Empowering Black Youth: The Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa sends 12 youth to provincial symposium
The Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa (CASO) recently participated in the Power Up! Youth Symposium for African-Canadian Youth in Care. This provincial conference brought together nearly 200 Black and African-Canadian youth in care for an inspiring two days. The event aimed to empower Black youth to be critical actors in their own stories, to give youth a sense of belonging to a wider community, and to help them envision their future as thriving adults.
The first of its kind in Canada, the event gathered Black and African Canadian youth in care from across Ontario, aged 15 and up, and offered the distinct opportunity for them to connect with one another and inspire each other on a larger scale.
CASO was pleased to be able to send 12 youth and 5 chaperones to the event. All five chaperones were African-Canadian staff members from CASO, giving youth the opportunity to not only connect with their peers but also connect with workers who share similar experiences with them, or who have a better understanding of their stories. As event organizers explained, “this event was about helping Black youth in care feel welcomed, connected and part of a larger Black and African Canadian community.”
Running from July 10 to July 11 in Toronto, Power Up! featured workshops, guest speakers, entertainment and an abundance of group discussion. Panels and interactive activities allowed youth to actively participate in the topics discussed and engage with their peers by asking questions and sharing experiences.
One particular guest speaker, Senator Wanda Bernard, went above and beyond and invited CASO’s youth to a tour of the Senate, given their proximity. The youth were thrilled to have the opportunity to meet and discuss with such a high-profile figure. A date will be set for their visit once the Senate is back in session.
“The kids were truly inspired,” said one chaperone, a child protection worker at CASO. “It was amazing, I was so happy for our youth. They benefited from so much love and wisdom about their culture,” said another.
From building a network of peers to knowing they have African-Canadian staff to lean on, the group of young people agreed that the event gave them the distinct ability to not feel like outsiders, which is often the case in their day-to-day lives. Representation from different identities, backgrounds, cultures and countries of origin allowed many to be reconnected with their heritage or simply learn more about themselves.
“The past few days filled my soul. I didn’t really believe in myself before coming, but now I do,” said one CASO youth. “I now feel like I have a voice. We all do.”
The Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa has committed to providing regular updates on their work surrounding racial disparity. To see the full list of Race Equity Practices that have resulted from One Vision One Voice, visit: http://www.casott.on.ca/en/news-and-events/one-vision-one-voice-race-equity-practices/