Ontario children’s minister seeks racial data on kids in care

Always good to have better data to ensure improved analysis:

Ontario’s children’s minister says he will direct the province’s 47 children’s aid societies to collect race-based data as part of an effort to reduce the high number of black kids in care.

“I believe in data collection,” Michael Coteau told a conference on Thursday marking the beginning of a province-wide push to change the way children’s aid societies interact with black families.

“It is my intention in the very, very near future to mandate all children’s aid societies to collect race-based, disaggregated data,” he told child welfare officials and black community leaders at the gathering.

Black community leaders have long called for the collection of race-based data, arguing that tackling the overrepresentation of black kids in foster and group homes begins with knowing the extent of the problem. Coteau, who was appointed children’s minister in June, has for the first time committed the government to do so.

The conference was held to discuss a report calling for sweeping anti-racism reforms. It demands that every aspect of child protection in Ontario be transformed by “anti-black racism” structures and practices.

The two-volume report, called “One Vision One Voice: Changing the child welfare system to better serve African Canadians,” was written by a committee of the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies (OACAS) and funded by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services.

It was triggered by an ongoing Star investigation, which revealed that 42 per cent of children in the care of the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto were black, in a city where only 8 per cent of children are black.

Coteau reminded the conference that in 2004 he was part of a team of trustees behind the Toronto District School Board’s decision to collect race-based data on students.

“If you have no data, there’s no problem and there’s no solution,” Coteau said, citing the board’s superintendent of education at the time.

Coteau, also responsible for anti-racism in Ontario, promised that his ministry would go much further than data collection.

“Substantial reform is on the horizon,” he said, referring to major changes expected in Ontario’s privately run child protection system.

He said the Liberal government would soon amend the Child and Family Services Act to modernize children’s aid societies, which last year received $1.5 billion in provincial funding. He promised to make them more accountable and transparent, and to improve the patchwork of services and care they now provide.

“We want high-quality services that reflect Ontario’s diversity, consistently delivered across the province,” he said.

After his speech, Coteau refused to answer questions from the Star. He would not say whether his ministry was prepared to fund recommendations in the report calling for anti-racism reforms.

The OACAS, which represents all but four of the province’s societies, fully backs the recommendations in the anti-racism report, says Mary Ballantyne, the association’s CEO. She stressed the reforms can only be implemented with extra provincial funding.

The call for implementation funds was echoed by Ontario’s human rights commissioner, Renu Mandhane, and the province’s Child Advocate, Irwin Elman.

“We will continue to push the minister,” Elman said in his speech to the conference, adding he told Coteau, “You can’t just walk away now from this report. You need to provide resources.”

Source: Ontario children’s minister seeks racial data on kids in care | Toronto Star

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About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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