Ontario is working to help children and youth across the province reach their full potential by introducing legislation to strengthen and modernize child and youth services.
Minister of Children and Youth Services Michael Coteau introduced the Child, Youth and Family Services Act this afternoon in the legislature. The bill, if passed, would put children at the centre of decision-making, support more accountable, responsive and accessible child and youth services and strengthen oversight for children’s aid societies and licensed residential services by:
• Raising the age of protection from 16 to 18 to increase protection services for more vulnerable youth in unsafe living conditions, to support their education and to reduce homelessness and human trafficking
• Strengthening the focus on early intervention, helping prevent children and families from reaching crisis situations at home
• Making services more culturally appropriate for all children in the child welfare system, including Indigenous and Black children and youth, to help ensure they receive the best possible support
• Improving oversight of service providers, including children’s aid societies, so that children and youth receive consistent, high-quality services across the province.
In addition to the legislation, Ontario plans to boost accountability across the child welfare system by requiring children’s aid societies to publicly post financial audits and expenses. The province will also explore the option of creating a single adoption agency for the entire province, helping more children find stable and supportive permanent homes.
New initiatives from the province will also support better outcomes for Black children and youth, including the mandatory collection of identity-based data, including race-based data, to support better service planning and delivery, as well as the implementation of the One Vision One Voice plan in children’s aid societies.
Supporting children and youth and helping them reach their full potential is part of our plan to create jobs, grow our economy and help people in their everyday lives.
“As an MPP, a Minister and a father, it is of the utmost importance to me that our government do everything we can to put children and youth at the centre of our decision-making. We need to give young people a voice in decisions around their care and protection. It’s clear to me that in order to build that system, we need to make drastic change to pave the way for services that are much more accountable and responsive. This legislation is a first step in that process as we work to improve outcomes and help young people achieve their full potential.”
— Michael Coteau, Minister of Children and Youth Services
“We welcome the positive changes the province has announced today to modernize Ontario’s child and youth service system. This is an important step forward to improve outcomes for vulnerable youth. In particular, increasing the age of protection to 18 will make a profound difference for vulnerable youth by giving them access to more services and supports.”
— Bruce Rivers, Executive Director, Covenant House Toronto
“We welcome the opportunity to work closely with our partners in government and across the sector to continue to advise on the implementation of this new legislation and these reforms to the child welfare system. This legislation will allow for stronger services, improved outcomes and place an emphasis on prevention. We are particularly pleased to see the age of protection raised to 18, and we are delighted by the ministry’s continued support of the One Vision One Voice project to improve outcomes for African Canadian children and families who come into contact with the child welfare system.”
— Mary Ballantyne, CEO, Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies
“News of the Minister’s intention to fully fund the development of the One Vision One Voice Practice Framework is very exciting for the field of child welfare, and for the African Canadian community. One Vision One Voice is about hearing and honouring the voices of this community in relation to their experiences with the child welfare system. The Minister’s commitment to seeing this work through to improve outcomes for African Canadian families is a testament to the importance of this project. OACAS is proud to be partnering with the African community on this very important initiative, and will continue to build on the first phase of One Vision One Voice and move responsively towards implementation.”
Ñ Kike Ojo, Project Lead, One Vision One Voice, Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies
“The Ontario government’s commitment to strengthening communities is important to improving outcomes for Métis children and families across this province. Child and family services in Ontario are in need of significant reform, including legislation that replaces offensive terminology with current and more appropriate language and ensures that Métis children, families and communities are recognized, respected and included along with other Indigenous peoples. The Métis Nation of Ontario sees the new legislation as a step toward more effective, prevention-based approaches to improving outcomes for Métis children and youth, which is a shared interest of the MNO and the Government of Ontario as set out in our MNO-Ontario Framework Agreement. We look forward to reviewing the bill and participating in the dialogue that will follow its introduction, and to developing a stronger partnership with the Government of Ontario in the area of child and family services for the benefit of all Métis children and youth.”
Ñ Margaret Froh, President, Métis Nation Ontario
♣ The province will establish a working group of experts from the child welfare, residential services and mental health sectors to help the government implement the proposed legislation.
♣ The government’s plan to reform the child welfare system is consistent with Katelynn’s Principle, which states that children should be at the centre of decision-making in the child welfare system. This principle was created after the tragic murder of seven-year-old Katelynn Sampson.
♣ Ontario’s current governing legislation for children and youth services is the Child and Family Services Act, proclaimed in 1985.
♣ Last year, Ontario’s 38 children’s aid societies and nine Indigenous child wellbeing societies provided services to more than 113,000 families.
♣ The average number of children in care has decreased by 19 per cent since 2009.