Media Statement by Ontario's Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth on Ministry's response to Jeffrey Baldwin recommendations

TORONTO, Feb. 10, 2015 /CNW/ - Jeffrey Baldwin's tragic death in 2002 and the 103 recommendations made by the jury following the Coroner's Inquest in 2014 is a turning point in the way that we protect children in care in this Province.

Almost one year has passed since the jury outlined their recommendations directed at individual ministries, the Catholic Children's Aid Society, the Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies, and other agencies. The weight of 103 recommendations represented a call for fundamental change that is necessary. Individually, the recommendations are aimed at creating meaningful change in the child welfare system by closing the gaps and introducing critical tools and safeguards to better protect children in care.

One of the jury's recommendations (#103) called on the Coroner's Office to convene a press conference and publicly report on the actions to date by each ministry and agency. I was surprised to hear that the Coroner's Office is not interested in adopting this recommendation. I believe that we have a duty to keep these recommendations in the public domain. In response, I have asked the Coroner's Office to share copies of each agency and ministry's response so that my Office can analyze their actions to date and highlight any gaps or outstanding issues. I am committed to publicly sharing our analysis.

Today, the Minister of Children and Youth Services issued a statement outlining her ministry's response to the various recommendations. I recognize that there's lots of difficult work underway, but I also recognize that there are many recommendations still "under consideration" one year later. And many recommendations seem to have inspired lots of conversations, but little action.

Under recommendation #2, the ministry has stated that it is not willing to "contemplate at this time" the jury's recommendation to conduct a feasibility study to consider amalgamating Ontario's 46 children's aid societies under one agency and overseen by the MCYS. If change in the way that we protect children in our Province is going to happen then we need to consider all possibilities in how we do this work.  Thinking about what is possible is the way change happens.

For recommendation #1, the Minister (in her statement) reiterates her commitment to implement the Child Protection Information Network (CPIN) across all children's aid societies in order to create a single, integrated network. The new deadline for "go-live" is now 2019-20 – a full six years after the Inquest and almost 18 years since Jeffrey's death. 

Under recommendation #3C, the ministry states that it is "actively exploring options for expanding access to and disclosure of information in FastTrack, specifically in relation to assessment of alternative caregivers and other adults living in home." Children's aid workers need timely and comprehensive access to welfare police checks to ensure that a child is not placed with an alternative caregiver who may pose a risk. In my view, there is no compelling reason why the ministry cannot move forward quickly on this recommendation.

Once we have received all of the responses from the various agencies and ministries and have completed our analysis, we will have more to comment on this matter. It's safe to say, however, that we will continue to hold Jeffrey's life and death as a turning point for the Province.

About the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth
The Office of the Provincial Advocate reports directly to the Legislature 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, conduct reviews and provide education and advice on the issue of advocacy and the rights of children.

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.

SOURCE Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth

For further information: Media contact: Eva Lannon, 416.300.9721 or elannonassoc@gmail.com

RELATED LINKS
http://provincialadvocate.on.ca

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