New initiative to support Black families involved the child welfare system

Dr Joseph Smith

In line with Black Mental Health Week, the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto (CAST), Anchoring Minds Inc. and Delta Family Resource Centre have partnered to launch a new initiative, the Black Agency Network (BAN) in efforts to help Black families better navigate the child welfare system in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

The goal of BAN is to reduce the number of Black children and youth entering into care and support Black children and youth coming out of care, by connecting these young people and their families to culturally aligned resources and supports.

“At CAST, we recognize the need to partner with organizations in the community that can provide youth and families with the services and supports they need. BAN is an excellent example of how we can bring multiple partners together to help address disparity and disproportionality for Black, African, Caribbean, Canadian families in the child welfare system,” said Lisa Tomlinson, CEO, CAST.

The BAN initiative will help to offer a multitude of services that are delivered by local, Black-led and Black-informed agencies who are aligned in their ability and desire to offer culturally relevant and responsive services to Black community members. Partnering agencies will hire “Navigators” who will liaise with CAST staff and help determine which services are best suited for families.

Kemi Jacobs

The Navigator’s role is to create a network of Black community resources available to individuals working with CAST, to increase the capacity of the Black community to positively intervene in the lives of Black families at risk, and to develop new referral pathways that assist Black families who come to the attention of CAST.

Delta Family Resource Centre will be one of the partnering agencies that employs Navigators to work with CAST staff and connect families to applicable services.

“Delta is are aware of the critical need to have culturally relevant services delivered by agencies that reflect our communities, as well as workers who understand the issues faced by Black community members and who also have the ability to assist families navigate complex systems,” said Kemi Jacobs, Executive Director, Delta Family Resource Centre. “We know the impact these efforts make on the lives of Black families and BAN is a phenomenal opportunity to improve service to, and outcomes for, Black communities in the GTA.”

The next step for BAN is to engage more local Black-led and Black-informed agencies who deliver culturally relevant services to Black communities, with the goal of having the overarching framework in place in the coming months.

“As we are in the penultimate year of the UN General Assembly’s proclamation of the International Decade for the People of African Descent, it is incredibly important to have a project like this commence with the sole purpose of supporting Black families and Black youth,” said Dr. Joseph J. Smith, CEO, Anchoring Minds Inc.

March 6-12, 2023 is Black Mental Health Week in Toronto. Through collaboration with the City of Toronto, TAIBU Community Health Centre launched ‘Black Mental Health Day’ in 2020, to raise awareness about the impact anti-Black racism has on the mental health of Black communities and make a call to action for systemic change.