The Ontario government is revamping children’s aid, in an attempt to reduce the number of kids taken into care. The changes are aimed at reducing the percentage of black and indigenous children taken into custody.
“Child welfare should not be a system that is feared,” said Associate Minister of Children and Women’s Issues Jill Dunlop in announcing the changes on Wednesday morning in Toronto, saying the current system can be an “intrusive and traumatic experience for families and children.”
She said the province will provide more community-based services, and give families a “stronger voice in decisions affecting them.”
It will also give preference to care in the community — residential care such as fostering — over group home settings.
The minister said that Black and Indigenous and marginalized youth are apprehended at a rate five times their population. She said the current system is full of “harmful assumptions” — children can be removed from their families simply because they are living in poverty — and that will change.
“We want children to grow up with their families and communities … we want to keep families together when we can, reunite them when possible,” she said.
“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,” she said. “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.”
Jeff Schiffer, executive director of the Native Child and Family Services of Toronto, said he is “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 over-representation of Indigenous children in the child welfare system.”
More than 12,000 Ontario youth are in the care of children’s aid in the province.