The family is shocked by the call of kindergartens to protect children without warning, the question is whether discrimination plays a role | CBC News:

In the fall of 2021, Nathaniel Louber-Lewis որդ Rachel Smith’s son was attending a community kindergarten near their home in Montreal’s Plotto district.

He seemed to be integrating well, թն Smith said the staff thought he was positive.

So it came as a surprise when the center invited him to a meeting last November to discuss the “disturbing behavior” of a three-year-old.

At first, Smith thought it might be about strong language, as he had recently discovered the word F-word.

But during the meeting, Smith was told that he was making more and more harsh, figurative comments. So far, Smith has said no one has raised concerns with their family.

Smith told kindergarten staff that his son could be quite dramatic. He also told long-distance stories at home, and his older brother went through a similar phase at that age.

In addition to his brother’s influence, Smith said he spent time with his older son cousins ​​that summer. She assured them that she and her husband would be more careful about what she could collect from the TV shows.

But at the end of the meeting, Smith was told that the kindergarten had informed them of the Quebec Youth Protection Service, known in French as the DPJ.

“I almost fell off the chair,” Smith recalls. “I was so shocked.”

Le Carrefour des Petits Soleil is a non-profit community organization in the Montreal Plateau. (Kim McNairn / CBC)

Fear, uncertainty

Smith quickly picked up his son from his classroom and ran to call his unmarried husband. His disbelief turned to fear as he read the Quebec Youth Protection Act.

“When you are told, the powers of the Department of Youth are very terrible,” said Louber-Lewis. “They have the right to come in and take your children on the basis of any report.”

“You never know when someone is going to break in.”

The couple immediately withdrew their son from Le Carrefour des Petits Soleils. A few days later, Loubir-Lewis met with the director.

She told him that in mid-October, a student in her son’s class came to him with concerns and then recorded what he was saying for the next six weeks.

The director told him that he fully trusted his staff, and that the center had backed down on its protocol.

“Then he said. “If you do not do anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about,” said Louber-Lewis.

After months of uncertainty and anxiety, the local health worker’s social worker dismissed the concerns, and the case was closed this spring.

But that did not remove the pain and stress of being flagged in the first place. Their family has been using the center’s services since the fall of 2020. Loubir-Lewis and Smith do not understand why the kindergarten took such a drastic step without warning or talking to them.

As the only visible black family in day care, they began to doubt whether they would be judged differently. They asked the council to review its reporting policy and adopt better training on unconscious bias.

WATCH |: The mother describes the shock of being informed by the youth protection services.

The mother tells of the shock of being informed by the youth protection services

Rachel Smith, along with her husband Nathaniel Louber-Lewis, said she learned that her child’s community kindergarten had been reported to the authorities.

Le Carrefour declined to be interviewed, but defended its actions in a statement, saying it had “a legal and moral responsibility to act.”

“We understand that this situation could upset the family, but Le Carrefour acted as a deterrent, taking into account the well-being and best interests of the child,” the statement said.

Le Carrefour, which has been operating for 43 years, said it had discussed its concerns with the child and what approach to take with specialists from the Community Health Center (CLSC). It then consulted with Batsho Youth and Family Centers, which serves the English-speaking population of Montreal, and was told to prepare a report.

The statement did not say why Le Carrefour did not contact the parents before discussing them with the authorities, nor did it answer questions about how staff received training or whether racial discrimination could be a factor in how the child’s case was handled. .

Black families are overrepresented

The research of Smith և Louber-Lewis is reflected in a study which shows that young families in Quebec և outside of it are more represented in the protection of youth.

This index is especially high for the English-speaking black population of the province. are about: five times more likely McGill University Assistant Alicia Boatswein-Kite According to a 2020 study, more white children are reported.

Botswein-Kate, a former social worker himself, says his research shows that the decision of the authorities, whether a day care worker or a school administrator, tends to be “stronger or stronger when it comes to black children.” և to black families because of anti-skin racism. »:

“We do not have to allow this black family to be questioned, otherwise we may not feel comfortable contacting or talking to this black family,” he said in an interview.

His research was quoted a Last year’s landmark report On the reforms needed to improve Quebec’s youth protection system.

An entire chapter was devoted to improving services for racial and cultural minorities and new immigrants. Another focused on the disproportionate number of indigenous children in care.

Before calling for child protection, Botswein-Kite believes that community organizations that serve the same groups should be called upon to work with the family to find out what support they need.

He said they were “in a better position to support families because they are not in a role in this area of ​​investigation.”

Regina Laurent led the Quebec Youth Protection Service investigation. His final report, published last year, highlighted the problems facing black families. (Ivanoh Demers / Radio Canada)

In a statement, Batsho’s youth and family services body said:

“We are working closely with a number of community organizations to provide family support services and action to prevent the use of youth protection services as much as possible,” said Helen Bergeron-Gamashen, CIUSSS de l’Ouest spokeswoman. de-l’Île-de-Montréal:.

Problems persist

Pho Niemi, executive director of the Center for Racial Studies (CRARR), says he has heard from many parents who feel targeted because of their background.

One of them is Marie Ismen, who said she was flagged for protecting young people last fall because of a dispute over her son’s schooling.

Fo Niemi, executive director of the Center for Racial Action Research, said he had received calls from black families who felt they were being treated unfairly by the authorities and unnecessarily called for the protection of young people. (Kwabena Oduro / CBC)

Ismen feels that her son, who suffers from blackouts and autism, is being treated unfairly at school and is more likely to be sent home because of his skin color.

He said that the school called the youth defense in October and that he should meet with the investigator. It took until the new year to consider the case unfounded.

“It was really, really, really offensive,” said Ismen, who complained to the Quebec Commission for Human Rights and Youth Rights, with the help of CRARR, about the school’s care for her son.

“I do not think there are words, because when you know that you give 100%, it happens for no reason. It was devastating. “

“Breach of trust.”

Smith և Louber-Lewis can sympathize with Isme. In November, they reported on the protection of young people, met with a social worker only in mid-February. The case was closed a few weeks later.

“It clogs the system, depriving people who really need help,” said Smith, who quit his job to look after his son full-time.

He admits that the whole experience made him more self-conscious. Even something like his boys arguing in the yard made him worry about what people might think.

He had a hard time collecting the positive feedback from the staff, knowing that they were building a different story behind the scenes.

“It felt like a complete breach of trust,” Smith said.

Le Carrefour, which has been open for 43 years, has defended its actions in this case, saying that “it has a legal and moral responsibility to act.” (Kim McNairn / CBC)

For Loubier-Lewis, the experience opened his eyes. Theoretically, he understood that he was reporting on people of color being more closely monitored by the authorities, but until that happened, he had no idea what it was.

“There is this constant level of stress,” said Louber-Lewis. “Do they report me because of the color of my skin, where I come from, or because of the real thing?”

In a letter to the board of directors of Carrefour des Petit Soleils last month, the couple advised better training to help staff identify signs of child abuse, understand the principles of systemic discrimination, unconscious bias and cultural sensitivity when they work. different families in the future.

“If they are reporting, they need to be trained to test these biases for one and then for two, look at their protocol,” Smith said.

“From the moment you worry about the child to the moment you go to the DPJ, what happens there?”

For more stories about Canadian skinny experiences, from anti-skinny racism to the skinny community’s success stories, see Being in the Skinny Canada, a CBC project that Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.


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