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Meet Abimbola, Peel CAS social worker

March 4-10 is National Social Work Week, a chance for us to stop, reflect and celebrate the work that our social workers do.  This year’s theme is “From everyday issues to complex needs: Social Workers, it's what we do." It highlights the good work our workers do every day to support our children and families, no matter what what their needs may be.

Our workers are social justice professionals – outspoken advocates for the people and communities we serve, and champions for positive change. They seek equity for all people. They protect and ensure the safety of children and advocate for and help those most vulnerable. In truth, they are motivated by the desire to help others as well as the desire to change the world, one child, youth or family at a time.

Abimbola – Child Welfare Immigration Centre of Excellence

I want to change lives for the better. As a child, seeing social justice issues like poverty and homelessness really impacted me, and as I grew up I realized the way forward in making any difference was to follow my calling and become a social worker.

The Child Welfare Immigration Centre of Excellence is often a first point of contact for settlement agencies and other Children’s Aid Societies in Ontario to ensure families get settlement supports they need to overcome barriers such as language, housing and education. In my role, I support and advocate for children, youth and families facing issues of child protection and well-being who are also experiencing complex immigration issues. These issues could include fleeing from persecution in their home countries or living in Canada while experiencing difficulty navigating a complex immigration system.

I am currently working with a Syrian family out of concern for their well-being. Zainab* was recently diagnosed with a terminal illness and shortly before arriving in Canada, her husband passed away suddenly. Her two children weren’t attending school because Zainab was too ill to take them. In working with Zainab’s family, I have to plan for both short-term and long-term contingencies. What if Zainab has to go to the hospital for an extended stay? Who will take care of the children when she dies? Do they have any kin in Canada – someone the children know and can stay with? I ensure any potential gaps in assisting this family are quickly identified and met. We have multiple supports in place including counselling services; collaborating with Polycultural Immigrant and Community Services to bring in groceries and meals; working with the Peel District School Board to ensure the children’s academic and emotional needs are met; and securing a pro-bono lawyer for Zainab to draft her last will and testament. Working with this family reminds me of why I became a social worker; I will do whatever I can to ensure these children are cared for now and in the future.

*name has been changed

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The case for early and rapid resolution of immigration status issues for children and youth within the child welfare sector is clear. Resolving immigration status issues in a timely manner has the potential to make a very significant difference in the lives of children and youth to ensure they have access to services such as education and employment.

The Child Welfare Immigration Centre of Excellence (CWICE) is a partnership between Peel CAS and the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies. Its purpose is to provide knowledge, guidance, and services to Ontario CASs regarding immigration and settlement issues facing children and youth in the child welfare system. CWICE assists newcomers experiencing settlement and integration issues and works with unaccompanied minors, and children and families experiencing immigration status issues to help them navigate through the complex immigration system. CWICE works closely with the Canadian Border Services Agency, Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada, the Immigration and Refugee Board, and Global Affairs Canada.