The Child's Protective Circle (Le Cercle de l'Enfant) is a tool of the social paediatrics in communities’ approach, which aims to engage all significant networks (family, community, institutional) around the most vulnerable children. Le Cercle model has been developed since 2007 by Montreal based Fondation du Dr Julien and its partners, representing children, parents, professionals from the community (child welfare agencies, schools, general health and social services) and community organizations. The model was implemented for the benefit of children using services of the paediatric clinics in its two main service points, located in socioeconomically disadvantaged communities of Montreal: Hochelaga-Maisonneuve and Côte-des-Neiges. The model is based on aboriginal decision-making philosophy and family group conferencing, and uses transformative mediation tools to create and strengthen a partnership among families, communities and institutions. Le Cercle advocates for a more active participation of families and their informal networks in determining the best course of actions to protect the child and support his long-term development.
The model was the object of an evaluation study in partnership between McGill University’s Centre for Research on Children and Families and Fondation du Dr Julien. In 2008-2010, the evaluation explored and described the model during its implementation phase, by collecting participant’s viewpoints on their involvement in the decision-making process following the Circle. It also tracked the progress of situations involving referred children and families.
Conclusions show how Le Cercle is well adapted to a long expressed need to reengage significant actors: families and communities, around vulnerable children. Participants have mentioned the benefits of a well-coordinated intervention to improve communication, get to know otherwise hidden family resources, and the importance of being involved in the decision-making process. The model was found useful in building stronger partnerships although its implementation is challenging, given the complex nature of referred situations, and some diverging logics of intervention with children’s difficulties among professionals that are involved. Partnerships were put to the test of aligning visions, and different levels of intervention in order to protect referred children; also to build larger solutions to meet their global development needs. Semi-structured interviews were done with 17 participants (professionals, families, model mediators and champions), during the first phase of implementation (2008-2009) of Le Cercle. These interviews, along with observations of 10 Cercle meetings have informed the following themes: 1) participation of networks; 2) sharing and expression of participants; 3) involvement and engagement of family networks; 4) effectiveness and continuity of partnerships in the model. A full description of the model and conclusions of the evaluation study are now available in a final report: Piché, Anne-Marie et Trocmé, Nico. Le Cercle de l’Enfant. Évaluation de la mise en place: Septembre 2008- Mars 2010. Rapport Final. Centre de Recherche sur l'Enfance et la Famille, Université McGill, Juillet 2011.