OHRC: Under suspicion: Concerns about child welfare.

OHRC: Under suspicion: Concerns about child welfare.
Posted on September 10, 2018 | Derek Flegg | Written on September 10, 2018
Letter type:
Blog Post

Author's Note:

Author's Note:

Since it began operations in 2000, the OCSWSSW has worked steadily to address the issue of child protection workers. Unfortunately, many CASs have been circumventing professional regulation of their staff by requiring that staff have social work education yet discouraging those same staff from registering with the OCSWSSW.

The new regulation was updated to only require Local Directors of Children’s Aid Societies to be registered with the College so it's up to all of us now  to encourage the employees of the children's aid societies that enter family homes, schools and hospitals to be registered and their credentials checked before they are allowed to enter said places.

The majority of local directors, supervisors, child protection workers and adoption workers have social work or social service work education, yet fewer than 10% are registered with the OCSWSSW.

If you have any practice questions or concerns related to the new CYFSA, please contact the Professional Practice Department at 416-972-9882 or 1-877-828-9380 or email practice@ocswssw.org.

Submission-re-Proposed-Regulations-under-the-CYFSA-January-25-2018. OCSWSSW May 1, 2018


According to OACAS CEO Mary Ballantyne the reason why so many frontline workers today wouldn't qualify for registration with the College of Social Work is due to the children's aid society expanding beyond the field of just social work.

Mary Ballantyne CEO of OACAS says, the next step is to have Ontario's estimated 5,160 child protection social workers registered and regulated by a professional college. Fifty-five per cent have a bachelor's (BSW) or master's degree in social work. A BSW is the minimum required to join the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers, which is discussing the registration process with societies. Apr 03, 2016.

The report, Towards regulation: Child protection and professional regulation in the province of Ontario, notes that the CAS workforce has expanded beyond social workers since 2000 to include child and youth workers and those with general degrees and diplomas. A 2013 OACAS survey found that only 70% of relevant job classifications would qualify for registration with the College of Social Workers. CUPE members working as child protection workers could suddenly without any kind of warning be deemed unqualified if they could not register with the College of Social Workers.


Towards regulation: Child protection and professional regulation in the province of Ontario.

It is unfair and unjust that staff who are currently deemed qualified by the society to do their work, some of whom have decades of on-the-ground experience ruining lives, would suddenly and arbitrarily be deemed unqualified.

"If the employers (government) are moving forward with professional regulation, it’s likely they will bring this issue to the next round of collective bargaining so CUPE members (unqualified child protection social workers) will have to be prepared to fight."

The report also notes that the “clearest path forward” would be for the provincial government to legislate the necessity of professional regulation, which would be an appallingly heavy-handed move.



In 2015 Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne proclaimed herself ready to do whatever it takes to fix the children's aid societies mess - except launch an investigation.

“If we could fix what is ailing the child protection system, child welfare system in this province, by starting from scratch and blowing up what exists — I would be willing to do that, because one child’s life would be worth changing the administrative structures.

But, just not yet. The premier wanted more evidence before she would act.


The Bill amends the Ombudsman Act to allow the Ombudsman to investigate any decision or recommendation made or any act done or omitted in the course of the administration of a children’s aid society.

Been nice if this had passed but Premiere Kathleen Wynne killed the bill saying the the CAS had enough oversight already leaving the children and parents of Ontario with only one layer of protection from child poaching fubnding predators. The children's aid society themselves and their claims good intentions.



In January 2017, the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies (OACAS) launched a revamped set of curriculum for Ontario’s child protection workers. The Child Welfare Pathway to Authorization Series is designed to be more responsive and better reflect the realities of child welfare work in Ontario using an anti-oppressive framework. New training will cover topics such as equity, human rights, and anti-racism.

Imagine that, an agency that has been called as "Powerful As God" needs anti-oppressive, anti-racist human rights training in an anti-oppressive framework and here I thought Canada's Constitution, Charter of Rights and Fundamental Justice was an anti-oppressive framework.

