By TOM GODFREY
Concerned members of the community, who want to find ways to improve the welfare of at-risk Black children and families in Toronto, held a consultation meeting at the Jamaican Canadian Association (JCA) last week.
The meeting was held to seek input to improve “child welfare services to the Black, African, Caribbean, Canadian families children and youth.”
The consultation stem from calls by some members of the community for a Black social service agency to provide culturally sensitive care to reduce the increasing number of young people dropping out of school and ending up in jails and penitentiaries.
Some attendees said there are already a Jewish Family and Child and a Native Child and Family Services that fall under the Children’s Aid Society. They are seeking a similar system for Black children. Attendees were told a Black social service can work more collaboratively with community organizations serving diverse children, youth and parents.
“The goal of the consultations is to gather information, recommendations and feedback to improve services and outcome to all children, youth and families,” Everton Gordon, the interim Chief Executive Officer of the JCA, said in a release.
Gordon said the JCA is liaising with organizations serving families and youth with experience in the social services or the child welfare system.
“We anticipate that these focus groups would be inclusive of grass roots organizations and small community organizations primarily providing service to the Black community,” Gordon wrote to Share.
The information gathered will be collected and shared with Children Aid agencies and community partners to improve services and outcomes.
He said the information can be used by community groups to advocate or partner with child welfare agencies to meet community needs and improve outcomes for families and children at risk.
Dr. Akua Benjamin, a professor of Social Work at Ryerson University, and other activists, want the Ontario government to mandate the involvement of the Black community whenever child protection workers respond to calls about the safety of children of African or Caribbean heritage.
Dr. Benjamin said a Black social service agency will provide culturally sensitive care to the diverse Black populations.
Research by the Toronto Star showed that 41 per cent of children in the care of the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto are Black while just eight per cent of the city’s population under the age of 18 are Black, according to the newspaper.
Some community leaders believe cultural misunderstandings, poverty and systemic racism play a large role in the child protection system.
Police also play a huge role since they are the largest source of referrals to children’s aid.
Members of the African Canadian Legal Clinic have called for the Ontario government to mandate all children’s aid societies to collect ethnic data on the children and families they serve and for the numbers to be regularly publicized on agency websites.
They also called on the Children’s Aid Society to compile a list of “competent and proven” African Canadian organizations to assist in cases.