the fall of 2005.  Durham DRIVEN is currently located in the Durham Children’s Aid Society in Oshawa.  It officially opened in the spring of 2009. The site is donated and they share their space with a health clinic. They are open every Monday, appointments can be made but walk-ins are welcome.  The clinic has a very warm and welcoming atmosphere.  There are large marine tanks filled with colourful fish throughout the building, and paintings of large fish and underwater life on several of the blue walls.  The environment promotes a feeling of comfort and security for people who are vulnerable and need support.  Durham DRIVEN’s goal is to acquire their own building so that they can expand their services, further empower their clients, and hold abusers accountable for what they have done.  Women feel empowered because other people believe them.

            Durham DRIVEN is guided in its operations by three principles:

·         Collaboration
No one agency can meet all the needs of a person dealing with intimate relationship violence. It takes a community to maximize the welfare and safety of each member.

·         Choices and Options
A client’s right to direct their service and choose which agencies will and will not be involved, will be respected.

·         Confidentiality
Information will not be shared amongst collocated agencies without the specific consent of the individual client.[37]

 

When entering Durham DRIVEN, a staff member meets with the client and asks her questions to determine what kind of help she needs.  Men are referred to an appropriate community resource.  The client is told what kind of services and supports are available on-site.  It is the client’s choice to meet with as many agencies as she would like to.  Arrangements are made to meet with each of the agencies that day.  The client also completes a consent-to-share-information form, indicating which agencies she would like her information to be shared with.  Follow-up meetings with agency partners can also be arranged to continue the support that is being offered to the client.  While the client is talking with the agencies, childcare is available for the children.

            Agencies that are currently on-site include:  Bethesda House Shelter and Outreach Support Services; Catholic Family Services; Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Care Centre; Durham Children’s Aid Society; Durham College Women’s Centre; Durham Regional Police Services and Family Services Durham.  Women come to the clinic if they need counselling, medical attention, access to a lawyer, police involvement, a safety plan, admission to a shelter, help managing financial difficulties, help finding a place to live, or advice from the Children’s Aid Society.   Durham DIRECT also has the technological capacity to provide some services remotely via video-streaming, Skype, or some other internet linkage.  

            Legal information is provided at Durham DRIVEN by a local lawyer who is on-site every Monday and volunteers her time.  The information she is asked for by clients is wide ranging but predominantly revolves around issues of family law.  Typical questions are about child custody, the sale of the family home, how restraining orders work, and what will happen and next steps.  Her services are requested by about 80% of the clinic’s clients, making it one of the most requested services provided by Durham DRIVEN.

 

Imagining New Directions in Ontario

            Five multidisciplinary family services delivery teams currently operating in Ontario have just been briefly described.  All five of these teams integrate some form of low-level legal services for families as an add-on to the other services they provide families.  They all offer insight into some promising practices for developing multidisciplinary delivery models that integrate legal services.  These will be examined in subsequent chapters.  Before turning there, however, consider how existing community health centres, family counselling centres, and the proposed Best Start Child and Family Centres in Ontario could be feasibly adapted to integrate low-level legal services.  All offer promising ways to facilitate informal points of access to the resources of the family justice system in pursuit of the vision of multidisciplinary paths to family justice in Ontario.  All also provide that at the point of entry, their services are free or very affordable, which is important because the persons who can least afford to pay fees for family justice services are often the ones most in need of the services in Ontario.

            In the previous chapter, we saw that community health centres have been pioneers in the establishment of multidisciplinary family services in Ontario.  LAMP CHC in Toronto was among those pioneers and has already integrated a measure of legal services into their delivery model.  But their existing legal services do not match the level of need in their community.  With more resources and secure funding LAMP CHC could readily layer on more legal services.  It is easy to imagine the 73 other community health centres across the province following the example of LAMP CHC, if they do not already.  All share a broad definition of health and the corresponding range of needs including legal needs that should be met in order to fulfill their mission.  Community health centres already have a co-located space where diverse professionals delivery family services through a multidisciplinary model.  With a commitment of resources and dedicated funds to support low-level legal services, all of the community health centres could feasibly layer on these family services to the services and programs they already provide.   Indeed, in our discussions with community health centre staff and management, it was clear that given constant changes in funding they are used to being flexible about adding and taking away programs, especially ones that while important are not at the very core of their delivery model – in this case, primary health care for low income individuals and their families.

