TORONTO, June 1, 2017 /CNW/ - Five years ago, young people in and from care spoke at the historic Youth Leaving Care Hearings at the Legislature of Ontario to voice their struggles and concerns with the province's child welfare system, and how the system often failed to recognize them as individuals with rights, and with their own needs, ideas and identity.
Since then, young people from across different care systems have continued to urge the government, decision-makers and service providers to listen to their voices to ensure their safety and wellbeing, and to create the necessary conditions to help them reach their full potential.
Their courage, resilience and refusal to accept the status quo pushed the government to introduce Bill 89, the Supporting Children, Youth and Families Act, 2017, in December 2016. At the time, the government heralded the replacement of the current Child and Family Services Act, 1990, as ushering in "historic change." Young people were hopeful, but on closer inspection, worried that simply too much was being left to the development of policies and regulations.
During the legislative hearings – and despite the limited advance notice – young people delivered a strong, united message on how the proposed bill needed to be improved in order to create meaningful change in theirs and others' lives. Today, Bill 89 passed third reading, and we are told that provisions concerning the increase to the age of protection will come into effect this fall, while proclamation of the new Act will follow in the spring of 2018.
I believe that this new Act, in its principles, represents a paradigm shift for the province with its commitment to the participation of children and youth in every decision that affects them, the creation of a child-centered system of service, and commitment to anti-racism and children's rights.
As the government shifts its attention from legislation to developing policies and regulations, they will now have to "walk the talk." We will continue to partner with young people to ensure they do just that. The new Act represents a promise to children in this Province, and we will work to do our part to ensure that those promises are fulfilled, and that the lived experiences of children and youth match the lofty words in this new legislation. There is much work left to be done.
Ontario's Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth
About the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth
The Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth (the Advocate's Office) reports directly to the Legislature of Ontario and provides an independent voice for children and youth, including children with special needs and First Nations children. The advocates receive and respond to concerns from children, youth and families who are seeking or receiving services under the Child and Family Services Act and the Education Act (Provincial and Demonstration Schools). The Provincial Advocate may identify systemic problems involving children and youth, conduct reviews and provide education and advice on the issue of advocacy and the rights of children.
The Advocate's Office can also conduct investigations and make recommendations to improve children's aid society services and services provided by residential licensees where a children's aid society is the placing agency.
The Office is guided by the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and has a strong commitment to youth involvement. For more information, visit: www.provincialadvocate.on.ca. For updates, read the Advocate's Blog and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
SOURCE Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth
For further information: Media Contact: Akihiko Tse, Communications, Media Relations Coordinator, (416) 325-5994, firstname.lastname@example.org, Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth