OACAS Response to the Passing of Bill 188 and Changes to the Child, Youth and Family Services Act, 2017

On April 17, 2024, the Honourable Michael Parsa, Minister of Children, Community, and Social Services, introduced Bill 188, Supporting Children’s Futures Act, 2024 (Bill 188). Bill 188 amends the Child, Youth and Family Services Act, 2017 (CYFSA), among other Acts, to improve the safety, well-being, and privacy of children and youth in care and other licensed out-of-home care settings. Today, Bill 188 passed and received Royal Assent.

OACAS and our members welcome the government’s efforts to improve the lived experiences of children and youth in care. As part of the legislative process, OACAS shared a response regarding Bill 188 with the Standing Committee on Social Policy. In our submission, we outlined key considerations related to Indigenous child and family services; child and youth rights; family- and community-based placements; and the sustainability of the child welfare sector.

While Bill 188 marks an important step forward in improving the experiences of children and youth in and from care, it is disappointing that it does not bring us closer to a more nuanced, sophisticated legislative framework that is responsive to different placement types. There are a range of out-of-home care settings where children and youth may receive care if they cannot remain at home with their primary caregivers (i.e., foster home, group, home, staff model, kinship, subsidized customary care, etc.). There is an urgent need for a legislative and regulatory framework that is sensitive to the different types of care, and care settings, so we can ensure children and youth receive high-quality, trauma-informed, culturally relevant care that is truly responsive to their unique needs.

It is important to note that while legislative and regulatory reform are critical, it is not the only tool available to the province when it comes to improving the experiences of children, youth, and families receiving services from a children’s aid society or Indigenous Child and Family Well-Being Agency (child welfare agencies). The province can do more, such as making targeted investments to strengthen social infrastructure and prioritizing prevention- and early intervention-focused work.

We once again call upon Ontario to strengthen social infrastructure in communities across the province. Child welfare agencies are part of the network of community-based organizations and service providers that promote and support the health, well-being, and safety of children, youth, and families. But our capacity to do so is dependent on the overall strength of the social infrastructure in their communities—which, at the moment, is woefully lacking. Demand for community-based services and support is rapidly outpacing the capacity of local organizations and service providers. We call on the Ontario government to make targeted investments to strengthen social infrastructure so community-based organizations can effectively collaborate to deliver vital support and services.

Most of the cases child welfare agencies encounter are not ones of extreme abuse or neglect. Instead, they are situations where caregivers are facing challenges, such as poverty, systemic barriers, unemployment, mental health, addictions, or inadequate housing. These challenges create stressors and complications that impact their capacity to look after the children in their care. Child welfare agencies are focused on ensuring children, youth, and families have the short- or long-term support they need to succeed and thrive. If this is a goal Ontario shares, they must do more. This work begins with ensuring children, youth, and families have access to the right support, at the right time, close to home.