Ontario Releases Strategy to Redesign the Child Welfare System
Five Pillars to Create Change
Ontario’s strategy to redesign the child welfare system is built on five pillars that focus on: community-based prevention services to enhance family well-being; improving the quality of residential care; increasing youth supports; developing stable lifelong connections for children and youth; and, improving accountability and sustainability.
Pillar 1: Supporting Child, Youth, Family and Community Well-Being
Provide higher quality, culturally appropriate and responsive community-based services with a focus on prevention and early intervention. As part of this work:
- Ministries, service providers and community organizations will work together to meet the needs of families early-on. This includes sectors that interact with families, such as schools, early-years programs, parenting programs and health and mental health services.
- Sectors will actively address the disproportionate referrals of Indigenous and Black families to child welfare and ensure they receive culturally appropriate supports.
- Children, youth and families will be connected more quickly to effective social supports.
- Indigenous children, youth and families, through the Ontario Indigenous Children and Youth Strategy (OICYS), will access prevention and early intervention supports that are culturally-appropriate and reflect their customs, heritages and traditions. This includes the implementation of Indigenous-led child and family services.
- Protection services are a last resort. When they are needed, they will be directly delivered by or with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples wherever possible.
Pillar 2: Improving Quality of Care
New initiatives will seek to improve the quality of care in residential placements. This includes enhanced training for staff and caregivers to better support children and youth when out of home care is required (e.g. voluntary care placements in residential, foster, community or kinship care). Family-based options will be prioritized over group care, where appropriate. Ontario is also releasing two new resources to improve experiences and outcomes for children and youth:
- Ontario’s Quality Standards Framework - A Resource Guide to Improve the Quality of Care for Children and Young Persons in Licensed Residential Settings, developed to support residential service providers in delivering high-quality care.
- Children and Young Persons’ Rights Resource, an online resource to help children and youth receiving services under the Child, Youth and Family Services Act, 2017 to know and understand their rights under that law.
Pillar 3: Strengthening Youth Supports
A key part of the strategy is ensuring children, youth and families have a strong voice in decisions about their care. This will include a priority focus on supporting children and youth to succeed at school and graduate with their peers, setting them up for future success at work and in adulthood. This includes:
- Expanding access to education supports and employment projects for children and youth in and from care (e.g. postsecondary, employment and apprenticeship programs).
- Dedicated, targeted supports to meet the distinct needs of children and youth and to respond to their cultural identity.
- Shifting financial investments to new initiatives to better serve Indigenous, Black, racialized and LGBTQ2S children and youth.
Pillar 4: Improving Stability and Permanency
Children and youth deserve supportive and loving homes that respond to their needs and identities. The redesigned system will support the development of lifelong connections and supports for children and youth through permanency, increased stability and success of family-based placements such as customary care, kinship service, kinship care and adoption. The changes will offer a more consistent, responsive adoption experience for children, youth and prospective parents. This will include:
- Improving access to supports for family-based caregivers (kinship, customary and adoptive).
- Developing a centralized adoption intake service and adoption service standards.
- Implementing centralized adoption matching.
- Expanding post-adoption parent training and peer supports.
- A campaign to recruit diverse foster/adoptive parents and retain those providing care.
Pillar 5: Increasing System Accountability & Sustainability
Create a more efficient and effective child welfare system, one that is financially sustainable going forward. This will be achieved by:
- Developing a new accountability framework focused on outcomes and enhanced service collaboration.
- Supporting children’s aid societies to implement shared services and back office functions, such as HR, IT and finance.
- Developing options for a new funding model that encourages prevention, early intervention and family-based care so that the system is financially sustainable in the long term.