When it comes to the outcomes for Indigenous and Black communities, the child welfare sector in North America is in crisis mode. Overrepresentation is already staggering and is trending steadily upwards. For example, in Toronto’s child welfare system, Black children account for 37% of apprehensions despite Black people accounting for only 8% of the city’s population. On the other hand, white children make up 40% of the children in care though they account for 50% of Torontonians.
These kind of disproportionate outcomes exist because the sector has not yet understood that their work, at its core, is about equity. If the goal is to minimize the number of children in care, it is necessary to understand the larger systemic issues that are causing children of particular groups to be apprehended. Achieving more equitable outcomes will require acknowledging how the system is set up to benefit the dominant group, and by natural extension, disadvantage members of marginalized groups. But an enduring assumption of neutrality means that there are no spaces or mechanisms for staff or community members to name, complain about, or seek resolution for systemic issues. Staff, primarily social workers, do not have the capacity or knowledge base to begin changing this situation, and those who speak up on the issues they observe are accused of failing to be objective.