Our Commitment To Diversity

Through innovative and sustainable programming and vision, StepStones for Youth actively strives to remove systemic barriers for racialized and marginalized youth who are over-represented in child protection services. We are committed to improving the future outcomes of this equity-seeking population.

Youth resources
Remove systemic barriers. Stepstones staff and youth

StepStones for Youth serves equity-seeking young people aged 10-25 in and transitioning out of Ontario’s foster care system. The beneficiaries of our program are disproportionally represented in the child welfare system, the demographics of which include racialized youth; youth from Black and Indigenous communities; youth who are newcomers, immigrants, and refugees; youth from the 2SLGBT2Q+ communities; and youth with physical and learning disabilities.

StepStones serves vulnerable young people from foster care including:

  • youth from racialized and marginalized communities
  • youth who have suffered abuse, neglect, and trauma
  • youth who are economically disadvantaged
  • youth who are estranged from their birth, adoptive, or kinship caregivers
  • youth who lack supportive adults in their life
  • youth who experience trauma-related mental health issues
  • youth with physical and learning disabilities
  • youth who are homeless or are at high risk of becoming so
  • youth who lack community, connection, and a sense of belonging

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

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. 

We promote diversity in our program delivery and workshop leaders reflect the diversity of the youth involved.

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.

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 conduct an annual review of our policies and procedures (Anti-Discrimination, Human Resources, Hiring, Volunteer & Staff Training/Manuals) to ensure there are no systems that contribute to anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism.

We include additional anti-racism training for new Volunteers and Staff and existing Staff and Board Members take part in annual training in anti-racism and other social issues.

We include the voices and representation of Black and Indigenous youth from foster care in our Youth Advocacy Council.

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.

We have anti-racism literature for our office to be accessible to our youth and all individuals who visit our space. 

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. 

We dedicate space on our platforms for recognizing Black-serving, Black-led, and Indigenous organizations.

We have a list of specific services and resources for Black and Indigenous youth.

We make efforts to buy local and buy items from community owners that represent the population that we support. 

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. 

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.

21% of youth in Toronto shelters identify as 2SLGBTQ+

14x the risk of suicide in 2SLGBTQ+ youth compared to straight cisgender youth

55% of trans people have difficulty meeting housing related costs

At StepStones for Youth, we believe in creating a safe and supportive environment for all youth, volunteers, staff and community partners who are a part of the 2SLGBTQ+ community. We are committed to continuing listening, evaluating, revising, and renewing our processes and strategies to ensure that we are an organization where everyone can unlock their full potential, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Below is a brief summary of the work we are currently doing to support 2SLGBTQ+ youth:

Staff are trained in anti-oppressive and anti-homophobic practice

We provide training to mentors in order for them to gain an understanding and to ensure they are prepared to support 2SLGBTQ+ youth

We have all youth, volunteers and staff sign a code of conduct that includes respecting and celebrating everyone’s sexual orientation and gender identity

We have a partnership with a Youth Outreach Worker who specializes in 2SLGBTQ+ issues and in supporting youth who identify as 2SLGBTQ+

Youth are able to call or text this individual regularly

We have representation on our board and within our volunteer community and encourage 2SLGBTQ+ applicants for all job postings

Our offices and meeting places are 2SLGBTQ+ positive spaces with signs to indicate this in our physical space and on our website

All staff are required to use inclusive language

We ensure our staff does not engage in using heterocentric language. For example, we refer to family structures by asking youth who their “guardians” are or the “adults that they live with” and all staff use the term “partner”

We have an anti-discrimination policy that clearly upholds the rights of the 2SLGBTQ+ population who are serviced by our organization as well as those  who work and volunteer for us. This includes sexual orientation as well as gender identity

We refer to youth, staff, and volunteers by their preferred pronouns

We have specific and supportive resources online dedicated to youth in the 2SLGBTQ+ population that can easily be found 

We ensure that books and educational resources provided to youth, identify that there are numerous family structures and include same-sex couples in these teachings

We encourage youth to be open and accepting of their own sexual orientation and gender identity as well as the orientation and identity of others and promote this in a positive manner while respecting their right to privacy and the decision to not disclose

We celebrate Pride with youth in our program and on our social media channels

We support youth who are living in environments that are homophobic to find them alternative and supportive living arrangements

All staff work to safeguard the rights of youth from the 2SLGBTQ+ community 

All staff have access to a list of family physicians that have knowledge and skills to address medical and mental health concerns that are 2SLGBTQ+ positive and informed

We engage in annual reviews of intake forms and processes to ensure they are 2SLGBTQ+ positive

An external evaluator reviews our policies, website, and practices, and makes recommendations for fully inclusive practices 

We examine the data and the outcomes of youth from the 2SLGBTQ+ community to ensure their outcomes are positive and consistent with those of other youth

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