All In! Symposium, gives Black child welfare staff the first opportunity to gather collectively to discuss their unique experiences.

Feelings of isolation, feeling silenced, having qualifications constantly questioned, passed over for promotions, negative anti-Black statements in the workplace and in the community are just some of the themes that emerged from Black staff attending “All In!”, the first ever gathering of African Canadian child welfare staff.

The event, which took pace on November 14-15, 2018, brought 320 Black staff together, from 30 Children’s Aid Societies across the province.

The two-day symposium, was the first opportunity for Black staff across the province, in all positions, whether frontline, administrative or leadership to come together and discuss their thoughts and experiences working within the system and to provide feedback on how Children’s Aid Societies can work towards improving disproportionality and disparate outcomes faced by African Canadian families.

For many staff, who may be the only Black staff member at their society, All In! was an opportunity for them to network and make connections with colleagues who could understand and support their journey in child welfare.

“In a job that demands so much of us daily, working to aid families, we as Black workers often forget that we need to aid ourselves and each other too,” said one staff attendee. “This event needs to occur each year, and a place to speak about the pain and the resilience needs to exist within our agencies as well.”

A key workshop offered was called Naming our Pain and Reflections on Resilience. This was a chance for African Canadian CAS staff, to reflect on their role in the child welfare system and how it impacts them as members of the African Canadian community and as professionals.

According to another one staff participant “The workshop was the first time I didn’t feel alone in the pain that I have felt in child welfare. When you look at your team and you are the only Black person and jokes are made, it’s hard to know what to do with those feelings.”

Most significantly, staff feedback at All In! validated findings originally catalogued in the One Vision One Voice Practice Framework document and highlighted the fact that Black staff across the province were facing the same experiences.

“My qualifications and skills are questioned,” reported one attendee. “They say actions speak louder than words, surely the unspoken racism and oppression cuts deeper like hot knife through butter.”

As part of the One Vision One Voice Phase II contract, societies who completed the Anti-Black Racism Needs Assessment, will soon be receiving implementation plans and a report card to identify areas that their society can improve and elevate their anti-Black racism practices. Feedback from staff attending All In! will be embedded into those implementation plans, so that issues raised can be adequately addressed and Black staff across the province can feel safe and able to do their jobs within the sector.

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