Message from the Board Chair & CEO
As an organization whose work is rooted in supporting, protecting and advocating for children, youth and families, the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto bears an enormous responsibility to ensure that our involvement in their lives is warranted, fair and that we have taken the least intrusive measures in providing services to families. We work with some of the most marginalized members in our communities and, as such, we acknowledge the power imbalance that exists. Even in our best efforts to provide compassionate and unbiased service, there are times when we have had negative impacts on the families we serve. This is evident through our disproportionality data and community feedback.
Last fall, during an interview on Toronto’s only Black owned radio station, we admitted that the child welfare system, including our own agency, has a long legacy of oppression and systemic racism. That was not an easy admission to make. But it was a necessary one we needed to make to begin our journey toward equity. For us, equity means the provision of opportunities for equality for all our clients. By removing systemic barriers, eliminating discrimination and putting in place the right organizational structures and people; we plan to facilitate this change.
Ten years ago we became the first children’s aid society to establish an Anti-Oppression/Anti-Racism policy, which proved to be an excellent foundation for our current equity journey. As well, we established our Out and Proud Program, raising awareness to better serve our LGBTQ youth and families. It was progressive moves like these that have greatly helped to inform much of our current thinking. However, the AOAR policy’s shortcoming is that it is absent of a sense of reflective critical analysis of the issues pertaining to equity, racism and all forms of oppression. This kind of transformation can only come from a change orientated strategic process, committed to by change dedicated people and organizations. If we truly desire to continue to be seen as a leader in our sector, then equity and the organizational rethinking to get there must be our focus. From the people who volunteer to govern our agency, to those senior staff who direct all aspects of our operation, to those who work on the front line of service, including our resource parents and volunteers, the desire of creating a truly equitable child and family well-being agency has to be paramount. On an organizational level we need to examine our service philosophy, policies, practices and resources. We need the right people, in the right decision making places of the organization, held accountable for the success of our equity agenda. On an individual level we need to deepen our knowledge and understanding of intersecting oppressions and racism, reflect upon our position of power and privilege, and check our personal assumptions toward those marginalized communities. Service recipients have told us clearly that they want change, and to this change we are committed. Ultimately it is their voices that must be heard.
Our journey toward being a more equitable children’s aid society will be as challenging as it will be rewarding, and like all meaningful journeys it will take time, resources and a determined vision. Our funder, the Ministry of Children & Youth Services, has helped set the course by recently releasing their own four year anti-racism plan, which will help eliminate systemic, race-based disparities for Black children and youth. Through the efforts of our staff we are seeing a noticeable decline in the numbers of Black youth being admitted to care as we are doing more to support families in their communities. The Children’s Aid Foundation continues to provide invaluable support to our equity, diversity and race based initiatives, making it possible to continue to do grassroots programs. Our staff understand the importance of this equity journey and have proven themselves to be allies in this bold new approach to their work. As do our resource parents, volunteers and community partners, who have shown nothing but encouragement for the success of our journey toward a more equitable and unbiased service delivery standard. Delivering on that standard will require our continued commitment and heightened accountability. It’s early in our journey, but we have seen encouraging signs. As our successes mount, you have our commitment that we will share them with all of you.