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Embracing the role of an Immigration Specialist

Dec 11, 2023, 14:54 PM

As a frontline child protection worker at Peel CAS for the past 23 years, I was looking for a new challenge and learning curve. I have worked in all three service departments at the agency and have been exposed to all facets of child welfare, from investigations to ongoing work, permanency planning, adoption placements, safety planning, court, reunifications, community presentations, and committee work. 


Successes in child welfare can sometimes feel rare, but when they do happen, they are so rewarding because it means safety and stability for children and family. The successes over the years are what keep me going even when things get difficult. I knew I absolutely wanted to remain in child welfare and at Peel CAS, but felt that it was time to take on a new opportunity. When the role of Immigration Specialist opened, I decided to apply for the position. In speaking with some of my trusted colleagues, I felt confident this role will be the change that I was looking for.


When I started in September 2023, I was excited to be coming into a new role after 23 years. While it was very exciting, it was also a little daunting. I went from being an experienced worker, to being a “newbie”, a space that I have not occupied in a long time. I have willingly embraced this and feel lucky to come into an established team where everyone was open and willing to share their knowledge and guide me in my new role.  


Since joining, I quickly realized that the role of Immigration Specialist is so much more than navigating the immigration system and completing citizenship papers or renewing permanent resident cards.  Through one-on-one meetings with my new teammates I’ve realized they all carry very valuable and unique experiences, as well as skill sets, that they bring into their role.


While I worked with CWICE in the last two years and have attended training, I started to learn what the role of Immigration Specialist entails. Or so I thought.


Prior to coming into this role, I did not realize the important role CWICE plays throughout the child welfare sector across the province, and even nationally. Immigration Specialists are consultants, advocates, educators, and supportive of child welfare workers regardless of their location.  CWICE has developed very valuable and influential relationships with federal agencies such as Global Affairs Canada, IRCC, and Canada Border Services. This means they are able to influence changes within those established, and often rigid, systems. 


CWICE has also engaged in a process of contributing to possible legislation changes, Bill S-235, with Senator Jaffer. The month I joined CWICE, we co-hosted roundtable discussions with various stakeholders alongside Senator Jaffer. My CWICE colleagues also regularly engage with settlement agencies, to provide presentations to government sponsored refugees about the role of child welfare in Ontario. Observing these presentations firsthand, and the impact on newly arrived immigrants, was one of the most heartwarming experiences I’ve had.


None of this work would be possible without the energy, excitement, and belief of each of every individual within CWICE, from leadership down, that we are doing valuable work.  


The most surprising part of the work is the role CWICE plays in repatriation of Canadian children, youth, and families from abroad. We work with Global Affairs Canada and Canada Border Services Agency when planning. From speaking with my new colleagues I learned the process of supporting repatriation and reunification can be long, exhausting for everyone, and contain many obstacles. But, when it finally happens, it is very rewarding to see youth and children being repatriated to safety after facing precarious and dangerous situations abroad.


As a frontline child protection worker, I am proud of the work that I have done with families over the years. My new role as an Immigration Specialist enables me to continue to serve the children, youth, and families in a different way. Though in a new role, we all share the same common goal to ensure our clients feel safe and have strengthened networks after we conclude our involvement. 


About the author:

Zrinka Buric started the position of an Immigration Specialist in September of 2023.  She has 23 years experience as a frontline Child Protection Worker at Peel CAS and holds a Bachelor of Social Work from Toronto Metropolitan University. She is very committed to increasing positive outcomes, building resilience and addressing permanency for the children, youth and  families that she serves.