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U of R researchers working to support child-welfare organizations in Saskatchewan and the Prairies

By University Advancement and Communications Posted: July 23, 2020 5:00 a.m.

COVID-19 has been especially challenging for children and families involved with child welfare, including those in out-of-home care. The pandemic has intensified existing vulnerabilities, potentially adding layers of trauma and/or reactivating existing trauma.
COVID-19 has been especially challenging for children and families involved with child welfare, including those in out-of-home care. The pandemic has intensified existing vulnerabilities, potentially adding layers of trauma and/or reactivating existing trauma. Photo: stock

COVID-19 has affected everyone and every system — social, health, political, and economic — around the globe. 

For children whose lives have been impacted by trauma, the pandemic has been particularly challenging, as it exacerbates vulnerabilities and contributes to trauma ‘layering’ and ‘reactivation’. 

Conditions brought about directly or indirectly by the pandemic have increased the possibility of separation, isolation, and reduced access to much-needed social supports, mental and physical services, and education, putting children and families at heightened risk. 

Workers in child-serving organizations are also challenged in their efforts to rapidly change practices to respond to increasing demands and the growing complexity of cases, to ensure the safety and well-being of children and families. 

Two University of Regina researchers — Dr. Lise Milne of the Faculty of Social Work and Dr. Nathalie Reid, director of the Child Trauma Research Centre (CTRC) — are engaged in research that will allow them to translate knowledge for child welfare organizations across the Canadian Prairies, in order to support and manage the impacts of COVID-19 on the mental health of children, families, and workers. 

Their work has been advanced by a $10,000 Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF) grant for their project Creating a Digital Connections Hub to Support Children in Care in Saskatchewan During COVID-19 and Beyond, and a $47,342 Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Knowledge Synthesis Grant for their project, Translating Knowledge for Child Welfare Organizations Across the Prairies: Managing the Impacts of COVID-19 on the Mental Health of Children, Families, and Workers. 

“The shifting circumstances surrounding COVID-19 have led to a rapid proliferation of research and resources, but organizations responsible for meeting the urgent needs of children and families in child welfare typically have little time to find, evaluate, and translate knowledge to inform services for vulnerable children and their families,” says Dr. Milne. 

As child welfare systems were forced to pivot rapidly in the midst of this global pandemic, creating new best practices for supporting children in care virtually and remotely, Dr. Reid knew the CTRC could step in to assist.  

“We decided to create a Digital Connections Hub to synthesize and mobilize the wealth of emerging research and resources in ways that are accessible and usable to a variety of knowledge users and stakeholders,” says Dr. Reid. 

The CTRC became an official U of R research centre in March 2020. The Centre operates as a nexus for research, dissemination, and advocacy with, in, and for community, promoting research partnerships between academia, government, service providers, and community organizations, in order to address childhood traumas in leading-edge and innovative ways.  

The funded research projects will ensure that service providers, as well as a broad range of knowledge users, have information and resources to support the complex health, social, psychological, educational, and environmental needs of children and families involved in child welfare, especially those in out-of-home care, as well as those entrusted with their health and well-being.  

For more information about the CTRC, please visit: www.uregina.ca/ctrc.