On November 24, representatives from Children’s Aid Societies (CASs) across the province met at the Ontario Legislature for the child welfare sector’s annual MPP Briefing Day. For the first time, this event was co-hosted by the Association of Native Child and Family Services Agencies of Ontario (ANCFSAO) and the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies (OACAS).
MPP Briefing Day creates a forum for Board governors and senior leaders from Ontario CASs to meet face-to-face with Minister Tracy MacCharles, senior leaders from the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Servicess, and MPPs to discuss the most pressing issues facing child welfare in Ontario.
“MPP Briefing Day offers an opportunity for the child welfare sector to come together with a unified voice to discuss key provincial priorities with elected officials,” said Mary Ballantyne, Chief Executive Officer of OACAS. “Although CASs can meet with their local MPPs in their communities, there is a special atmosphere when we all come together in a non-partisan way in the people’s house to demonstrate to our elected officials how child welfare works and the challenges we face in keeping children safe and families together.”
“We’re pleased to be collaborating with OACAS on the restoration of jurisdiction for our member agencies,” said Steven Vanloffeld, Executive Director at ANCFSAO. “A lot of work remains to be done across all levels of government to fully meet our community’s needs.”
“A tremendous amount of effort went into planning and implementation of this day,” said Karen Hill, Director of Indigenous Services at OACAS. “First Nations participants travelled great distances and spoke from their hearts about the needs of their children and families. It is hoped the government appreciates these efforts and makes concrete efforts to address these needs.”
The key advocacy priorities presented this year included:
- Restoring child protection authority to First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities. Representatives from Indigenous agencies that are mandated to offer child protection services as well as those in the pre-mandated stage presented their advocacy priorities.
- Ensuring sufficient funding and support for the new province-wide common information system known as CPIN (Child Protection Information Network).
- Ensuring sufficient funding so that CASs, especially Northern agencies, can continue to fulfill their child protection mandate.
- Ensuring sufficient funding so that broader community-based resources such as children’s mental health, adult mental health and addictions treatment, and domestic violence prevention can fulfill their role in helping keep children safe in their homes.
- Raising the age of protection so that youth are protected up to the age of 18. Currently, Ontario is the only province where the legislated child protection mandate ends at the age of 16.
- Amending the Child, Youth and Family Services Act to include board director indemnity against personal liability
After morning briefings, Minister Tracy MacCharles announced in the legislature that raising the age of protection of youth to the age of 18 is under “active consideration.”