Kimberly Roach, one of our leads for the Racialized Communities Strategy (RCS), attended the One Vision One Voice symposium on changing the child welfare system for African Canadians.
Here’s a short Q&A with Kimberly to discuss what she learned and how this helps in the eventual development of the RCS.
LAO: What was the One Vision One Voice symposium about?
Kim: The One Vision One Voice project is a project funded by the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services through the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies. It aims to develop a Practice Framework to improve outcomes for African Canadian children and families who come into contact with the child welfare system.
An important part of this project was that it heard from individuals—about their past experiences with the child welfare system—not just service providers, advocates, educators, and social workers.
The One Vision One Voice symposium was the culmination of a year of consultations with the Black community and Ontario Children’s Aid Societies to develop a Practice Framework to support better outcomes for African Canadians involved with the child welfare system.
LAO: Why was it important for Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) to attend?
Kim: The project highlighted that there is an overrepresentation of Black children in care, and Black families coming into contact with child welfare agencies. We also heard that many of these families came into contact with CAS as a result of poverty, racism and unconscious bias.
The people most impacted are the people LAO is mandated to serve. The stories told by individuals suggest that many were not aware that LAO provides services for families who have come into contact with CAS.
It tells me that we could be doing a better job serving some groups of people, notably Black, and racialized communities.
It reinforces my belief that the approach of LAO’s vulnerable client strategies, such as the RCS, is needed: reaching out to communities and building relationships.
LAO: What were some of the takeaways from the symposium?
Kim: The aims of the project and RCS are similar: we are looking at the needs of clients, trying to identify, and address gaps in services and enhance the effectiveness of services. To achieve these goals, we need to know who our clients are in order to:
- develop service models that are informed by the populations that we serve; and
- provide staff with training that provides them with an understanding of the realities faced by our clients (poverty, racism, and discrimination) to help ensure that they are prepared to serve those clients.
LAO is engaging in preliminary meetings and engagement sessions with a wide array of justice and social service partners. LAO will produce a consultation paper in the New Year, which will serve as a starting point for continued province-wide consultations.
During the first year of the initiative, LAO hopes to identify opportunities for enhancements to benefit racialized communities.