December 1st is Giving Tuesday and Family & Children’s Services Foundation is highlighting two funds that will provide support to Black-identifying and Indigenous children, youth, and families.
“There is a significant over-representation of Black identifying and Indigenous children, youth, and families involved in the child welfare system. As we work to address the causes for that and to make changes, we also are identifying the specific needs of these groups, especially in terms of connection to culture and community,” explains Karen Spencer, Executive Direction of FACS Waterloo. “The Foundation exists to support non-government funded programs and services that prevent child abuse and neglect and keep families together. It makes sense that the Foundation support this need for cultural and community connection.”
The two funds are the Truth and Reconciliation Fund and the Out of Many One People Fund.
Truth and Reconciliation Fund
Five years ago this month, in December of 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions of Canada (TRC) released its 94 Calls to Action.
In 2017, the Ontario Child Welfare sector unanimously agreed to prioritize Reconciliation with Indigenous communities through nine key commitments created as a direct response to implement TRC Calls to Action 1 - 5 (child welfare).
Each Children’s Aid Society (CAS) has committed to:
- Reduce the number of Indigenous children in care.
- Reduce the number of legal files involving Indigenous children and families.
- Increase the use of formal customary care agreements.
- Ensure Indigenous representation and involvement at the local Board of Directors.
- Implement mandatory Indigenous training for staff.
- Change their inter-agency protocol to include Jordan’s Principle as a fundamental principle.
- In consultation with the Indigenous communities, develop a unique agency-based plan to better address the needs of the children and families from those communities
- Continue to develop relationships between their agency and the local Indigenous communities
- Assist those individuals wanting to see their historical files by accessing and providing the information they request.
In October of the same year, the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies (OACAS) acknowledged and apologized for the harmful role child welfare has played historically, and continues to play, in the lives of Ontario Indigenous children, families, and communities.
The Truth and Reconciliation Fund was established at the Foundation in honour of Alison Scott, retiring Executive Director, and supports the purposes of the TRC recommendations. This includes opportunities for children, youth, and families to reconnect to their culture, language, and community which are not currently supported through child welfare funding.
Out of Many One People Fund
Much like the Smile Maker Fund, which was established by staff who saw gaps in child welfare funding and wanted to help the children they worked with, the Out of Many One People Fund is also driven by dedicated FACS employees. Black staff of African descent/African diaspora and their peers wanted to be able to provide access to programs, services, training and resources that promote personal growth for the children, youth, and families they serve as well as encouraging active participation in their communities. By offering these opportunities, Black-identifying children, youth, and families will be able to connect with their culture, embrace their racial identity, and be proud of what they can accomplish, as individuals, as families, and as a community.
Similar to the TRC Calls to Action, which are providing a framework for change, One Vision One Voice is a program led by the African Canadian community. It is funded by the Ontario Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services through the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies and addresses the overrepresentation and experiences of disparities faced by African Canadians after coming into contact with the child welfare system. One Vision One Voice includes 11 Race Equity Practices that use a race equity lens to promote organizational change throughout child welfare agencies and government.
“These funds offer a chance to have a conversation with the community about how they can support the current needs of the Black-identifying and Indigenous families we serve. This is a small step to decolonize child welfare and charitable work and move towards reconciliation,” says Dr. Jill Stoddart. The two funds will be overseen by committees comprised of staff who can best assess the needs of these communities.
Since 1991, the Family & Children’s Services of the Waterloo Region Foundation has supported children, youth, and families in our community. Government funding is not enough to meet the needs of the families we serve. Research shows that it takes a caring community to help children and families. Thanks to the support of kind and generous individuals, families, businesses, and foundations, we are able to support the programs and services that prevent child abuse and neglect, and allow children and their families to stay together and thrive.