Government must act to end racism in children’s aid system

Posted on October 3, 2016 in Child & Family Delivery System, Delivery System – Opinion/Editorials –  A new report has found a children’s aid system that is riddled with racism.  The Ontario government must implement changes needed to keep families from being unnecessarily ripped apart.
Oct. 3, 2016.   Editorial

The Ontario government now has even more evidence, if it needed it, that Ontario’s children’s aid system is plagued by problems of race. It’s high time for it to act.

The evidence is detailed in a two-volume report from the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies that backs up what the Star reported as long as two years ago: four in 10 children in the care of the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto are black in a city where only 8 per cent of children are. Worse, the problem is not just in Toronto, but throughout the province.

But despite a growing chorus of concerns from leaders of the black community, Ontario’s human rights commissioner and its advocate for children, the Liberal government has yet to act on the injustice that can, in the words of the report, “destroy” black families.

Indeed, at a meeting held to discuss it last week, Ontario’s children’s minister, Michael Coteau, refused to promise any funding to implement the report’s 18 important recommendations to address issues of racism in the system. This is unacceptable.

As the province’s advocate for children and youth, Irwin Elman, said: “You can’t just walk away now from this report. You need to provide resources.”

Still, Coteau would say only that he will order all 47 children’s aid societies in the province to collect race-based data as part of an effort to reduce the disproportionate number of black kids in care. And he promised that the government will amend the Child and Family Services Act to modernize children’s aid societies to make them more accountable and transparent.

While these moves are both welcome, the government must go further. It must invest in the changes called for in the report, such as providing anti-racism training to everyone from society staff to foster and adoptive parents. Otherwise children may continue to be taken from their homes simply because their parents are poor or society staff are tone-deaf to African-Canadian cultural practices.

The report’s authors, all leaders in the black community, hope to encourage children’s aid societies and the groups most likely to report abuse, such as teachers and police, to work together to provide counselling and support that will keep families together while keeping kids safe. In turn, they argue, that will provide a significant social return – from strengthened families to fewer young people swept up in the criminal justice system.

But it will take government funding to support the recommendations that are aimed at ending racism, ignorance about poverty and cultural misunderstandings. And it will take more financial support to provide parents with the services they need, whether it’s to get back on their feet financially or to learn about what disciplinary measures are acceptable in Canada.

It’s not just black children and families who will benefit from the report’s recommendations. Seeing child protection practices through a “race-equity” lens will create a child welfare system that better reflects and can better serve the province’s increasingly diverse population. For example, it may well shed light on why it is that that indigenous kids are two-and-a-half times as likely to be taken into care as are white kids.

The authors of the report have done a remarkable job of pinpointing both the root of the problem and potential solutions. The government should lose no time in putting in place policies and funding to end this disgrace.

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One Response to “Government must act to end racism in children’s aid system”

  1. Rita says:

    Worker education in being culturally sensitive is important but we must also understand the structural issues that perpetuate marginalization. We must collect data that is in depth, critical, comprehensive, and complex to know what we need to change.
    Changes in outcomes for marginalized groups will take a commitment of funding. We must invest in the basic needs people have through better income support, which will help improve access to education. This is turn, will begin to reduce the generational oppression that exists among marginalized groups. With out these base level changes people will remain oppressed.
    The child welfare system must encourage and support community participation when planning to work in a culturally and ethnically sensitive and inclusive manner to support our most vulnerable children. By addressing the issues that keep groups oppressed from a basic needs perspective, we will continue to build cultural competence within the system that is a right for all individuals.


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