Improving child welfare services to LGBT2SQ+ youth and families through evaluation, assessment, and celebration

Ontario’s Children’s Aid Societies will soon be undertaking a self-assessment process to evaluate their capacity to serve and support LGBT2SQ+ staff, volunteers, families, and youth. The tool, which will ask agencies to review their practices in a range of domains including governance and policy, organizational environment and climate, and service delivery, forms part of the broader work Ontario child welfare is doing to develop an equity strategy for the sector. It also fits with OACAS’s new five-year strategic plan, which prioritizes equity and belonging, as well as respect and empowerment, as outcomes for the sector.

But beyond a review of internal processes and policies, Children’s Aid Societies must also be seen as leaders in the promotion of diversity, equity, and inclusion in their communities. That’s why Durham Children’s Aid Society hosted Canada’s first ever youth pride festival this summer – to embrace, engage, and empower local youth.

Youth Pride Durham was a celebration of, and for, LGBT2SQ+ youth.

Accompanied by the hashtag #YouthPrideDurham, the event, held on May 27, 2018 at the Society’s head office in Oshawa, Ontario, aimed to spread awareness of the wide range of programs and services available to youth in the region and beyond.

Inspirational performances by singer-songwriter Kate Reid and Astrid Tanton, bands AGES and Independent Puppets, and drag performers Sofanda, Jada Hudson, and Wilma Checklear were accompanied by youth-focused activities.

Community partners were integral to planning and hosting the event. Among them were the Durham District School Board, Durham Regional Police Service, Pride Durham, PFLAG Durham Region, and the City of Oshawa. Speaking at the event, Durham CAS Residential Services Director Max Kryukov observed that “All of these organizations want to show youth that there are people who support them.”

This sentiment was certainly felt among the youth attendees. As one young person said, “Attending Youth Pride was an amazing and empowering experience, where I could see other youth and have a good time being myself.”

With hundreds of young people and community members in attendance, the event was certainly a success. The agency is already planning next year’s celebration.