            Family counselling centres across the province can similarly integrate low level legal services into their multidisciplinary service models.  This is well illustrated with the Mosaic Counselling and Family Services in Kitchener, which houses the Domestic Violence Project of Waterloo Region, and Durham DRIVEN.  Other family counselling services across the province also have domestic violence programs in place. 

It is also very important to note that the model of family counselling centres in Ontario has been very effective at adapting to the needs of Aboriginal peoples.  They are capable of providing a service model that is culture based and respects the values of Native people, their extended families, and the right to self-determination of its users.  Centres such as the Native Child and Family Services of Toronto provides a range of programs including Aboriginal Head Start, Kilwednong Child Care, Children’s Mental Health and Family Well Being, Youth Program, Transitional Housing, Outreach, and an Ontario Early Years Centre.  

            We have also seen how the Early Learning Initiative in Ontario is anticipating the establishment of Best Start Child and Family Centres across the province.  These new centres would be developed by re-engineering existing childcare, family resource, and early intervention services like the Ontario Early Years Centres.[38]  By merging the programs under one administration, these new centres will be able to offer a one-stop opportunity to support young children’s development.  Integrated services would not have to be located in the same place but they need to be part of an organization that responds to the needs of children and their families.  In order to support children’s transition into the Early Learning Program the Best Start Child and Family Centre should be located in schools.  Other locations would be partnered with a school.

These Best Start Child and Family Centres are to be linked to community resources such as libraries, recreation and community centres, health services, family counselling, employment training, settlement services, and housing.   The suggestion is that community family legal services be added to this package.  The same logic that applies to adding these other resources supports this extension.  The question is how this might be implemented.  In practice, like the community health centres, some of which already house Ontario Early Years Centres, the Best Start Child and Family Centres should approach the issue of implementation through a series of programs, adding a legal information component to some of existing programs such as parenting courses and innovating in other ways such as the way that the four programs described above have done.   

One clear limitation with community health centres, family counselling centres, and future Best Start Child and Family Centres is that they are largely based in larger urban settings.  What can be done for families living in more remote communities in Ontario?  These types of centres all have the potential to address partially this difficulty.  A feature of their delivery models is the use of satellite locations – although they have a primary location, they have the ready capacity to utilize satellite locations in more remote communities to deliver some services.  It is also feasible to utilize web technology – web conferencing, Skype, etc. – to bridge the geographical gaps between the primary location of these centres and remote communities.  (This is discussed in more detailed in Chapter Five.)  These centres, because of their multidisciplinary nature, rely heavily on a staff member who is well experienced with coordinating services.  It is not unrealistic to think that the sort of coordination that remote communities may require in terms of effective satellite locations or the utilization of technology is much more feasible when a designated multidisciplinary service team coordinator is constitutive of the service delivery models at these centres.

The proposal that legal services be integrated into a health care delivery model in Ontario is consistent with developments in other jurisdictions.  It has long been recognized that health care settings are good sites for this sort of integration.[39]  Aside from the other reasons already mentioned in this chapter and the previous one for multidisciplinary service providers, health care centres are especially effective because health care providers are well trusted by their patients and this trust has been found to be transferred to legal service providers who work with them collaboratively.[40]   This finding was supported by our discussions at LAMP CHC.  The much more innovative dimension of the proposal is to also utilize family counselling centres and early learning centres.  We suspect that families also trust the providers of early learning services for their children and something akin to the transfer of trust from health care providers will also occur in these settings.  The same point can be made about family counselling centres.

Conclusion

This chapter has sought to describe selectively some of the ways in Ontario that multidisciplinary teams of professionals provide family services and have integrated low-level informal legal services into their delivery models in order to meet the needs of the families they serve.  It has also offered some scenarios for the replication of these models in the context of community health centres, family counselling services, and the early learning initiative.  These scenarios provide some insight into the policy vehicles that might be utilized to realize the vision of multidisciplinary paths to family justice in Ontario.

Previous  Next
First Page  Last Page
Table of Contents