Powerful As God on IMDB:

The Children's Aid Societies of Ontario is a documentary that delves into society's most controversial and secretive topics. The film navigates 'truth' by engaging twenty-six witnesses with diverse experiences into conversation. By facilitating a voice for individuals whose lives have been tragically affected, with observations and recommendations by experts who have worked directly with the agency (such as doctors, social workers and lawyers), the film reveals a child welfare system plagued by systemic and bureaucratic abuse that urgently requires public attention. Financed by tax dollars and wielding extraordinary power, the Children's Aid Society is deconstructed to reveal a broken system where employees have been heard to describe their influence over children and families to be as powerful as god.

The film, Powerful As God, won the MADA award (Children’s Issues) at Commffest Film Festival in Toronto, 2012. The documentary screened at three festivals and is now released online (Blackout.ca), it was nationally broadcast on television during 2013, and received television, radio and newspaper media coverage.


Mary Ballantyne, CEO of Ontario's Association of Children's Aid Societies academic credentials include and are limited to a Bachelor of Applied Science from the University of Guelph and a Masters of Industrial Relations – Human Resource Management from Queens University and has been upgading her skill set volunteering to hold a seat on the independent PDRC.

If the PDRC isn't independent of the children's aid society, what is it independent of?

Former Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian wrote:

“I am disheartened by the complete lack of action to ensure transparency and accountability by these organizations that received significant public funding. As part of the modernization of the Acts, I call on the government to finally address this glaring omission and ensure that Children’s Aid Societies are added to the list of institutions covered.”

The only oversight for the province’s children’s aid agencies comes from Ontario’s Ministry of Children and Youth Services.

"As the law stands now clients of the Ontario Children's Aid Society under Wynne's liberals are routinely denied a timely (often heavily censored) file disclosure before the court begins making decisions and the clients can not request files/disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act nor can censored information reviewed by the Privacy Commissioner of Ontario or the federal counter-part."

In her 2004 annual report, which was released on June 22, 2005, the Commissioner called for amendments that would bring virtually all organizations that are primarily funded by government dollars under FOI for the purposes of transparency and accountability: This would include the various children’s aid agencies in the Province of Ontario. Many parents and families complain about how difficult it is, if not impossible, to obtain information from children’s aid agencies. Many citizens complain that CAS agencies appear to operate under a veil of secrecy. Unlicensed and untrained CAS workers are making decisions which are literally destroying families, yet there is little or no accountability for their actions short of a lawsuit long after the damage is done, if ever. The vast majority of CAS victims can't afford lawyers.

“Hundreds of organizations that are recipients of large transfer payments from the government are not subject to the provincial or municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Acts,” said the Commissioner, “which means they are not subject to public scrutiny.” Among the examples she cites are hospitals and Children’s Aid Societies. “Openness and transparency of all publicly funded bodies is essential – they should be publicly accountable.”

In her annual report for 2013 released on June 17 there is just one paragraph on children's aid on page 12:

In my 2004, 2009, and 2012 Annual Reports I recommended that Children’s Aid Societies, which provide services for some of our most vulnerable citizens – children and youth in government care, be brought under FIPPA. I am disheartened by the complete lack of action to ensure transparency and accountability by these organizations that received significant public funding. As part of the modernization of the Acts, I call on the government to finally address this glaring omission and ensure that Children’s Aid Societies are added to the list of institutions covered.

The Information and Privacy Commissioner is appointed by and reports to the Ontario Legislative Assembly, and is independent of the government of the day. The Commissioner's mandate includes overseeing the access and privacy provisions of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, and the Personal Health Information Protection Act, and commenting on other access and privacy issues.






“Harmful Impacts” is the title of the commission report written by the Honourable Judith C. Beaman after two years of study. After reading it, “harmful” seems almost to be putting it lightly. The 56 cases the commission examined in which the flawed Motherisk tests, administered by SickKids Hospital between 2005 and 2015, were determined to have a “substantial impact” on the decisions of child protection agencies, led to children being permanently removed from their families.

