On October 14, 2020, we hosted our Let’s Talk Cafe: Kinship Care and Fostering. As we know, as Black community creates family as village. Having friends, relatives, and children living in our home is common, especially in our home countries in the West Indies and abroad. In Canada, our communities are often scattered throughout the country, which often leads many families who struggle with limited support to lean on child welfare services.
What are the experiences of Black families in Child Welfare?
In 2016, the Ontario Association for Children’s Aid Societies did a study that examined the experiences of Black families in child welfare. The study examined how Black families came into the attention to the children’s aid society. Most of the time, teachers and police officers make referrals to child welfare agencies. They found that Black children often remain in child welfare care longer than children from other communities, and these children remained in limbo without a permanent home or plan.
To learn more about the document, see: ONE VISION ONE VOICE PRACTICE FRAMEWORK I.
What we heard from our community, Let’s Talk Cafe
|The government doesn’t provide aid unless the children are removed from the care of the parents, and this support is time limited.|
|The resources provided to parents by child welfare is not, culturally safe supports|
|Anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism is prevalent in the child welfare system, which then leads to worse outcomes for our youth and families.|
|Child welfare need to utilize psychologists and professionals, for assessing children and their families. These professionals need to understand the intersecting identities, the impact of intergenerational trauma, and the experience of race trauma upon the lives of Black families.|
|The child welfare assessments for families and parents should be culturally competent.|
|The child welfare agencies do not access to culturally appropriate supports or advocacy for Black families involved in the system.|
|Child welfare agencies may consider family as, “blood related” but Black families definition and understanding of family is expendable and includes relatives, kin, community and village members, close friends, and other persons close to them. Sometimes, they are closer to their “aunties and uncles” than they may be to their parents.|
|Instead of supporting families to stay together or address poverty within Black communities and household, the government would rather spend money in foster homes or residential treatment homes to care for Black children who could have remained home.|
|Black Parents are assessed based on Eurocentric standards of parenting, raising children, discipline, caregiving, and more. These standards can then lead to “assumptions” about caregiving and Black caregiving. In the 70s and 80s, many white children had Black nannies who raised them. Now, Black parents are being criticized for their parenting.|
What are our rights as parents in the child welfare system? How do we protect ourselves from involvement with the child welfare system?
Five years after the Practice Framework was written, many of our Black parents, caregivers and guardians continued to have similar experiences with the child welfare agencies. They often felt afraid and worried that if they asked for help, or if the child welfare worker came to their home they would lose their child. This leads to an unfair power imbalance between the worker and the family. Especially, when the worker is mandated to support the family and the child, and reduce the risk for involvement in child welfare. Many times, workers misunderstand, misinterpret, and make assumptions about Black parenting, the parents relationship with their children, and the parents relationship with the Society. Many parents are struggling with anti-Black racism within the school system, in employment, in their communities, with the police, in health systems, and with child welfare. Many times our fears, horror, shame and grief can lead us to go to extreme measures to care for our children, to protect them from harm, and to ensure they avoid these systems altogether.
Knowing people who have had a negative experience with the system makes them distrusting, so they are hesitant to talk to a workerOne participant shared
Our participants also identified that empowering children through the child welfare system creates an unfair experience for parents who feel undermined by their child and the system. When children return home after being in care, and when children are supervised by the child welfare agency in their home, the parent is hyper concerned about will I lose my right to care for my child, will I be able to discipline and raise my child with my values and principles, or when my child is upset with me, would they create a story so they can go into foster care. It leads us to the question, does child welfare really help our children and families?
Child welfare workers can, take the power and voice of the parent, kin parent, or adoptive parent away and giving them to the child; not allowing the parent to parent the child. If he is the “driver of his own bus” why am I here?
So how do we address disparities in child welfare?
The One Vision One Voice project with the Ontario Association for Children’s Aid Societies continue to develop Practice Framework and Models to enhance service delivery of child welfare for Black families throughout our province. With the Black Youth Action Plan from the Ontario Government and resources from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, we are creating opportunities for Black families to receive the services and advocacy they need. Thus our members felt that: there needs to be an allocation of the funding to Black and Indigenous communities to support and provide services to their families. For us. By us.
What will Kujenga do?
- Create a online resource library with information, resources and links to explain Black parents rights in child welfare.
- Develop webinars and toolkits to help Black families understand child welfare
- Support and connect with organizations that promote healthier alternative options such as: Family Group Conferencing, Kujenga Restoration Co-Parenting programs, and Kujenga Reunification program.
Kujenga Resource Library
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