TORONTO, Sept. 15, 2015 /CNW/ - A public forum to listen and learn from African Canadian youth and their families about their experiences with the child welfare system is welcomed and urgently needed, said Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth Irwin Elman. The comment was made following the launch of public consultations for the "One Vision One Voice" project - an initiative by the African Canadian community, and funded by the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services through the Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies.
Individuals of African descent represent less than 4 per cent of Ontario's population. Yet black youth are over-represented in the child welfare and youth justice systems. For example, 41 per cent of children and youth in the care of the Children's Aid Society of Toronto are African Canadian. In many urban cities in Ontario, they represent approximately 65 per cent of all children in care.
In the youth justice system, stats from 1992 to 1993 found that black youths made up 13 per cent of the 16 and 17-years-old admitted into Ontario prisons. This made it the second largest group of admissions that year.
"When a child comes into care, they should expect support, respect for their individual rights and opportunities to help them reach their full potential," said Irwin Elman, Provincial Advocate. "But many black youth said that they encounter racism and other systemic barriers while receiving services from our systems of care, which includes child welfare, youth justice, children's mental health, and education."
"I look forward to listening and learning from black youth and their families about their experiences with child welfare and working with them and African Canadian leaders, child welfare professionals, government and others on how to implement much-needed change," said Elman.
About the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth
The Office of the Provincial Advocate reports directly to the Legislature and provides an independent voice for children and youth, including children with special needs and First Nations children. The advocates receive and respond to concerns from children, youth and families who are seeking or receiving services under the Child and Family Services Act and the Education Act (Provincial and Demonstration Schools). The Provincial Advocate may identify systemic problems involving children, conduct reviews and provide education and advice on the issue of advocacy and the rights of children. The Office is guided by the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and has a strong commitment to youth involvement.
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The Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth is committed to listening and elevating the voices of black youth from across its mandated areas.
- At the "Our Voice Our Turn Hearings" led by youth in and from child welfare care and the Advocate's Office, young people called for a system-wide strategy for child welfare to better serve them and their families. Their views were reflected in the province's Blueprint for Fundamental Change in Ontario's Child Welfare System.
- In the Office's report entitled, It Depends Who's Working black young people in custody articulated their concern about the racism they experienced within the youth justice system.
- The Advocate's Office launched a youth-led initiative called "Hairstory: Understanding Culture and Community for Black Youth in Ontario's Systems of Care." Hairstory's goal is to elevate the voices of black youth who have come into contact with the province's care systems, which includes the child welfare and youth justice systems. For more information about the Advocate's Office and "Hairstory", visit the website
SOURCE Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth
For further information: Media Contact: Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth, Phone: (416) 325-5669 or Toll-free: 1-800-263-2841