The evolution of community engagement at Durham Children’s Aid Society
As an agency, Durham Children’s Aid Society (Durham CAS) has made a commitment to redesigning the child welfare system. Supported by our vision that families receive the support and resources needed to thrive in their cultures and communities, and guided by our new Strategic Plan, this work is anchored in anti-oppressive, diversity, equity, and inclusion practices, including recognizing and dismantling anti-Black racism and addressing the systemic challenges and service disparities that impact racialized communities.
In 2016, working with members of the Black community, Durham CAS established a Community Advisory Council (CAC). Its mandate was to raise and discuss systemic issues related to child welfare in Durham Region’s Black and/or equity seeking communities, while also making recommendations to the agency, in a collaborative, transparent forum.
The CAC has played an important role in the agency’s equity and anti-Black racism journey, helping to organize community functions, leading vital conversations, helping agency staff deepen their understanding. CAC advocacy on Trite Reporting led to the creation of a Trite Report Policy, the first of its kind in child welfare.
With the implementation of the new Strategic Plan, it has become evident that broader community engagement and deeper collaboration with the partners and organizations serving Black children, youth, and their families, is necessary to dismantle anti-Black racism within the child welfare system. In addition, the voices and lived experiences of the youth interacting with Durham CAS must be included to ensure the programs and services available reflect their needs.
Considering these various factors, the time has come to move beyond the CAC’s current structure. The CAC is being dissolved as we implement a plan that re-envisions and enhances the agency’s civic commitments. We thank the members of the CAC for their community service.
What comes next?
Durham CAS has developed a comprehensive system-wide Community Engagement Plan focused on dismantling anti-Black racism within child welfare.
As part of the plan, Durham CAS will work with partners throughout Durham Region to empower Black children, youth, and families by providing support and helping them understand and navigate the child welfare system. In addition, the barriers and biases which lead many Black families into the care of Durham CAS will addressed.
This will be achieved in three ways:
- Community Partnerships
- Ongoing Response Development and Evaluation
We have created a new position — the Diversity, Inclusion and Community Engagement (DICE) Lead — who manages execution of the Community Engagement Plan and all its elements, with oversight from the agency’s Director of Diversity, Equity and Communications.
To learn about how the agency is going to broaden and deepen its civic commitments, view our Three-Year Equity Strategy, 2023-2025.