By Gerald V. Paul
In light of findings confirming an over- representation of African Canadian Children in care “it is time for the African Canadian community to have their own children’s aid society,” Prof. Akua Benjamin told a news conference at the African Canadian Legal Clinic (ACLC).
Benjamin noted that is the case with the Jewish community, the First Nations community and the Catholic community in Ontario. She was responding Friday to a Toronto Star investigation that found just 8% of Toronto kids are Black but 41% of kids in care are Black.
The stunning disparity is being called “a modern-day residential schools system.”
ACLC Executive Director Margaret Parsons has called the care issue “a form of racial profiling. They’re profiling Black parents in a very negative way.”
Parsons stated “it is no secret that youth in care do not fare well when compared to children in the general population. An ACLC report entitled Canada’s Forgotten Children; Written Submissions to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child 2012, offers statistics which affirm the cause for alarm, including: “While 81% of all Ontario youth graduate from high school, only 44% of youth in care do.”
“The overrepresentation of Black children in our child welfare system has been a distressing issue for decades,” Parsons said.
“The provincial government needs to report on this trend and monitor future corrective measures and create powerful community-based solutions. Children’s aid societies must commit to collecting and releasing this data if they are seriously interested in correcting this issue,” Parsons added.
Parsons noted the Star’s recent findings underscore earlier research on the disproportionate number of African Canadian children in the child welfare system and validates what the community has known for some time. “In addition, research from other Canadian jurisdictions confirms that African Canadian families are reported to the system at a greater rate than white families despite the fact that African Canadian kids with their culture can have transformative impact on their future outcomes.”
Benjamin, who has worked with varying community members and groups on issues including immigration, education, criminal justice, anti racism and health, joined ACLC’s Bryant Greenbaum, Roger Love and Anthony Morgan with the following recommendations:
- The Ontario government legislate mandatory inquests into deaths of African Canadian childen in care;
- A review of racial disparities in the child welfare system by the Ontario Human Rights Commission;
- Children’s aid societies be required to post annual disaggregated statistics on their websites as does, for example, Toronto District School Board; the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth and/or the Ontario Ombudsman be given jurisdiction to review the conduct of CASs;
- Children’s aid societies programs should increase the availability and access to culturally responsive training for all frontline CAS employees and regularly monitor and evaluate all kinship programs to guard against unnecessary cross-cultural placements of African Canadian children and youth;
- Children’s aid societies must develop, in collaboration with the African Canadian community, indicators that will provide guidance to their social workers on situations where consultations with African Canadian agencies and experts are required at each step in the protection system;
- Reporting bodies (like schools and police) and children’s aid societies should adopt and regularly update a mandatory mediation roster of African Canadian community organizations and professionals with the proper level of cultural competency who can suggest culturally appropriate interventions when a child’s safety is not an immediate concern.The mediation rooster must be properly funded by the government and the roster administered by a community-driven steering community.