According to the Toronto Star out of the cases they reviewed Motherisk reported positive results 93% of the time and lets say Motherisk only strongly influence decisons to apprehend children in 56 cases, how many times did Motherisk results strong influence the decision to keep files open and how much did that cost the taxpayers?

The 2017-2018 Expenditure Estimates set out details of the operating and capital spending requirements of the Ministry of Children and Youth Services for the fiscal year commencing April 1, 2017.

Restated total operating expense $4,369,258,414



The report also points to the larger problem that allowed the the CAS's use of the Motherisk lab to cause so much damage: the system unfairly targets poor families — especially, the report details, Indigenous and racialized families; the legal deck is stacked against those families, denying them due process to a staggering degree; and authorities are too quick to take children from their parents in the absence of evidence of severe abuse or neglect.

Removal from the home — permanent removal — is not supposed to be a move taken lightly. The report goes over the legal principles, laying out that it should be a last resort. It is the “capital punishment” of child protection, according to one citation, absolutely devastating to parents, and for children it is “often the beginning of a life sentence.”

Yet in the cases reviewed here, it is imposed, often apparently cavalierly and without even a trial, for reasons that amount to a punishment for being poor.

Rich parents who are alcoholics, after all, are not having their children taken from them after a single relapse. Few rich parents, in fact, are having their children taken from them at all.

Lives were ruined. Parents’ lives, and quite possibly children’s lives. Siblings and grandparents and other family members’ lives, too. Irreversibly ruined. And in many cases, it seems this was allowed to happen primarily because people were poor.

It is hard to think of anything more harmful than that.

The Motherisk lab was shut down in 2015 — too long after the problems with it were known, exposed in part due to the reporting of my Star colleague Rachel Mendleson, after far too much damage was done. But reading the report, it becomes clear that shutting down the lab solves only one small part of the problem. The entire system needs to be overhauled.

The problems detailed in the report’s 278 pages are too numerous to go into in detail. They document the many problems with the SickKids lab’s testing and with the child protection system’s overreliance on those results. The hair testing process produced inconsistent and untrustworthy results despite being perceived as carrying the unimpeachable weight of scientific authority. That much we pretty much knew because of earlier reporting, though the detailed breakdown of it and the specific case references make the injustice of it sickeningly vivid.

“There are lots of kids in group homes all over Ontario and they are not doing well — and everybody knows it,” says Kiaras Gharabaghi, a member of a government-appointed panel that examined the residential care system in 2016.

“We’re taking it up to that next level so that the public has confidence that when someone knocks on their door they know that they have met these minimum requirements,” says Mary Ballantyne, CEO of the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies (OACAS) whose association represents all but three of Ontario’s societies.


Under suspicion: Concerns about child welfare.

Racial (financial) profiling is an insidious and particularly damaging type of discrimination that relates to notions of safety and security. Racial/financial profiling violates people’s rights under the Ontario Human Rights Code (Code). People from many different communities experience racial/financial profiling. However, it is often directed at First Nations, Métis, Inuit and other Indigenous peoples, Muslims, Arabs, West Asians and Black people, and is often influenced by the negative stereotypes that people in these communities face. (see confirmation bias)

To file a human rights claim (called an application), contact the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario at:

If you need legal help, contact the Human Rights Legal Support Centre at:

Toll Free: 1-866-625-5179

TTY Toll Free: 1-866-612-8627

Website: www.hrlsc.on.ca

In 2015, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) began a year-long consultation to learn more about the nature of racial profiling in Ontario. Our aim was to gather information to help us guide organizations, individuals and communities on how to identify, address and prevent racial profiling. We connected with people and organizations representing diverse perspectives. We conducted an online survey, analyzed cases (called applications) at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario that alleged racial profiling, held a policy dialogue consultation, and reviewed academic research. We conducted focus groups with Indigenous peoples and received written submissions. Overall, almost 1,650 individuals and organizations told us about their experiences or understanding of racial profiling in Ontario.

