Truancy is a serious problem in Ontario, says Nicole Powers, but children’s aid societies across the province are not mandated to deal with it.
A student in the Master of Social Work/Juris Doctor program, she recommends that the Child and Family Services Act be amended to empower Children’s Aid Societies to intervene when students miss school.
“Truancy is the number one risk factor for later criminal activity and juvenile delinquency,” says Powers. “The Ministry of Children and Youth Services has set a goal to ensure every person graduates from secondary school. Changing the act is a way to achieve that goal.”
Powers was one of dozens of graduate students in social work presenting projects based on their practicum experiences, Friday in the CAW Student Centre. Her placement with the Windsor-Essex Children’s Aid Society was “eye-opening,” she says.
“I chose this agency because I will be articling with the Office of the Children’s Lawyer (under Ontario’s attorney general),” says Powers. “I thought it would be a good idea to get some background on what children’s aid societies do.”
Although the public perception is that children’s aid societies “take people’s kids away,” she says she learned that it offers many supports to help families cope with challenges.
Social professor Connie Kvarfordt says that educational experience is the key reason why the graduate program places students with community agencies.
“The practicum bridges the gap between academic knowledge and real life,” she says. “It’s a great learning experience that will inform their professional practice.”
The students are required to identify possible funding sources for any recommendations they make, Dr. Kvarfordt says, and presenting their research in the poster display develops yet another skill—the ability to explain their work to the public.