Youth in care make recommendations to the Minister of Children and Youth Services

    A call to action from Crown Wards

    TORONTO, June 5 /CNW/ - Today, representatives of Ontario's Crown Wards
presented their plan to improve the lives of youth in care to the Minister of
Children and Youth Services Mary-Anne Chambers and to representatives of
Ontario's Children's Aid Societies (CASs) at the First YouthCAN Conference
organized by the Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies.
    "Where is the policy piece on youth transitioning to adulthood you
promised us?" said a young presenter to the Minister in a room of 400 people.
"You said our issues are important to you and we have been working hard in the
last year, but we want to see what you can do. We call on you to make a
difference in our lives, our outcomes, our successes, by really listening to
us. Not hearing, but listening and implementing change."
    A group representing approximately 200 participants from the YouthCAN
Conference gave detailed recommendations to the Minister on how to better
prepare and support youth in care for success in life. Their recommendations
were developed during the weekend conference with one question in mind - "What
would a good parent do?" These recommendations are grouped in four areas:
Raising the age of eligibility to 25, Educational Support, Financial
Assistance, and Emotional Support.
    One of the main recommendations from the youth is to increase the age of
eligibility for service from 21 to 25 years of age. Currently, youth age out
of the system and are no longer eligible to receive service after their
21st birthday. One of the youth said that many youth in care have no family
and their social worker is often their only family. "A phone call from my
worker for my birthday or Christmas is something I will never let go," a youth
said tearfully.
    Youth from care pursuing post-secondary education asked for continued
support during their studies. Many youth reach the age of 21 mid-way through
their college or university programs and are bereft of financial support and
the encouragement to continue or finish their studies. Youth identified
several measures that will help them achieve their academic goals, including
support for:
    -   Educational assessments for those attending post-secondary education
    -   Books ($500 per semester) if in post-secondary before 21
    -   Tuition subsidy (half of tuition if attending school before 21)
    -   Application fee for university/college
    -   Summer employment within a Children's Aid Society

    Many youth living on their own without family support rely on their
monthly living allowance from their Society for their basic living needs. One
teary-eyed youth said, "Children's Aid was my family, I do not have a mother
or father to run to for money when I need money for rent."
    Other recommendations included:
    -   Annual review of living allowance to be adjusted to the cost of
    -   Ministry to increase the minimum living allowances for Crown Wards
        across the province which was last set in 1994
    -   Training for youth in planning and budgeting

    Crown Wards leaving care at the age of 21 must face life on their own when
most young people are either staying or returning home to live with their
parents, as reported by StatsCan. As many youth in the care of Ontario's child
welfare agencies have spent most of their lives in care, they continue to rely
on the support of their only family, their CAS worker.
    Youth identified emotional support of their social worker as critical to
their survival and success. They said:
    -   "We need more worker time, not less. Decreased caseloads for staff
        working with transitional aged youth is necessary as transitioning
        into independence requires additional support and the extra
        involvement from people who are important in our lives."
    -   "Treat us like your own kids. We want you to call us and do the
        little things that can really make us feel that we are loved and have
        unconditional support, even after we turn 21."

    The youth presenting today recognized the improvements and changes made
by CASs to improve the lives of youth in care since they first voiced their
issues and concerns to better succeed in life. For example, most CASs have
increased the living allowance rate, the average of which is now up to $800
monthly, and many of them are also developing youth rooms designed for youth
to meet and feel a sense of belonging. A few Societies are extending some
services to youth beyond the age of 21. In addition to the Clark Bursaries and
Grants and other bursaries, some Societies are also providing more educational
supports for youth pursuing post-secondary education. Others are building a
better support network for youth by providing specialized staff for youth
transitioning out of care. Overall youth are asking for all Societies to
improve all services and supports for Crown Wards transitioning out of care
across Ontario.

    About the Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies

    OACAS is a membership organization representing Children's Aid Societies
in Ontario. The Association has served its members, the community, the public
and the government in a variety of ways since 1912. These services have
included the promotion of child welfare issues, government relations,
advocacy, policy development, communications, research and special projects,
members' support, quality assurance in child welfare practice and training for
all protection workers throughout the province.

For further information:

For further information: Marcelo Gomez-Wiuckstern, Communications
Manager, Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies, (416) 987-9648,
(416) 407-3046 (mobile),

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Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies

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