Racism as a Vehicle for the Overrepresentation of Black Youth in Child Protection Services in Ontario, Canada: Caseworkers’ and Community Facilitators’ Perspectives


Recent studies have confirmed the overrepresentation of Black youth in child protection services (CPS) in Ontario, Canada. Anti-Black racism has been raised as an issue contributing to the overrepresentation. Based on Critical Race Theory (CRT) and the social-ecological model, this article examines how different levels of racism influence the overrepresentation of Black youth in CPS from the perspectives of CPS caseworkers (CW) and community facilitators (CF).


We conducted four focus groups with CW and CF (N = 24) in Ontario. CF are members of community organizations that assist families in navigating CPS and act as liaisons between families and caseworkers. We used thematic analysis to examine the data in NVivo.


Participants reported three levels of racism contributing to the overrepresentation of Black youth in CPS: systemic racism, institutional racism, and interpersonal racism. Within systemic racism, participants highlighted the ongoing impacts of Canadian policies, cumulative risk factors among Black families involved with CPS, and inadequate access to information among Black communities. Racist policies and practices in CPS and personal factors among caseworkers that impact the provision of services were discussed within institutional racism. Racist beliefs and behaviors among society were raised as contributing to disproportionate reporting of cases concerning Black families (i. e., interpersonal racism).


Our findings suggest that anti-Black racism at different societal levels intertwine and lead to the overrepresentation of Black youth in CPS. Racism cannot be addressed without identifying its sources and its processes.

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Child and Youth Services Review