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Changing the Ontario child welfare system to better serve African Canadians

Durham Children’s Aid Society has committed to implementing fundamental changes in how we deliver services to children, youth and families in order to challenge inherent inequities and eliminate disparity in child welfare. Part of this work is our commitment to the provincial initiative, One Vision One Voice (OVOV).

We have introduced dedicated African services teams, hired a OVOV implementation lead, and are conducting Anti-Black racism consultations at all levels of service.

One Vision One Voice is a program led by the African Canadian community. It is funded by the Ontario Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services through the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies and addresses the overrepresentation and experiences of disparities faced by African Canadians after coming into contact with the child welfare system.

One Vision One Voice (OVOV) was launched in 2015 and included three project phases, until it received annual, ongoing funding in 2021.

The program focuses on addressing anti-Black racism and supporting improved outcomes and equitable services for African Canadian children, youth, and families in Ontario’s child welfare system. This includes through the development of culturally appropriate, family-centred services; anti-Black racism training; and leadership and networking opportunities for African Canadian youth and child welfare staff. OVOV is taking a cross-sectoral approach, with attention placed on how multiple systems, particularly education, police, and healthcare, interact to create and maintain racial disproportionality and disparities in child welfare.

Some of the program priorities include:

1. Child Welfare Policies and Practices

OVOV prioritizes the collection and analysis of data regarding Black children, youth, and families involved in child welfare. Doing this allows us to remain aware of data trends, and to be able to impact changes in legislation. We are already making significant strides in impacting policy through initiatives like the OIS 2018 report, the Disparity Mapping Project in partnership with the University of Toronto, and our inaugural Policy Forum. OVOV also organizes and facilitates regular staff meetings for Black staff in the child welfare system to provide a safe space for discussion, strategizing, and support.

2. A Focus on Leadership

Tackling anti-Black racism in any system must start at the top. OVOV offers leadership support via initiatives such as the African Canadian Leadership Mentorship Program and the Confronting Anti-Black Racism in Child Welfare for Leaders Course to increase understanding of anti-Black racism and its manifestations, as well as to provide increased opportunities for Black employees to occupy positions of leadership and to improve organizational culture.

3. Community Engagement

OVOV is informed and led by the African Canadian community. We continue to build relationships with community and grassroots organizations to enable community empowerment and knowledge exchange. We do this through youth engagement efforts like PowerUp!, system navigation support for the Black community, the Black Youth and Family Services Directory, and via regular consultations with our African Canadian Provincial Advisory Committee.

4. Service Delivery

OVOV advocates for the delivery of culturally relevant services for African Canadian children and youth in care. We offer a trauma-informed African Canadian Service Delivery Best Practices framework which agencies can reference to guide their own culturally relevant service delivery. OVOV also meets regularly with a sector advisory committee known as the CAS Reference Group (comprising Directors of Service, Equity leads, Supervisors, OVOV leads, and others) to receive sector-specific feedback. This feedback assists in guiding and informing OVOV’s work.

To learn more about the provincial implementation visit the OVOV website.


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