Ontario’s first Child Welfare Immigration Centre of Excellence to open in May

The complex issue of immigration and citizenship facing some youth in care came into the public spotlight this month, when a former crown ward proposed a $200-million class-action lawsuit against the Ontario government by individuals who were taken into the care of a CAS and made Crown wards as non-citizen children.

OACAS and Ontario’s Children’s Aid Societies have spent the last several years working on this very important issue. Part of this work included creating a guide for CASs, Immigration Status Matters – A Guide to Addressing Immigration Status Issues for Children and Youth in Care. This is a resource for CASs and their staff that offers practical advice on strengthening organizational capacity and practices to address youth immigration status issues.

We are also pleased to announce that in May, Peel Children’s Aid Society, in partnership with Ontario’s CASs and OACAS, will open Ontario’s first Child Welfare Immigration Centre of Excellence. The Centre of Excellence will provide expert knowledge, guidance, and services to CASs regarding immigration and citizenship issues facing children and youth in the child welfare system. This will include:

  • Providing intervention and consultation regarding the complexities related to immigration challenges;
  • Developing partnerships and protocols with provincial and federal partners;
  • Collecting data to understand the scope of the issue in Ontario.

Youth who leave care without permanent resident status or Canadian citizenship are unable to access essential health and social services, pursue education, or obtain legal employment. As a result, these youths are left especially vulnerable, and until June 2017, CASs could not apply for citizenship on behalf of a minor. However, changes to federal legislation last year rectified this, along with permitting youth aged 18 to make their own application for Canadian citizenship, and reducing the cost of the application from $500 to $100. These legislative changes, in addition to the establishment of the Child Welfare Immigration Centre of Excellence, will allow Ontario CASs to better serve this population.

Peel CAS was selected to house the Centre because of its existing expert immigration team and its established partnerships with federal agencies involved with immigration. Peel CAS was also designated by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services to manage the Syrian Refugee Project related to settlement issues with a child welfare focus. Peel CAS’ immigration team addresses issues such as newcomer settlement, refugees, unaccompanied and separated minors, and repatriation and will provide a strong foundation for the Child Welfare Immigration Centre of Excellence.

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