Childcare is an essential service in Halton and across all of Ontario. The system, however, is facing challenges as some children, youth and families aren’t getting the quality of support they need.
On Friday (August 23), Jill Dunlop, the Associate Minister of Children and Women’s Issues, announced the launch of an engagement program with youth, families, caregivers, frontline workers and child welfare sector leaders. The program plans to help strengthen the child welfare system for children and youth.
“If we are going to make a difference for children and youth, we must listen to them and then build programs that protect them and help improve their futures,” said Dunlop. “Ontario’s most vulnerable children and youth deserve the best supports we can provide, and we look forward to hearing advice and ideas on how we can make a meaningful difference in their lives.”
There are more than 12,000 children and youth in care in Ontario.
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Challenges the system is facing include:
- Children and youth don’t always get the quality of care they deserve.
- A disproportionate number of minority and Indigenous children and youth are in the care of children’s aid societies.
- Children and prospective adoptive parents are not being matched together for adoption as often as could be possible.
- The supports and services children and families access when they need help are not consistent across the province.
- Despite a 23 per cent reduction in the average number of children in care over the past six years, the system is not operating as efficiently as it should.
There are 50 children’s aid societies in Ontario, including 12 Indigenous and three faith-based organizations. Two Indigenous agencies are currently in the process of seeking designation as children’s aid societies.
The Children’s Aid Society of Toronto data also indicates Black and African-Canadian children in care are overrepresented at five times their representation in the city’s population.
The government is asking those affected by the system to provide feedback on their experiences and ideas through an online survey, which will be available on August 30. The ministry will also be engaging directly with Indigenous partners, service providers and stakeholders for their input.
All participants will be asked for their insights about the gaps, barriers, and opportunities to support better outcomes for children, youth and families.
“Our vision is for an Ontario where every child and youth receiving child welfare services has the supports they need to succeed, and to thrive,” said Dunlop. “Together, we will make this vision a reality.”
During the consultation process, the government will also be engaging with a third party to assess and provide independent advice on modernizing services. This will hopefully help the programs be better coordinated, focused on prevention and are high-quality, culturally appropriate, and truly responsive to the needs of those in the system.