In June 2015, a group of former and current youth in care presented ten ways they want to see the child welfare system improved to senior leadership of Children’s Aid Societies from across the province. The presentation was made at a quarterly gathering of Children’s Aid executives in Toronto.
The youth are all members of the Youth Policy Advocacy and Advisory Group (YPAAG), which was formed by youth across the province to advocate for their needs. The YPAAG youth have a strong voice within the child welfare system and their point of view on the experience they have lived is becoming increasingly heard at senior levels of Children’s Aid Societies and the provincial government. This group has written letters to Ministers, made submissions to Standing Committees, been consulted by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities and is gaining recognition as a respected stakeholder.
The youth came together to identify their recommendations separate from the provincial priorities of the field. These top recommendations come out of a series of conversations the youth have had over the last year. The youth in care top ten recommendations for improvement of the child welfare system in 2014/2015 are:
- Make OSAP more flexible for us because it may take us longer to finish school.
- We want to leave home when we’re ready, not at 18. All youth up to 25 should receive the same supports, not just those going to school.
- We want full health and dental benefits up to age 21 for all youth from all agencies no matter where we live.
- We want access to our files; we want to say who can see our files.
- We want to know why we came into care, we want choice about where we live and who we live with, and we don’t want to keep getting moved around.
- We want the same worker the whole time we are in care, we want workers to understand our mental health needs, and we want to understand how decisions are made around agency supports and resources for youth.
- We don’t want to move far from home, we want help to find the best foster parents, we want the choice to say no, and we want bad homes closed. We want all people looking after us – foster parents, group homes, and workers – to communicate better.
- We want to be kept together and connected with our brothers and sisters.
- We want good mentors and transition workers for every youth. We want help getting our driver’s license. We want better information about leaving care.
- We want to be treated like people, like family, not just like files. We want to break down stereotypes and be involved in training caregivers and staff.