OACAS and Children’s Aid Societies welcome the Chief Coroner’s Expert Panel Report, “Safe With Intervention: Report of the Expert Panel on the Deaths of Children and Youth in Residential Placements.” We are deeply saddened by the deaths of these young people in residential care. Many parts of the residential services and child protection system failed them and their deaths are unacceptable. Systemic change is needed desperately in order to prevent future tragedies.
Although Children’s Aid Societies have done much good work over the past two years on this issue, we must provide a more co-ordinated approach to the work, with a focus on mutual care and joint responsibility. We echo Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, Lisa MacLeod’s, comments that this is a shared responsibility—CASs, government, and group homes—and that we need to do more make sure that children are safe and cared for. We are encouraged by the scope of the panel’s recommendations. The changes needed cannot be addressed by one sector or one ministry alone.
The Residential Services Working Group, with joint leadership between the Association of Native Child and Family Service Agencies of Ontario (ANCFSAO), Children’s Aid Societies, and OACAS, has been working for the past year on making significant changes to change how agencies use residential services. This includes dramatically increasing the amount of information sharing going on between agencies about the group homes and foster homes they use. Through our child welfare Shared Services Program, standardized assessments and a common database for residential placements are in the works, so that agencies can make better informed decisions about safe placements for youth.
This good work will continue. We recognize the need to break down barriers and work collaboratively with all our stakeholders and partners to realize true systemic change. We will continue to act with urgency on this issue, as the most vulnerable children and youth in our care continue to be at risk in some residential placements. We all have a part to play in keeping children and youth safe.