Positive Parenting Project

How can CASs best respond to HIV-positive mothers involved with child protection services? This research project finds out. The project identifies the issues that arise for CASs when working HIV-positive mothers, designs a training module around these issues, delivers and evaluates whether this training is useful to CASs.

The project focuses primarily on Aboriginal mothers who are HIV-positive, but addresses working with non-aboriginal HIV-positive parents too. The project also focuses on a broader range of issues than HIV, because most parents involved with CASs face a range of issues that cause or compound the reasons they are involved with child protection services. Poverty, domestic violence, substance use, and housing instability are just a few of the issues families involved with CASs face. Such issues are compounded for Aboriginal mothers who also often live with the effects of residential schools, colonization and intergenerational trauma and racism. These and similar factors are further compounded for HIV-positive parents who tend to experience stigma from the community, workers who misunderstand and sometimes fear them, problems in accessing appropriate health care, and a range of other related issues. CAS workers are somehow expected to have knowledge and awareness of all these issues, the skill to identify which are relevant in the work they are undertaking with a family and the attitudes and abilities that enable them to engage families in an appropriate manner. This project helps CAS workers do that.

The project is grounded in the Anti-Oppressive Framework for Child Welfare in Ontario by addressing; knowledge and awareness, skills, attitudes, assumptions, and institutional factors. The study adopts community-based research principles to use the AO “levers” of “including service users” and “working with community.” The project brings together CAS workers, medical and social work experts in HIV, and mothers living with or affected by HIV to identify the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to work with the above issues in a child welfare context. The research group will develop a training module for CAS workers, deliver the module, and evaluate outcomes. Emphasis will be placed on a training module that is sustainable and can be easily repeated or accessed by child protection agencies across Canada and is compatible with existing training and particularly AO principles.

Research Team

(note - the list below is accurate at the time of writing but may change - because changes of member titles and positions may occur as the study proceeds)

Co-Principle Investigators

Dr. Saara Greene, Professor, McMaster University

Doris O'Brien Teengs, member of Winisk First Nation, Executive Director of the Ontario Aboriginal HIV/AIDS

Dr. Gary Dumbrill, Associate Professor, McMaster University


Allyson Ion, Research Coordinator, HIV Mothering Study McMaster University

Dr. Mona Loutfy, HIV Specialist & Clinician Scientist at the Women's College Research Institute

Simone Shindler, Program Director at The Teresa Group

Renée Masching, Director of Research and Policy Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network

Bruce Leslie, Manager of Quality Assurance at the Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Toronto

Martha Wiles, Registered Social Worker, Special Immunology Services Clinic (SIS), Hamilton Health Sciences

Wangari Tharao, Program and Research Manager at Women’s Health in Women’s Hands Community Health Centre Toronto

Wanda Whitebird, Women’s Outreach/Support Service worker at Oahas

Kerrigan Beaver, Co-Chair, Interdisciplinary HIV Pregnancy Research Group (IHPREG) and Board member of CAAN

Jay MacGillivray, Registered Midwife, Positive Pregnancy Programme, St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto


Dr. Sandra Seigel, Pediatrician at the SIS Clinic at Hamilton Health Sciences

Ruthann Tucker, Executive Director of The AIDS Network in Hamilton, Halton, Haldimand, Norfolk and Brant regions of Ontario

Andy Koster, Executive Director of The Children's Aid Society of Brant

Marisol Desbiens, Community member engaged in the HIV community for the past six years

Lyndon George, Oahas Regional Outreach/Support Services Coordinator for Western Ontario

Dr. Bernadette Gallagher, Director of Education at the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies