TORONTO — The Ontario government released its plan today to modernize the child welfare system. The strategy focuses on strengthening families and communities through prevention, early intervention and seeking more permanent homes for children and youth in care when they cannot stay in their own homes or communities.
“Children and youth in care experience significantly worse outcomes than those in a family setting, such as lower graduation rates, a higher risk of homelessness and more involvement with the justice system,” said Jill Dunlop, Associate Minister of Children and Women's Issues. “That is why we are transforming the child welfare system, to ensure more families stay together and children and youth in care have the supports they need to be safe, succeed and thrive as they transition from care to adulthood.”
The strategy to redesign the child welfare system has five pillars that focus on:
- Strengthening family well-being through community-based prevention services that keep children safe in family-based settings;
- Improving the quality of residential care provided to children and youth;
- Promoting the development of stable and lifelong connections and supports for youth, with a focus on education and employment opportunities;
- Improving the adoption experience and focusing on family-based options over group care where appropriate; and
- Creating a more efficient and effective child welfare system that is financially sustainable.
“This redesign reveals a holistic vision to work better across government ministries and sectors to support the safety, well-being, and prosperity of children and families across Ontario,” said Dr. Jeff Schiffer, executive director of the Native Child & Family Services of Toronto. “I'm particularly heartened by the distinct approach to co-develop services with First Nations, Inuit, Metis and urban Indigenous partners to make this vision a reality and reduce the overrepresentation of Indigenous children in the child welfare system.”
The new child welfare strategy was developed with input from youth, families, caregivers, First Nations, Inuit and Métis partners, lawyers, community organizations, frontline workers and child welfare sector leaders. They participated in over 100 engagement sessions over the past year and provided over 3,000 responses to an online survey.
“Redesigning the child welfare system is a significant undertaking. It will take time and continued partnership with the child welfare sector, Indigenous communities and other health and social services partners to be successful,” said Minister Dunlop. “We are committed to taking the time to get this right and keep children and youth at the heart of everything we do. Their safety, well-being and future success is of utmost importance.”
- More than 12,000 children and youth are in the care of children’s aid societies in Ontario. This includes children and youth in kinship care, foster care and group care placements.
- In addition to children and youth in care, those in need of protection may be placed with a family member or community caregiver, without coming into the care of a society. This is known as kinship service.
- The Ontario government invested $5 million this year to enhance access to prevention-focused customary care for Indigenous children and youth. Customary care is the culturally-specific care and supervision of a First Nations, Inuit or Métis child by a person who is not the child’s parent. Customary care allows children and youth to remain closely connected to their culture and community.
- Overview of Ontario’s plan to Redesign the Child Welfare System
- Ontario’s Quality Standards Framework and the Children and Young Persons’ Rights Resource will help give children and youth a stronger voice in decisions about their care as well as support residential services providers in delivering high-quality care.