I joined CWICE in October 2023, and am still amazed by the professionalism and knowledge that CWICE colleagues bring to the child welfare sector. As a Child Protection Worker previously, every time I worked with CWICE, the Immigration Specialists helped me figure out the next steps in the case management. It was important to me to make CWICE referrals to improve my knowledge and my assessment skills and be an ally to our clients to help them improve their situation and find stability.
Personally, I immigrated to Canada in 2012 and again 2018, and I know how difficult it can be to adapt to a new system and how we can feel isolated. I feel lucky that I immigrated to Canada and was able to prepare for it, and I recognize people migrate for different reasons. As a child, I immigrated to France and because I was not mentally prepared for it, I ended up not speaking for a full year. The emotional impact that comes from leaving your country of birth is too often dismissed. When I lived and worked as a social worker in France, I supported convention refugees in their settlement and heard many testimonies about how difficult it is to have to leave the country of origin. Sometimes the lack of information about their new country can create additional hardship and make things difficult for them.
Before joining CWICE, I had not realized how much the status of immigrants or lack thereof could impact the families’ dynamic and their well-being. I had forgotten how stressful it can be to always wonder about the future. Since joining CWICE, I’ve realized how important CWICE is, as it provides new ways of thinking about child welfare and pushes everyone to take a step back and start thinking about the consequences our actions have on people’s lives.
Every time that I shadow a consultation, I am truly amazed by the way the Immigration Specialists are able to connect immigration issues with child protection concerns. I had not realized how deep the connections were. It feels like they are using some magical tricks that I have not figured out yet. But what I’ve seen is CWICE staff give hope to clients and workers that there is a future, a better life, and stability through the steps to citizenship.
I really recommend the training offered by CWICE. I have been participating in CWICE trainings and what I love about those trainings is that they not only give us knowledge about immigration/migration in Canada but also make it real through examples. They made/make me pause and start questioning myself as a child welfare professional. Sometimes we tend to forget in our role as a child protection worker we can go beyond protection to support the children that come to our attention.
As child protection workers, we have the tendency to work in a fast-paced environment because we need to meet our deadlines to meet the standards. We sometimes go too fast and may not have the system knowledge to assist our clients who are struggling with immigration issues. We may not know that we can ensure the safety of the children while making sure that we are not negatively impacting their immigration status and their family’s status.
CWICE Immigration Specialists are essential, and I believe that every agency should use this service as part of building permanency. Since joining, I’m most surprised that CWICE plays a role in prevention. We regularly greet resettled refugees/Convention Refugees arriving in reception centres. CWICE supports clients in getting their power back by informing them about services, systems, rights, and engaging parents in discussions about parenting in Canada.
Everyone at CWICE has been helpful and supportive. I feel I have been set up for success and everyone wants the best for me so I can thrive in this role. As I’ve transitioned, I realized that I needed to slow down. I had not realized that my brain functions in a way where it focuses only on the child protection aspect and struggles to identify the future impact some actions can have in the long term.
Reflecting back now, I wanted to be part of this excellent team in the hope that one day I will be as good as the CWICE Immigration Specialists. While this role has been challenging so far, I know that one day I will be able to be as knowledgeable and efficient as my coworkers.
About the author:
Loubna Zouggari is a Child Protection Worker and Immigration Specialist at Peel CAS’ Child Welfare Immigration Centre of Excellence. Loubna joined Peel CAS in 2019, as an assessment worker. Loubna transitioned into the Immigration Specialist role with CWICE in October 2023. Loubna supported convention refugees in France before moving to Canada.