Stephanie Tokarchuk: Family Services Supervisor
The shift from protection to prevention is long overdue. In Dauphin right now, it’s a four-month wait to see a mental health counselor. We have one social worker for fourteen schools. But we’re slowly getting there.
As a supervisor for Michif Child and Family Services in Dauphin, Stephanie Tokarchuk oversees temporary child protection files covering a wide swath of northwestern Manitoba, from McCreary to the south all the way up to Mafeking .
“The families we deal with everyday are mostly rural, which means they generally don’t have access to the same kinds of supports and services available in the larger centres,” she says. “This remains a terrible challenge, one we’re just beginning to make some real strides in addressing.”
Just over five years ago, Tokarchuk began as an intake worker, supporting children who’ve been temporarily removed from their home, and parents trying to meet the requirements to be reunified with their kids.
“For me, the hardest part was always managing my own expectations of other people, or keeping my biases in check” she says. “You wonder to yourself, how could that they do that to their child? But everyone has a story. And these days, those of us in the field are getting better training about trauma and its implications. Almost all the families we work with are Metis or Inuit and systemic racism and trauma are a huge factor in so many people’s lives.”
She credits a fantastic boss for mentoring her as she stepped into the role of supervisor in 2019. “It wasn’t that long ago, so I remember exactly what it was like coming into this field. I try to regularly sit down with each of my family service workers , consult on cases together, do some brainstorming as a team. Plus the sheer volume of paperwork can be overwhelming so I try to take on some of that burden as well.”
Dealing with children-at-risk also brings with it inherent mental health challenges. “Each case leaves its mark. Not long ago, a child died in an accident who’d been on my lap the day before. I try to make sure all of us in the office keep talking and supporting each other, even if it’s just going for a drink after work.”
Tokarchuk feels strongly that a shift in the system from protection to prevention is long overdue. “In Dauphin right now, it’s a four-month wait to see a mental health counselor. We have one social worker for fourteen schools. But we’re slowly getting there.”
She mentions legislation like Bill C92, which aims to address some of the barriers to keeping families together and ensuring appropriate supports are in place to keep them from ending up in the system in the first place.
“I think within five years it’s going to be a totally a new era of child welfare,” she says. “Right now, I just keep in mind each file that goes right and those kids that go home and they don’t need us anymore"