Ontario announces elimination of notifications sent by Children's Aid Societies to hospitals when they believe a newborn may be in need of protection
Family and Children's Services of Frontenac, Lennox and Addington is welcoming the announcement of the end of birth alerts, the practice where Children’s Aid Societies notify hospitals that a newborn may be in need of protection. The Agency had already been working to end their use.
Following the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG), which was released in June of 2019, our agency began to discuss the practice of Birth Alerts with the Kewaywin Circle, the Indigenous advisory committee that provides guidance to the Agency on how we can provide better service for First Nation, Inuit and Metis children, youth and families.
Family and Children’s Services across the province have listened to those who say the experience of a birth alerts can be traumatic for Indigenous mothers, and that birth alerts can increase Indigenous women’s mistrust and fear of the child welfare and healthcare systems. This can also reduce the likelihood that they will seek medical care and/or voluntary supports before, during, and/or after childbirth.
We are aware that birth alerts can disproportionately impact other marginalized mothers and families, such as parents experiencing poverty, young parents, racialized parents and others. It can also perpetuate systemic inequities. It is for these reasons our Agency was already having discussions with local hospitals to phase out our use of birth alerts.
The announcement by the Government of Ontario directs all CASs to cease the practice of birth alerts by October 15, 2020. Given that our Agency has already begun this planning, we anticipate meeting the requirements of the directive prior to that time. By having no predetermined outcomes, workers will assess safety and plan along with the family as to how they can best care for the child in their own family network and community at the time of the child’s birth and moving forward. This directive is completely aligned with our Agency’s strategic plan as we all work towards “Children and youth growing up in their families, cultures and communities”.