Backgrounder: Giving More Kids A Place To Call Home
Transforming Child Protection in Ontario
Beginning in 2006, Ontario introduced policy and legislative changes to improve child protection services and increase the number of children growing up in permanent homes, including through adoption. These changes included establishing a standardized homestudy and important changes to how CASs are funded. Since then, fewer kids are coming into children's aid society care and more kids are getting the chance to succeed in permanent homes.
In 2010, public adoptions increased by 21 per cent over the year before. The ministry continues to work with partners throughout the sector to look at ways to strengthen Ontario's child protection system and help all Ontario children reach their full potential.
Research shows that children and youth in permanent care have significantly better outcomes. Adopted children are almost 25 per cent more likely to complete high school or its equivalent and twice as likely to enrol in post-secondary education. Adopted children are also 22 per cent more likely to enter the labour force as young adults and have higher incomes.
Reducing Barriers to Adoption
At any given time in Ontario, 18,000 children and youth are receiving services from a CAS. Roughly 9,000 of them are Crown wards. Only about 10 per cent of these kids are adopted each year. About 75 per cent of Crown wards have access orders - a legal order that prescribes how much and what type of contact the child has with significant people in their lives, including their birth family. Currently, Crown wards with an access order are not eligible for adoption.
If passed, the Building Families and Supporting Youth To Be Successful Act, 2011, would increase the number of Crown wards eligible for adoption by terminating their access order when they are placed for adoption. In cases where it would be in the child's best interest to maintain some contact with their birth family or another significant person after adoption, the court could make an openness order.
Ontario is reducing the wait list for homestudies and establishing standardized timelines. A homestudy is an assessment process between the prospective adoptive parent(s) and a qualified adoption practitioner, usually a social worker. It helps determine whether the parents are prepared and suitable to adopt and helps match them with a child based on, for example, age of child, whether the child has special needs or whether the child would benefit from having siblings. In 2006-07, Ontario standardized the homestudy across all types of adoption - public, private and international.
Supporting Aboriginal Children
Ontario will work with CASs and First Nations so Aboriginal children and youth remain connected to their communities and cultural traditions, by placing them within Aboriginal communities, through the use of customary care. Customary care is the care and supervision of an Aboriginal child by a person who is not the child's parent, according to the custom of the child's band or native community. Each community defines its own traditions.
Supporting Youth In Care
Extended Care and Maintenance agreements provide Crown wards with financial and other support, until the age of 21, to help them successfully transition into adulthood. Currently, youth who leave care at age 16 or 17 cannot return to their CAS for these important supports. Changes, if passed, would allow youth whose CAS care or customary care ended at age 16 or 17, to come back to their CAS and be eligible to receive benefits until age 21. As well, to make it easier for youth receiving financial support from a CAS to go to college or university, some of that income will be exempt from the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) application process. This will mean youth may be eligible for greater OSAP support. Eligible youth in the care of a CAS also participate in a financial savings program to provide a 'nest egg' to help them transition to adulthood.
Matching Parents And Kids
The government is doubling the number of Adoption Resource Exchanges - forums that match prospective adoptive families with children needing adoption - annually across the province. Open to anyone interested in adopting a child from Ontario, these events are primarily for prospective parents who have completed a homestudy through a CAS or an approved private adoption practitioner.