Child Welfare Law and the Hispanic community

Project Name

Loving Our Children Without Fear: Understanding the Child and Family Services Act and its impact on the Hispanic community

Project Partners

Lead Agency: Hispanic Development Council
Project Partners: Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Toronto; Children’s Aid Society of York Region, Community Legal Clinic of the Centre for Spanish Speaking People
Consulting Partners: Legal Expertise will be provided by the child welfare lawyers and private practice lawyer on HDC Board who has represented Hispanic families in child welfare cases

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Project Summary

Training staff of the member agencies of the Hispanic Development Council (HDC) in child welfare law. The HDC has a membership of over 80 community agencies all of whom work with the Spanish speaking community of the GTA. Members include staff of women’s services, housing workers, employment workers, community centre staff, settlement workers, etc.

Legal Topics for Training

Participants will be trained in child welfare law: the Ontario Child and Family Services Act, and will gain an understanding of the legal, social and community context of the child protection system. Equally, participants will learn how to support families in their inter-actions with the child welfare system, how to better negotiate and work with the child welfare system and how to bridge the needs of Hispanic families and the system.

Target Audience

The target community is the approximately 200,000 Spanish-speaking people living in the GTA.

Key Activities

The training will be delivered through face to face workshops based on popular education methodology. Ten modules will be created, each focusing on an aspect of child welfare law. Each module will begin with a discussion of the current realities for the Hispanic communities, including challenges, opportunities and problems that families encounter. There will be extensive use of case studies as a way to understand the law and current realities as well as to identify resources and referrals available in the community.

Need for Training

Among the key challenges that this project is addressing is the fact that Latino Hispanic immigrants who are parents often end up in conflict with the Canadian legal child protection system. This places families in a precarious situation where their values and attitudes are seen to be at odds with the ‘mainstream‘.

This situation has reached a crisis point in the GTA, and the Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Toronto has identified its second largest client group as the Spanish-speaking community. One-fifth of its crisis calls are families from the Hispanic community. Given this reality, it is imperative that we take action to increase the ability of the community to respond in a way that provides information and support before a crisis occurs.

Innovative Approach

To our knowledge, this is the first training project ever created that specifically targets training front-line community workers and community leaders in the Hispanic community in the GTA (or Ontario). This project will be able to make use of the unique structure of the HDC and its 80 member agencies; the membership structure will enable the project to reach front line staff who work in a wide variety of agencies and organizations in the Hispanic community.

This project is also innovative in its partnership with the child welfare agencies serving the Hispanic community in Toronto. Many, if not most community based agencies have tended to minimize their engagement with child welfare agencies because of the fear that many families have about child welfare involvement. As an agency with unprecedented power to take children out of the home, many agency staff approach child welfare workers with fear and trepidation. This project is an innovative example of a positive partnership that attempts to directly meet the challenges and tensions of the role of child welfare in the community and build stronger and more positive relationships between workers from child welfare and community based agencies.