New Resources and Supports for Youth in and Leaving Care
In Nov. 2011, youth in and leaving the care of a Children's Aid Society (CAS) shared their experiences and stories during the Youth Leaving Care Hearings at Queen's Park. A subsequent report, 'My REAL Life Book', was submitted to the government in May 2012.
In July 2012, the government established the Youth Leaving Care Working Group. Its mandate was to act on the first recommendation of 'My REAL Life Book' -- completing an action plan for fundamental change. The working group included young people previously in care and community members from a wide range of youth service organizations.
This week, the working group submitted their action plan, 'Blueprint for Fundamental Change to Ontario's Child Welfare System'. In response, Ontario is taking the next steps to improve the lives of children and youth in and leaving care. These young people will have access to a range of new resources and supports that will help them stay in school, pursue postsecondary education, maintain strong relationships, and better prepare them for leaving care.
New resources and supports include:
Continued Care and Support for Youth
- Increasing the minimum monthly financial support to youth aged 18 to 21 from $663 to $850.
Financial Support for Youth Enrolled in Postsecondary Education and Training
- Providing $500 per month to youth aged 21 to 25 enrolled in OSAP-eligible postsecondary education and training programs.
- Expanding eligibility for youth receiving Extended Care and Maintenance allowance to receive the Ontario Access Grant for Crown Wards. The grant covers 50 per cent of tuition, up to $3,000.
- Inviting public colleges and universities to partner with the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities to jointly cover 100 per cent of tuition fees (up to a maximum of $6,000 per year, for up to four years) for Crown wards and young people receiving Extended Care and Maintenance. For the 2012-13 academic year, 11 colleges and universities agreed to participate in the voluntary program.
- Establishing mentoring opportunities for children and youth in care through partnerships between children's aid societies and community agencies.
- Enhancing training for foster parents and group home staff so that they can better support youth as they transition to adulthood.
Youth in Transition Workers
- Funding for community agencies to hire up to 50 workers to support young people as they transition out of care. Workers will provide support and advice on life skills such as money management, job searches, cooking, housing and education.
Student Achievement Protocols
- The Ministries of Education and Children and Youth Services will support the development of protocols on effective student achievement practices to improve collaboration between school boards and CASs.
Specialized Education Programs
- School boards have been invited to submit applications to run pilot programs during the 2013-14 school year that focus on innovative delivery models. The programs will improve educational outcomes for secondary school students in the care of, or receiving services from, CASs.
These new resources and supports build on the steps already taken by Ontario to improve outcomes for children and young people in and leaving care, including:
- Allowing 16- and 17-year-olds who have left care to return to a children's aid society and be eligible for financial and other supports until the age of 21.
- Increasing awareness of existing programs like the Ontario Child Benefit Equivalent, which helps youth in care access educational, social, cultural and recreational opportunities, or grow their savings.
- Providing Registered Education Savings Plans for children and youth in care to help with the costs of postsecondary education or training.
- Helping more kids find permanent homes through adoption, legal custody and customary care.