I have been in deep personal reflection for a few days and I am writing today with a heavy heart. The recent and ongoing events in the United States, as well as those here in Toronto involving police and Black people, have left me deeply saddened. As a Black leader, woman, and community and family member, I stand fast with my community, Black child welfare professionals, and all our allies as we face these challenging times. It is clearer than ever that we must dismantle oppression and racism—especially anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism—if we hope to improve outcomes for families in the child welfare system.
The protest action happening right now across North America is a culmination of generations of system violence and trauma for the Black community. As I have been absorbing the news and reflecting on these events, I have been thinking about the system we have inherited and the impacts we have as a child welfare system. For years we have heard honest feedback from the children, youth, and families we serve, as well as from Black staff in our agencies, about what needs to change. I acknowledge the steps we have taken through the work of One Vision One Voice, but we still have more to accomplish and it will require the intentional work of committed allies. In recognizing the individual and collective impact of trauma, we must also be mindful and sensitive to the needs of the Black children, youth and families, staff, and community during this time and ensure they are being supported in a holistic way. Check in with them. Have conversations with them to ensure they too are afforded a voice and help during this time.
The current child welfare system was not designed for the most marginalized people we serve, and so we must recommit ourselves to fixing it. We need to re-examine our policies, practices, workplace cultures, and the very structures within which we work to ensure better outcomes for Black and First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children, youth, and families. We also need to look inward, as individuals, and build our capacity and competencies to unpack our own racist and oppressive views. We must lead difficult conversations with our colleagues and the families we serve. We must effectively engage community members about the ways we can address anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism in all areas of our lives. And as we begin Pride month, we must also remember the intersectional impact of oppression and the additional violence and fear it brings that leads to further isolation and marginalization.
Children’s Aid Societies across Ontario are already hard at work addressing many of these issues. And I want to personally thank them for their leadership. This work is not easy, and it is never perfect, but it must be done. At OACAS, we are taking the time to reflect, plan and act on the ways we can continue to move the work forward.
Organizations and leaders too need their partners and I am reassured in knowing that we work in close partnership with our members, the Association of Native Child and Family Services Agencies of Ontario (ANCFSAO), various Black stakeholders, and the OACAS Board.
Thank you, and please take care of yourselves, your colleagues, and your loved ones.
Chief Executive Officer