TORONTO, Dec. 12, 2017 /CNW/ - A comprehensive analysis by the Ontario Child Advocate of 4,436 Serious Occurrence Reports (SORs) submitted to the Ministry of Children and Youth Services over a three-month period finds that the child's view is missing in 59% of the reports in which it is specifically required. This raises concerns about the report's effectiveness as a safeguard for young people's safety, experience and well-being in residential care.
"Serious Occurrence Reports are a significant source of information that can act as an early warning system to oversight bodies," said Ontario Child Advocate Irwin Elman. "Every individual receiving Serious Occurrence Reports about a child in care should read the report, assess whether they have a full understanding of what occurred, including from the child's point of view, and ensure that the child is safe."
By law, residential service providers must notify the Ministry of incidents deemed to be of serious significance, including in categories of death, serious injury and physical restraint, within 24 hours of the occurrence. Notable findings from the Office's analysis are particularly concerning given that many of these incidences do not require – and does not include –the child's view. Currently, the child's view is only required in incidences of physical restraints. The Advocate's Office recommends that the perspective of the young person involved in an incident should be a required component for all categories of Serious Occurrence Reports.
Notable findings include:
Physical Restraints: Half of all submitted SORs (2,230) concerned the use of physical restraints on a young person. Of these reports, 37% involved young people known to or suspected to have a developmental disability. Twenty-five agencies accounted for 80% of these submissions.
Contact with police: One in three SORs (36%) involved the police. A majority of police interactions concerned missing persons (49%) or a response to a medical or mental health crisis (24%).
Disability: Twenty-seven per cent of SORs relate to a young person with a disability.
Missing person: Eighteen per cent of SORs referred to missing young people. In 37 reports, the report identified the young person to be in high risk.
Self-harm: Fourteen per cent, or 641, of all submitted SORSs detailed self-harming behaviours. Over half (54%) of self-harming reports concerned girls, while 42% were about boys.
In the coming months, the Office will convene a series of roundtable groups with children's aid societies and residential care providers across Ontario to discuss the report's findings. The Advocate's Office is currently also conducting a systemic investigation on physical restraints to explore the topic in greater detail.
Today's report by the Ontario Child Advocate is a follow-up to the Office's initial findings on SORs, which were published in 2016, and provides a comprehensive analysis and discussion about the implications of these findings. The report analyzed serious incidences that were reported to the Ministry between January 1, 2014 and March 31, 2014. Dr. Kim Snow, of Ryerson University, was the principal researcher of the report.
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.