Indigenous, Black children over-represented in foster care and group homes, inquiry says

April 12, 2018
Article Source
Toronto Star

Indigenous and Black children are over-represented in foster care and group homes overseen by children's aid societies across the province, an Ontario Human Rights Commission inquiry confirms.

Despite provincial legislation in 2016 mandating societies to collect race-based statistics, society processes and practices remain a "patchwork" across the sector, says the commission's report, "Interrupted Childhoods," released Thursday.

"These findings are deeply concerning," said Chief Commissioner Renu Mandhane, who noted Indigenous and Black communities have been raising the alarm about the problem for decades.

"The long-term damage caused by separating children from their families is undeniable and was extensively documented by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada," Mandhane said in a statement.

The underlying social issues that result in the over-representation of Indigenous and Black children in care are "multi-faceted and need a multi-pronged approach," the report found.

As a result, the commission urges Queen's Park to develop a provincial strategy, with goals and timelines, to identify and address how families' social and economic conditions are linked to racial disproportionality and disparity in the system.

The commission calls on societies to acknowledge the disproportionalities and investigate whether their structures, policies, processes, decision-making practices and organizational cultures adversely affect Indigenous and Black families and potentially violate Ontario's Human Rights Code.

The commission launched the public interest inquiry in 2016 in the wake of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report released earlier that year that recommended governments publish annual reports on the number of Aboriginal children in care. That commission described the decades-long policy of forcing Aboriginal children into residential schools as cultural genocide. Some Aboriginal leaders argue the process continues under the child protection system.

A 2014 Star investigation found 41.8 per cent of kids in the care of the Children's Aid Society of Toronto were Black at a time when the city's under-18 population was just 8.2 per cent.

Across Ontario, about 23 per cent of children in care for at least one year were First Nations. That is 9.3 times more than the 2.5 per cent of Ontario's under-18 population who are First Nations.

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