Ontario government releases plan to modernize the child welfare system
Tim Brody - Editor
Announced on July 29, the provincial government stated in a news release that 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,” stated Jill Dunlop, Associate Minister of Children and Women's Issues in the news release. “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
•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 provincial government has stated that this 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.
That day, Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Deputy Grand Chief Walter Naveau issued the following statement in response to the announcement: “The transformation of child welfare in Ontario is long overdue, but the Ford government’s strategy doesn’t provide enough detail on funding, resources, and timelines.
“Supporting First Nations youth who come into contact with the child welfare system must be a priority for this government, and a clear plan of action is required if any progress is to be made.
“We are looking for a strong commitment from this government to improve the tremendous infrastructure gap in our communities due to remoteness. Ontario must work with our First Nation communities to address these service gaps and make significant investments in community infrastructure.
“I expect the province to work with NAN to address these gaps and make significant investments in reforming child and family services in the remote North. Our children are our future, and improving their care and wellbeing requires the utmost attention.”
According to the Government of Ontario more than 12,000 children and youth are in the care of children’s aid societies in Ontario, including children and youth in kinship care, foster care and group care placements.