Our Commitment to Anti-Racism

We at StepStones for Youth want to live in a world without systemic structures that create fear, are unjust, and uphold racial oppression. We commit to examining real ways that we can help to dismantle systemic racism in our society. We also commit to be transparent in this process; to listen, learn, and move forward together in shared understanding.

Our Current Impact

StepStones supports youth from foster care and the child welfare system with the knowledge that Black and Indigenous young people have been and are over-represented in these systems and structures across Ontario. Below is a brief summary of the work we are currently doing to support Black and Indigenous youth:

  • StepStones has focused efforts on reducing barriers to the most marginalized children and youth in our community and specifically the over represented population of Black youth in the foster care system. 
  • We work to reduce barriers by giving youth access to information and opportunities, mentors, housing support and subsidies, access to mental health supports and resources and support in education, employment and life skills.
  • We strive for high Black and racialized representation among our staff, mentors and volunteers who support youth in their transition to adulthood and at our summer camp. 
  • StepStones volunteer recruitment efforts have focused on recruiting diverse volunteers and StepStones regularly recruits from Black focused organizations such as Jamaican Canadian Association, African Canadian Legal Clinic, First Fridays Meetup Black Toronto Social Group and targets recruitment explicitly stating that we are seeking out diverse, racialized, Black and LGBTQ2+ volunteers.
  • We have stocked our children and youth reading library with books focusing on diverse women and girls who have had to overcome adversity.  These books have been used for education, reading clubs and to support youth in our program to understand issues related to anti-racism, Indigenous rights and history, culture, ant-oppression, LGBTQ2+ and women’s rights.  Each book takes anti-oppressive and anti-racist framework.  Each child in our summer program participates in reading one of these books each year. 
  • StepStones has strong anti-discrimination, anti-racist, anti-oppressive policies and procedures and human resources policies and we ensure staff and volunteers know and understand these policies during the onboarding stage of employment and volunteering.
  • We have a strong code of conduct that all staff, volunteers and youth must agree to and abide by which promotes inclusion and requires anti-racist, anti-discrimination and anti-oppressive practices.
  • We include the voices and representation of Black and Indigenous youth from foster care in our Youth Advocacy Council.
  • For the last 10 years StepStones has had a policy preventing the use of band aids on children and youth that were designed to match white skin 
  • StepStones uses the evidence based approach to working with Black youth in our program including the following:
    • 1) Using a strength & asset based approach
    • 2) Seeking out appropriate mentors
    • 3) Having a “strong emphasis on agency, empowerment, and the overcoming of obstacles” to inspire hope
    • 4) Providing supportive roles to speak about experiences
    • 5) Providing a combination of mentors and tutors in program delivery
    • 6) Exploring and supporting  vocational and educational opportunities for youth
    • 7) Providing group mentoring.
    • Reference
  • We train new volunteers and new staff on anti-discrimination practices.
  • We have a list of specific services and resources for Black and Indigenous youth.
  • We promote diversity in our program delivery and workshop leaders reflect the diversity of the youth involved.
  • For 15 years, StepStones has done land recognitions, taught children about Indigenous foods and Indigenous history and consulted with local Indigenous leaders and elders in the community to ensure practices are approved at our summer camp location. 
  • We make efforts to buy local and buy items from community owners that represent the population that we support. 
  • Each child at StepStones camp participates in Social Justice programming which focuses on teaching children about equity and justice around the world and steps that they can do in their community to help.

Our Commitment

We are committed to supporting all of the young people we work with, our volunteers, staff, and communities through education, action, and listening. Within StepStones we plan to:

  • Review in full our anti-discrimination policies and procedures including policies on anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism to ensure there are no systems that contribute to racism or discrimination and publicly share our findings on our website to hold us accountable for this process
    • Status: In-Progress
  • Review in full our human resources and hiring policies to solidify new interventions for diverse inclusion
    • Status: In-Progress
  • Review and update our volunteer and staff training procedures and manuals to include additional anti-racism training.
    • Status: In-Progress
  • Conduct a twice annual review of data collected on race and outcomes and compare this data to ensure that youth who are racialized in our program achieve similar results and outcomes as non-racialized youth
    • Status: 1 review has been sent for analysis and results are pending
  • Create a virtual space for Black youth to speak about their experiences and how recent events have been affecting them
    • Status: 2 sessions have taken place this year
  • Hold sessions for youth each year to hear about their experience at StepStones, discuss how we can do more to support them, and update our practices accordingly to support equity and inclusion at a higher level.
    • Status: 2 have taken place this year
  • Hold a meeting for all staff from StepStones to share ways in which racism has touched our lives and the impacts it has had on us
    • Status: 2 sessions have taken place
  • Dedicate space on our platforms for recognizing Black-serving, Black-led, and Indigenous organizations.
    • Status: Ongoing. We have so far highlighted 15 organizations on our resources websites and others have been shared on social media.
  • Provide additional education to our employees and board members on anti-racism and on social issues
    • Status: Completed
  • Host an external trainer to help us develop an advanced understanding of diversity, inclusion, belonging, and equity
    • Status: A speaker from the Delta Family Resource Centre is scheduled for later this month
  • Purchase anti-racism literature for our office to be accessible to our youth and all individuals who visit our space.
    • Status: Completed
  • Require all board members and employees to engage in new reading and learning in the area of anti-racism
    • Status: In-Progress. All board members and employees have received a reading list and resources and have been asked to further their learning in this area.

In addition to our internal practices, we share and amplify the following calls to action from our community partners to address anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism:

  • To increase education in our elementary and secondary schools on anti-Black racism and Black Canadian history as part of the regular curriculum 
  • A strengthened Anti-Racism Directorate with a clearly articulated and systemic anti-Black racism strategy
  • A provincial commitment to the allocation of funds to provide culturally appropriate health and wellbeing support within Black and Indigenous communities. A critical component of undoing anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism is working towards making Black and Indigenous life livable. Organizations must be given the support they need to continue providing these services.
  • Increase in funds to support emergency response health experts, social workers, community workers  and those trained to deal with mental-health crises to better serve our Black communities and Black youth.
  • A re-opening of the Provincial Child Advocates Office with an increased mandate to reform how Black and Indigenous children are placed in foster care and how they are supported once in care and as they transition out of care.

Last Updated: September 18, 2020

Expanding Our Understanding

StepStones has compiled these educational, community, and youth resources to support and inform learning and understanding.