Changing the child welfare system for African Canadian’s

Making strides…One Vision One Voice – Changing the child welfare system for African Canadian’s .

Kike Ojo, Project Manager, One Vision One Voice, Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies talks about the impact the “One Vision One Voice” project has made on Ontario’s child welfare sector.
Systems are not neutral. Like other Canadian institutions, child welfare agencies have evolved within an historical context of white supremacy, colonialism, and anti-Black racism, all of which have been woven into the fabric of child welfare policies and practices.

Whether it is the teacher that scrutinizes a Black child’s lunch and calls a Children’s Aid Society because she feels it is not adequate, or the Black family who has their children apprehended over an incident that would not result in the removal of white children, we know Black families are treated differently within the system. This has led to the creation of long-standing disproportionalities and disparities for African Canadian communities.

The success of African Canadian families despite this context is a testament to the resilience of communities, but the fact remains that our community is in crisis. There are too many of our children in the care of CAS’ across the province.

We have known this for decades and for decades many community leaders have fought, pushed and advocated for inquiries, for change….for our future.

In 2015, the government finally heard those voices and provided funding for a project to investigate the overrepresentation of Black children in care and disparities in outcomes that our families face. That project launched its report in 2016 and came to be called One Vision One Voice – a Practice Framework, which includes 11 Race Equity Practices (Recommendations for each Children’s Aid Society across the province to follow, to eliminate disparity and overrepresentation of African Canadians).

Phase II of One Vision One Voice was officially launched in January 2018. While the first phase of the project was about understanding the issues, gathering information from the community and presenting it back to the province of Ontario, Phase II has been about building a foundation for real and lasting change within the child welfare sector so that we can stop our families from being torn apart.

Over the past year, we have worked hard to ensure that the Race Equity Practices outlined in the One Vision One Voice report are taken up by Children’s Aid Societies across the province.

So what does this mean for Black families?

It means the way Children’s Aid Societies work with you should change.

It means racial and cultural matching of children in care, so Black children aren’t isolated in White homes.

It means working with CASs across the province to collect identify based data- so we know exactly how many African Canadian children are in care, where they are located and how they are being served.

It means establishing a place for Black families and community organizations to get help navigating the child welfare system through our Community Engagement Worker positions.

It means creating an anti-Black racism needs assessment, which all CAS’ were asked to complete and which will provide us with important evidence that will help us build a plan to combat anti-Black racism for each individual agency.

More than anything it means accountability to you.

o One Vision One Voice recommends that each CAS across the province should have some sort of connection with their African Canadian community, through an African Canadian Local Advisory Council. This council will help advise policies and help CAS’ manage relationships with the local community.
o We developed a Provincial Advisory Council, made up of African Canadian community members across the province, to work with the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies and keep societies accountable provincially
o Throughout 2017 and 2018 CAS across the province have participated in anti-Black racism training
o We held the first gathering for Black Youth in care, Power Up! 2018, which brought over 130 Black youth in foster care and group homes from across the province together for the first time
o We held the first African Canadian Child Welfare Staff Symposium, All In, which brought together 320 Black staff from across the province.

When you are in the midst of a crisis, it can often feel like people are standing still…. but we want you to know that One Vision One Voice has not been standing still.

With the faith and trust of the community and with the guidance of our African Canadian Provincial Advisory Council and African Canadian sector leaders, the One Vision One Voice team has worked hard over the past number of years to make changes that will last.

Phase II of the project officially ends March 31st 2019. We don’t know what the future holds for the project, but we know the work must continue in the community. It is important that you don’t stop pushing and advocating.

Call your local CAS and find out what their plan is to combat the overrepresentation of African Canadian children and families in the child welfare system, in Ontario.
And you can always reach out to us. We want to hear from you. onevisiononevoice@oacas.org