By Gerald V. Paul
The Children in Limbo Task Force reviewing Ontario’s Child and Family Services Act is calling for a change in the act’s language, noting that “every organization has a culture and the language used within its services reflects that culture.”
In an interim report, the task force said that as an example the term “runaway” takes away from the factual story of why a young person might want to escape. The report says the term suggests a child or youth who has simply run away without any context.
The task force members’ concern comes at a time when research has confirmed an over-representation of African Canadian children in care amid calls for the African Canadian community to have their own Children’s Aid Society, according to Prof. Akua Benjamin of the Ryerson University School of Social Work.
Those concerns were prominently raised at a press conference at the African Canadian Legal Clinic some time ago, along with reports that thousands of Ontario children and youth, who are neglected, or physically and emotionally abused in their homes, are apprehended, placed into custody or put on probation every year without ever committing a crime.
The plan is to use as a guide the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Children in Limbo Task Force said, adding, it is time to modernize and humanize language surrounding children in crisis by eliminating demeaning terms, thus effecting a positive change to the act and to the culture.
The five-year review, launched last fall, specifically highlights modernizing and clarifying language in the act as a key goal for province as it continues its work.
Meanwhile, The Black Action Defense Community, the Jamaican Canadian Association and the Jamaican Diaspora Canada Foundation are continuing to look into the over-representation of Black and West Indian children removed from their families by children’s aid societies.