As of January 1st, 16 and 17 year-olds in Ontario are finally eligible to receive protection services from Children’s Aid Societies. OACAS and Children Aid Societies have advocated for over two decades for this important change. This new age group will engage with Children’s Aid Societies on a strictly voluntary basis, in recognition that a different service approach is required for older youth.
The change is part of the new Child, Youth and Family Services Act (CYFSA), passed in June of last year and scheduled to be implemented in April. The raising of the age of protection was implemented in advance of the full change in legislation as an amendment to the current Child, Youth and Family Services Act.
OACAS, in collaboration with Children’s Aid Societies, provided submissions to government that outlined insights and recommendations from the child welfare sector to support this service change.
Prior to this change, youth who were 16 or 17 and felt unsafe in their family situations had few options. They often had to choose between continue to suffer abuse or leave home with no support. Even if they approach social services for financial assistance, their parents may have been contacted—which could have put them at further risk. Many became homeless. Ontario was the only province in Canada that did not provide protection services up to the age of 18.
Minister of Children and Youth Services, Hon. Michael Coteau, in speaking publicly about the change, estimated that as many as 1,600 youth may be helped in its first year of implementation. OACAS and Children’s Aid Societies are encouraged government has also acknowledged additional resources will be required to extend protection services to 16- and 17-year-olds, and are awaiting further information about the allocation of new funds.
The Ministry of Children, Community and Social Servicess has confirmed that the Eligibility Spectrum—the tool designed to assist Children’s Aid Society child protection staff in making consistent and accurate decisions about a child or family’s eligibility for service at the time a society becomes involved— will apply to youth aged 16 and 17. Detailed changes will be made to the Eligibility Spectrum to coincide with proclamation of the CYFSA in April 2018. As Children’s Aid Societies gain experience offering protection services to this new population, they will adjust approaches to continually improve service.
OACAS has committed to helping Children’s Aid Societies track services to the new population from January to March 2018 in order to understand service volumes and inform provincial training and resource needs.