BC Association of Community Response Networks

Spotlight On: BC CRN Research & Evaluation

Here at BC CRN, our mandate is to help communities raise awareness and educate the public on how to spot the signs of adult abuse, neglect, and self-neglect. The association provides tools and supports to enable communities to coordinate responses to any suspected abuse and neglect with designated agencies.

For our readers who are new to the topic, adult abuse is any act causing harm to someone over the legal age of 18. Abuse may be financial, physical, sexual, or psychological.

Other forms of abuse can include over or under medication, censoring mail, violation of civil and human rights, denial of access to visitors, or invasion or denial of privacy.

Elder abuse commonly refers to adult abuse where the target is a senior or older adult. An abuser is someone who is likely known to the abused person, like a friend, family member, or caregiver.

Instances of abuse often coincide with neglect. Neglect is when lack of care, assistance, or attention leads to physical, mental, or emotional harm or loss of financial assets. Self-neglect is the failure to care for one’s self that causes serious physical or mental harm, or damage to or loss of assets.

Community connection and awareness are keys to identifying and preventing all manners of abuse and neglect. (Source: www.bccrns.ca)

BC CRN an Early Pioneer in Adult Abuse, Neglect, Prevention Methods

In 1991, the Adult Guardianship Act (AGA), the Representation Agreement Act, the Health Care Consent and Facilities Admission Act, and the Public Guardian and Trustee Act were drafted specifically to address adult abuse, neglect, and self-neglect.

These laws focused on providing the most effective, least intrusive support while ensuring the adult in question had as much involvement as possible in any process which affected them. Community response networks (CRNs) were written into the legislation as the means to raise awareness, educate the public, and help coordinate responses to any abuse, neglect, and self-neglect with designated agencies.

In 1993, five community response networks (CRNs) were piloted in Duncan, Penticton, Castlegar, Abbotsford, Vernon in keeping with recommendations in Part Three of the Adult Guardianship Act (AGA). (Source: BC CRN: 25 Years of History (1993-2019))

“All of this – the laws, CRNs, designated agencies – was new at this time,” says April Struthers, Regional Mentor – Sunshine Coast and Mentor Liaison to Evaluation. “There was a lot of training on the legislation and collaboration with the health authorities to figure out what to do and how to intervene in suspected abuse and neglect scenarios. The legislation was built on available community development research at the time, but research on adult abuse and neglect was uncommon.”

BC CRN, in collaboration with the BC Centre for Elder Advocacy and Support (BCCEAS), now Seniors First BC, released its first in a series of research papers on adult abuse, neglect, and self-neglect in 2006.

The Gathering Wheel- Best Practices in Prevention and Financial Abuse/Financial Crimes specifically researched how community-based networks developed as a means to respond to abuse and neglect. This paper summarized the types of activities and the stages of development CRNs go through to first establish themselves in the community, to finally being able to partner with individuals and community agencies on complex projects.

Shortly afterward, Outlook 2007, a research project conducted by the Canadian Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (CNPEA) and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) examined promising approaches to address the prevention of abuse and neglect of older adults in community settings in Canada. This paper was authored by April and then BC CRN Executive Director Alison Leany.

Outlook 2007 informed follow-up research that comprised Snapshot 2009 that had BC CRN collaborating with CNPEA and PHAC to further investigate these community approaches and, specifically, community-based networks.

This research also resulted in a sub-project in 2009 – Promising Approaches for Addressing/Preventing Abuse of Older Adults in First Nations Communities: A Critical Analysis and Environmental Scan of Tools and Approaches – with Health Canada’s First Nations and Inuit Home and Community Care Division to analyze specific tools and approaches in the First Nations context. PHAC has described this study as “providing an unprecedented Canadian collection and assessment of culturally appropriate resources to prevent and respond to the abuse of older adults in First Nations Communities.” (Source: Government of Canada, Public Health Agency, 2011.)

Being Least Intrusive: An Orientation to Practice in Responding to Situations of Abuse, Neglect and Self-Neglect of Vulnerable First Nations Adults, commissioned under the BC Adult Abuse and Neglect Prevention Collaborative’s Vanguard Project and executed under contract with the Canadian Centre for Elder Law, was also published in 2009. Its companion tool, also called Being Least Intrusive, was picked up by NICE – National Initiative for the Care of the Elderly – to distribute nationally. As an evidence-based tool, it was also approved by the University of Toronto. (This tool is under copyright by Lindsay Neufled-Risk and April Struthers.)

“These were substantial pieces of work at the time because nothing existed before, and the approaches that were developed involved all players – policing, seniors associations, adult protection groups in certain provinces,” explains April. “BC CRN was developing the network concept from scratch. No one else was doing these types of scans. As a result, the papers were picked up by several organizations nationwide and used as a starting point to enable other groups to get research funding for other abuse and neglect projects.”

BC CRN became a beacon in Canada for network development as a social change system.

BC CRN Executive Director Sherry Baker says: “I am in regular contact with our colleagues across the country. Although there are similarities and differences in the community-based models of other provinces, BC is considered the ‘gold standard’ in Canada.”

A Stepping Stone to Regular Monitoring of CRN Development

Building on the research completed in the early 2000s as a base, in 2016, BC CRN started regularly evaluating the development of its own CRNs and Regional Mentor roles, and the impact they are making in the community in terms of abuse and neglect education and prevention. The annual CRN developmental evaluation is led by April on behalf of BC CRN.

“It’s become a longitudinal study on how to do social change. For BC CRN, we are regularly looking at the structure of community-based networks as a means to prevent adult abuse, neglect, and self-neglect,” she says. “Each annual survey produces more data on how to best structure and operate a community network to affect adult abuse, neglect, and self-neglect in the community.

“Prevention is also challenging to research because there is nothing to count There haven’t been any extensive studies done to produce data that count the cases of abuse or neglect on any level. It’s a science of best guesses based on available information.”

Increasing Risk of Abuse and Neglect with COVID-19 Pandemic

The pandemic has shifted all of the association’s CRNs into overdrive, with each network responding quickly to the immediate and emerging needs of its most vulnerable citizens.

The need for self-quarantining and physical distancing have increased the risk of isolation and abuse of vulnerable adults.

This year’s survey closed in February 2021, and the association is anticipating data that will reflect pandemic responses at a community level. The results report of the 2021 evaluation will be available later in the year.

View the detailed reports of BC CRN’s annual CRN survey and evaluation from 2016 to 2020. Stay tuned for results from the 2021 survey and evaluation in a future E-Connector edition.

To get involved with a CRN and to take part in next year’s study of CRNs, please contact the local CRN or Regional Mentor in your community. You must be actively involved with a CRN to participate.

Written by: Debbie Chow, Links Communication Solutions. Follow Debbie on LinkedIn: @debbiechowabc.