Be There for Kids in Care: Reflections from Nicole Bonnie, CEO of OACAS on Children and Youth in Care Day 2023

Children and Youth in Care Day was created by and for young people in and from care in Ontario. Last year, in recognition of the day, OACAS launched a campaign called #ForgetMeNot, to bring renewed attention to the accomplishments and challenges of children and youth in child welfare.

This year’s campaign, in partnership with the Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada, highlights the ways that strong relationships and networks of support can help children and youth in care to be well and to succeed. We want all Ontarians to ask themselves the question: Are you there for kids in care?

We know at the most personal level that a single person can make a difference in the life of a child or youth. The stories we are sharing through this year’s #ForgetMeNot campaign are all examples of that.

And as a child welfare sector and at the broader systems level, we need to ask ourselves this question. We also need to be honest about the ways we are not there for kids in care. The systems, not limited to child welfare, but also including health, justice, and education, that we have inherited are built on colonial, racist, and oppressive ideologies and values. And they can be and are harmful to many children, youth, and families. The overrepresentation of Black, Indigenous, and other marginalized groups in child welfare is evidence of that.

So we are inviting our members, government partners, community stakeholders, service providers, and community members to reflect this Children and Youth in Care Day on the ways that they can better support the safety, well-being, and success of young people in the child welfare system, especially those who face disproportionate outcomes.

Together, let’s draw inspiration from the strength and resilience of children and youth in care, like Van, Troy, Sam, Aidan, Rose, and Kaygan, and make bold decisions and take decisive actions. Let’s take the time to celebrate their accomplishments, while also reminding ourselves that they face unique challenges and have distinct needs, and we have a collective responsibility to ensure those needs are met.

We need to work together across systems, levels of government, service providers, and with community to support vulnerable children and youth, and their families. Children and youth in care need allies, a sense of belonging, and collaborative responses to support them on their life’s journey.

Let’s be there for kids in care. They cannot be forgotten.