Ontario Eliminating the Practice of Birth Alerts


By:Will Bouma
An important step in creating a child welfare system focused on prevention and early intervention
Jill Dunlop, Associate Minister of Children and Women’s Issues, announced the province is eliminating the practice of birth alerts. Birth alerts are notifications sent by children’s aid societies to hospitals when they believe a newborn may be in need of protection. This new approach will improve pre- and post-natal services by promoting collaboration between children’s aid societies, hospitals, service providers, Indigenous partners and community-based service providers.
“Ending the use of birth alerts is an important step as we shift our focus to prevention, early intervention and improve outcomes for families and their children,” said Minister Dunlop. “This change is part of our government’s effort to build a child welfare system that is better coordinated and focused on community-based prevention services that are high quality, culturally appropriate and truly responsive to the needs of children, youth and families.”
It has been reported the practice of birth alerts disproportionately affects racialized and marginalized mothers and families. Expectant mothers can be deterred from seeking prenatal care or parenting supports while pregnant due to fears of having a birth alert issued.
“No woman should ever have to feel fear of having her baby taken away just because of her past” said Brantford-Brant MPP Will Bouma. “This simple change will make a world of difference to racialized women in our riding and I am so proud to be part of a government and a colleague of a Minister that takes reconciliation so seriously that we took immediate action after a Round Table with our good friends and neighbours on Six Nations. I’d like to personally thank Arliss Skye and the tireless staff on the Territory that brought this issue to our attention”, concluded MPP Bouma.
“It is encouraging news that the practice of ‘Birth Alerts’ is changing to focus on prevention and involvement of community services” said Director of Six Nations Child and Social Services Arliss Skye. “There may be criticism that ending this practice will put infants at risk, however, it should be seen as a call for action towards a ‘duty to respond’ model that will encourage expectant mothers to seek support rather than evade pre-natal care due to the fear of infant apprehensions at birth”.
Birth alerts have never been required under provincial legislation and have been used inconsistently by children’s aid societies across the province. Going forward, the government is directing children’s aid societies to end the practice of using birth alerts by October 15, 2020. This means working with families, community partners and service providers to create a pre- and post-natal plan that supports the parents of newborns, to ensure more families stay together.
“By ending the use of birth alerts and encouraging collaborative alternatives for children’s aid societies and other health care providers, expectant parents will be better supported in accessing community resources before the birth of their child,” said Jamil Jivani, Ontario’s Advocate for Community Opportunities. “This is a step in the right direction in helping racialized and marginalized communities across Ontario.”
Quick Facts
•Ending the use of birth alerts was a recommendation from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
•Alternative approaches to birth alerts include providing counselling services such as birth planning services, pre-natal services and referrals to community resources and agencies that can provide support to expectant parents.
•Birth alerts are also referred to as hospital alerts.

Ontario Eliminating the Practice of Birth Alerts

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