New Durham child welfare model to address overrepresentation of Black children in care

Steve Woodman, Executive Director, DCAS

As part of its ongoing commitment to challenge and dismantle systemic inequities and disproportionalities within the child welfare system, Durham Children’s Aid Society (DCAS) is pleased to announce Kasserian Ingera – The Durham Model. A first of its kind in child welfare, this three-year, community based initiative is designed to address the overrepresentation of Black children and youth in care.

Developed in consultation with DCAS staff, families, youth, foster parents and Black community groups including the Community Advisory Council, The Durham Model focuses on prevention and early intervention to provide culturally appropriate supports and services to Black children, youth and families who are at-risk, or have become involved with the Society. Race-based data will also be collected, looking for and testing evidence-informed approaches to reduce disparities due to race, and a third-party evaluator will follow the process and assess all outcomes.

Jaihun Sahak, Director of Equity at DCAS, will spearhead the project in partnership with Ifarada Centre for Excellence (Ifarada), a Black-led community organization founded in 2018 by Nicole Perryman.

“The team at Ifarada are passionate about serving our community, building families, and reducing disparities in mental health, education, criminal justice and social services,” said Perryman. “The Durham Model’s Afrocentric wraparound approach is a much-needed change within the child welfare system and Ifarada is looking forward to helping demonstrate its positive impact on Black child and family wellbeing.”

Named as a co-leader of The Durham Model following an extensive request for proposal and selection process, “Ifarada will work alongside DCAS on a number of innovative initiatives to directly address the disproportionality of Black children in care and the disparities in service they receive,” said Sahak. “Our intention is for this model to be replicated across the province of Ontario and

Nicole Perryman

address similar concerns in other regions.”

In 2018, eight of the 27 Children’s Aid Societies in Ontario had an over-representation of Black children admitted into care. Within Durham Region, 11 per cent of the population identifies as Black, however, in 2021, 14.8 per cent of children in the care of DCAS were Black.

“We know disproportionality is a very real, ongoing problem,” said Steve Woodman, executive director, DCAS. “The system in Ontario, as it currently exists, is failing Black families which is why we need to fundamentally change the way we offer assistance and support. Kasserian Ingera – The Durham Model is a bold step forward in creating this much-needed and long overdue reform.”

Translated to “and how are the children?”, Kasserian Ingera is the traditional greeting offered between the African Masai people. Indicative of the view that the well-being of their children reflects the well-being of their entire society, even those with no children of their own use the greeting. When the response “All the children are well” is offered, it means life is good. However, in the context of the current child welfare system, life is not good for many Black children, youth and their families.

In July 2020, the provincial government announced its Child Welfare Redesign Strategy, envisioning an Ontario where every child, youth and family have access to the supports they need to succeed and thrive.

In November of that same year, the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services (the Ministry) brought DCAS, Dnaagdawenmag Binnoojiiyag Child and Family Services (Dnaagdawenmag), and the Region of Durham together to discuss the redesign and offered the agencies an opportunity to submit requests for funding to develop and test child welfare redesign prototypes specifically focused on early intervention services that reduce the need and demand for social service involvement later on.

Overrepresentation was identified as a key issue and, supported by a $50,000 investment from the Ministry, Dnaagdawenmag began creating an initiative to reduce the number of Indigenous youth and children in the system, while DCAS began working on a framework to do the same for the Black kids in care.

Now, after more than two years of extensive research, environmental scans, community engagement, literature reviews and collaboration, DCAS is ready to put Kasserian Ingera – The Durham Model into practice.