TORONTO, June 30, 2015 /CNW/ - Children and youth living in the province's residential service system are struggling and in urgent need of better care, supports and protection, said Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth Irwin Elman in response to last week's announcement by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services to launch a review of the child and youth residential service system. An expert panel will lead the review and provide the ministry with recommendations by the fall.
"We know we can do better because children tell us so. We support the initiative by the province to review all children and youth residential services in Ontario," said Elman.
Children and youth who live in a residential setting (e.g. group and foster homes, treatment facilities, youth justice open and secure custody/detention facilities) are intended to receive a range of supports from the province, including counselling, behavioral intervention, medical and/or psychiatrist counselling and treatment, and crisis support.
"On any given day, my Office hears from children and youth who say that they feel alone and are struggling while under the care and protection of the province," said Elman. "These are vulnerable children living with a special need or a mental health issue. They could be children taken into care by a children's aid society or a youth in conflict with the law and have a court order. It is the province's responsibility to ensure they are supported appropriately. It is the province's responsibility to ensure they achieve their full potential. I am supportive of this review and hope that it will bring fundamental change."
Compared with other young people, children and youth in the residential service system face a unique set of challenges under the province's care. Of note:
- Each year, more than 19,000 serious occurrences are reported to Ministry officials from children residences (i.e. use of intrusive measures including children placed under physical restraint; use of chemical restraint; assault; missing person reports; charges by police. etc.).
- Almost half of children and youth (aged 5 to 17) who live in group and foster homes are on psychotropic medication ("behavioral-altering" drug).
- Approximately 20 per cent of children and youth who receive children's mental health services receive the wrong "level" of care while others are waiting for far too long.
- An estimated 44 per cent of youth in care graduate from high school compared to an 81 per cent graduation rate for the general population.
"I hope that the scope of this review and the individuals selected to serve on the expert panel will demonstrate that the province is serious in listening to the concerns of young people and open to partnering with them to create fundamental change," said Elman.
The ideas and lived experiences of children and youth under the Advocate's mandate are captured in a number of reports written by young people, most notably My REAL Life Book (based on the landmark Youth Leaving Care Hearings); Feathers of Hope: A First Nations Youth Action Plan (based on the voices of 100 First Nations youth); The Ultimate Health Rights Survival Guide (a step-by-step guide on the health rights of youth); It Depends Who's Working (a youth reality at the Roy McMurtry Youth Justice Centre); and the Blueprint for Fundamental Change to Ontario's Child Welfare System (prepared by the Youth Leaving Care Working Group, a partnership between the Advocate's Office and the ministry).
SOURCE Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth
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