We heard concerns about racial/financial profiling in the child welfare sector, particularly affecting Black and Indigenous families. We heard that systemic racism was perceived to be embedded in this system, and that racial profiling that may take place in this sector targets mothers for over-scrutiny most often.

We heard concerns that racialized and Indigenous parents are disproportionately subjected to surveillance and scrutiny, which contributes to families being reported to children’s aid societies (CASs). We also heard that once a referral to child welfare authorities takes place, families are more likely to have prolonged child welfare involvement, and be more at risk of having their children apprehended. Consultation participants suggested these experiences arise in part from referrers’ and child welfare authorities’ incorrect assumptions about risk based on race and related grounds, and intersections between these grounds and poverty.

Black, Indigenous and racialized children are overrepresented in the child welfare system

There is evidence that Indigenous, Black and other racialized children are overrepresented in the child welfare system when compared to their proportion in the general population. For example, in 2015, the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto reported that African Canadians represented 40.8% of children in care, yet they made up only 8.5% of Toronto’s population. Statistics Canada data from 2011 shows that even though Aboriginal children make up only 3.4% of children in Ontario, they represent 25.5% of children in foster care. Research from 2003 indicates that Latino children are overrepresented in cases selected for investigation by Canadian child protection services, as are Asian children when allegations of physical abuse are involved.

Consultation participants described the historical and structural inequalities that give rise to racialized and Indigenous parents having greater involvement with child welfare authorities. Some survey respondents highlighted the “Sixties Scoop” – the mass apprehension and removal of Indigenous children from their families and communities by Canadian child welfare authorities dating back to the 1960s.

There are likely many factors leading to these disproportionate representations and, on their own, they do not conclusively point to discrimination. However, overrepresentation of certain racial groups in the child welfare system may be one indicator of systemic discrimination, including systemic racial profiling.

Systemic racial profiling refers to patterns of behaviour, policies or practices that are part of an organization’s or sector’s structure, which create a position of relative disadvantage for racialized and Indigenous peoples. These policies, practices or behaviors may appear neutral, but may result in situations where racialized or Indigenous peoples tend to be singled out for greater scrutiny or negative treatment.

Although many different issues could lead to involvement by child welfare authorities, biased referrals and biased decision-making among these services may play a role.

Concerns about risk assessment standards and tools

Consultation participants raised concerns about bias in the tools and standards used to assess risk to children. Although they seem neutral, we heard that risk assessment standards and tools may lean towards more positive outcomes for White people. (see confirmation bias)

Social work researchers argue that risk assessment tools in Ontario are biased and perpetuate racism because they do not account for structural inequalities, such as racial discrimination, that may affect a child’s well-being. Parents may be blamed for these external factors, even though they are largely out of their control. We heard that relying on these tools, coupled with worker bias – which may be conscious or unconscious – may contribute to assumptions about racialized children and families being “inherently wrong or deficient.” This can lead to incorrect assumptions about the level of risk children are exposed to.

(see confirmation bias)

We also heard concerns about risk assessment standards that relate to poverty – for example, the number of children allowed per bedroom. Poverty in racialized and Indigenous families may be seen as a sign of neglect, providing a basis for a child welfare agency to become involved. We heard that these standards can affect what is seen as acceptable in a home and contribute to CAS decisions to intervene. (see confirmation bias)

It is unclear to what extent child welfare risk assessment standards and tools reflect real risk to children in all cases, or arise from White, Western, Christian middle-class norms. When standards and tools are not based on objective factors, but on the cultural norms of the dominant group, they may contribute to racial profiling. (see confirmation bias)

Concerns about biased decision-making

Concerns were also raised both about the perceived bias of authorities or individuals that refer to CASs, and perceived bias in decision-making practices when child welfare workers and authorities become involved with families. Participants said that child welfare workers, many of whom are White, may be more likely to construe family situations or the actions of Indigenous or racialized people as “risky.” (see confirmation bias)

The Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres (OFIFC) identified that Indigenous families experience “intense scrutiny of [their] ways of life” (for more information, see the full OHRC report, Under suspicion: Research and consultation report on racial profiling in Ontario). We repeatedly heard that non-Indigenous child

Welfare workers often do not understand the nature or structure of Indigenous families and cultural differences in how families live. For example, they only see that children are not being raised by their parents or are living in what they think are over-crowded conditions. In another example, Indigenous youth told us that they are sometimes put into care because they miss a lot of school due to practicing their traditions and taking part in ceremonies.

