Beyond Neglect: Event Report

Child Welfare League of Canada, Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada

In April 2021, the Child Welfare League of Canada (CWLC), in partnership with the Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada, led a series of cross-sectoral convenings with the goal of introducing a positive obligation for government and service providers to assist families who are experiencing difficulties in a context of poverty. This three-day event convened people across sectors to gain a better understanding of how the child welfare system responds to the conditions that place families at an increased risk of child protection involvement due to assessments of ‘neglect’. The goal of Beyond Neglect is to develop and champion evidence-based legislative frameworks that could help service providers and governments to better meet the needs of children, youth and their families. Six thoughtful, action-oriented discussions were informed by a respect for Indigenous sovereignty and a desire to advance equity, and by the knowledge and solutions offered by those who are most impacted by colonialism, anti-Indigenous and anti-Black racism. The event brought together a wide array of experts from various sectors: academia, government, community, the private sector, Elders, advocates, lawyers, as well as lived experience experts such as parents, youth and youth in/from care. This allowed for a holistic understanding of the complex emergencies and entrenched social problems that pose challenges and risks to the protection and well-being of children. Experts also made possible the profiling of existing initiatives, longstanding recommendations, and innovative thinking that seek to reduce the number of children coming into the care of mainstream agencies and increase the number of children connected to their families, communities and cultural heritage. The year-long research and development of this project as well as the culminating three-day event was guided by a group of key advisors and Indigenous Knowledge Keepers. Traditional Algonquin Teacher Elder Albert Dumont offered opening and closing words throughout the webinar series, guiding the conversation by drawing on his wisdom and lived experience.