Social work researchers talked about some of the factors that may contribute to the over-scrutiny of Black parents, and the tendency to view Black parents as risks to their children and in need of intervention by CASs. For example, researchers note that child welfare authorities commonly view Black parents as “aggressive” and “crazy” when they are externalizing resistance, grief, fear or shame. They also note that Black children are perceived as needing “rescuing” from their parents. As well, we heard how Black families may be reported to CAS because their children eat non-Western foods that are specific to their culture. 

Ways to address concerns about racial profiling in child welfare

Preventing and addressing racial profiling is a shared responsibility. Government, child welfare organizations and other responsible organizations must take concrete action and decisive steps to prevent, identify and respond to racial profiling. (see confirmation bias)

The OHRC has made many recommendations over several years to address racial profiling. These recommendations are included in our report, Under suspicion. Where applicable, they should be used to identify how racial profiling may be taking place in the child welfare system. They also identify specific approaches organizations should use to prevent and address racial profiling. 

Overall, consultation participants agreed with the following broad strategies to prevent and address racial profiling:

Anti-bias training

Developing policies, procedures and guidelines

Effective accountability monitoring and accountability

mechanisms, including:

complaint procedures

disciplinary measures

collecting, analyzing and reporting on data

Holistic organizational change strategy


Communication (external and internal)

Engagement with affected stakeholders.

The OHRC is also very concerned that the overrepresentation of Black and Indigenous children in the child welfare system is a possible indicator of systemic racism. We conducted a public interest inquiry to examine this issue. We requested that CASs across the province provide us with data on race and other information. In the preliminary analysis of the data, we found that for many CASs across the province, African Canadian and Indigenous children are overrepresented in care, compared to their census populations.

Next steps

The OHRC will:

Release the results of our public interest inquiry

Develop specific policy guidance to help individuals, community groups and organizations understand how racial profiling can be identified, prevented and addressed in the child welfare sector

Continue to call for the collection of race-based data and data on other Code grounds to better understand if racial disparities exist in this sector

Continue to work with community stakeholders to enhance public education on racial profiling.

For more information

To find out more about racial profiling in the child welfare and other sectors, the full Under suspicion report is available online at www.ohrc.on.ca.

To file a human rights claim (called an application), contact the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario at:

If you need legal help, contact the Human Rights Legal Support Centre at:

Toll Free: 1-866-625-5179

TTY Toll Free: 1-866-612-8627

Website: www.hrlsc.on.ca


"Revamped curriculum launched for Ontario’s child protection social workers"

Without proper oversight who is going to ensure the workers are going to apply and follow the new training? 

The ministry sidestepped a question emailed by the Toronto Star on whether it would impose the requirement to register their 5000 plus employees with the College of Social Work, stating instead that it is funding the authorization process and leaving the society to police themselves with secret internal processes.




When the children's aid society say they have more oversight than anyone else while every journalist working for the mainstream media in Ontario say the only oversight comes directly from the Ontario government - who do you believe?


The Bill amends the Ombudsman Act to allow the Ombudsman to investigate any decision or recommendation made or any act done or omitted in the course of the administration of a children’s aid society.

-> Been nice if this had passed but Premiere Kathleen Wynne killed the bill saying the the CAS had enough oversight already leaving the children of Ontario with only one layer of protection from potential abusers. The children's aid society and their good intentions.



About The Author

Advocates for family preservation against unwarranted intervention by government funded non profit agencies and is a growing union for families and other advocates speaking out against the children's aid society's... More