Every child and youth needs long-lasting relationships to flourish. Research indicates that children raised in stable, nurturing environments that allow for the development of lifelong relationships with at least one healthy adult have better outcomes as adults.

The primary goal of Children’s Aid Societies (CASs) is to support children to live safely with their family of origin. When that is not possible, CASs look for another family to provide safety, security, and support. This can be temporary while the parents are working to address the circumstances preventing the child from living at home. It can also be longer term, requiring the young person to come into care until other lifelong connections can be found.

The importance of lifelong connections with adults who can offer emotional support over the long term is critical. For many youth in care, leaving care is when they struggle the most — and are therefore in the greatest need of consistency, stability, love, and guidance.

In child welfare the kinds of relationships that provide this care are described by the term “permanency”.

The formal definition of permanency is “an enduring family relationship that is safe and meant to last a lifetime; offers the legal rights and social status of full family membership; the child or youth has a sense of belonging and affiliation to a family/extended family with significant community connections and provides for physical, emotional, social, cognitive, and spiritual well-being.”

Permanency options

Child welfare recognizes that children and youth can work towards permanency through a variety of situations. In 2005 this recognition was expressed in the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services’s Child Welfare Transformation strategic plan. The Transformation plan focused on expanding and enhancing the range of permanency options available to children and youth in care. This perspective was also endorsed by the Commission to Promote Sustainable Child Welfare in 2012 when it stated, “We need to recognize that the best setting for a child or youth should be based on his/her needs, not on an ideological framework that promotes one level of care as “better” than another.”

CASs currently consider a continuum of permanency options for children and youth in their care. The vast majority of children receiving services from CASs remain with their families of origin (admission prevention). When children and youth are not able to find permanency with their families of origin because of ongoing protection concerns, CASs will consider the following other permanency options: kinship service, kinship care, customary care, legal custody, adoption, and transition to adulthood.

In some instances permanency also includes long-term foster care. Not all children who are in the care of a CAS are suited for or interested in adoption, kinship care, or legal custody. For many of these children, permanency and a sense of belonging are found with their long-term foster families. These permanency options are based on the recognition that there are many paths to long-lasting relationships, and that there is no one right answer for every child.

Permanency and the Performance Indicators Project

CASs currently collect data on permanency through the Performance Indicators Project. The PI Project measures permanency at the point of discharge from care and includes transition to adulthood, kin service, customary care, legal custody, and adoption.

What is admission prevention?

The primary goal of Ontario’s Children’s Aid Societies (CAS) is to support children and youth to live safely with their families of origin. The majority of work that CASs undertake involves strengthening these families to achieve the goal of keeping them intact. As a result of this work, the vast majority of children and youth in Ontario who receive services from a CAS remain at home with their family or are ultimately reunified with their families of origin.

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What is kinship service?

Kin are individuals who have a relationship with a child or youth and may include biologically related kin or individuals without a biological connection but with a significant social connection. Examples include a stepparent, godparent, friend, teacher, coach and neighbour.

Kinship service occurs when a child or youth is placed in the home of an approved kin but the child does not have “in-care” status.

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What is kinship care?

Kinship care refers to the day-to-day care and nurturing of children by relatives or others described as family by a child’s immediate family members for children who are in need of protection. It can include an approved family member, godparent, stepparent, familiar friend, or community member who has a blood or existing relationship with a child or youth in care.

Kinship options are always explored for children who are in need of protection prior to having a child placed in foster care or a group home. Sometimes children need to be placed in temporary foster care while the Children’s Aid Society (CAS) seeks kin.

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What is customary care in Ontario?

First Nation, Métis, and Inuit (FNMI) family structures differ from the typical nuclear family in Western culture. FNMI families have strong family values, are often extended, and share collective responsibility towards children. FNMI families may be related by blood, but can also be tied by clan or other social structures. This collective responsibility for raising children is known as customary care.

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What is legal custody?

Ontario’s Child, Youth and Family Services Act (CYFSA) includes provisions that make it possible for the court to place a child in need of protection in the custody of a relative or community member. This provision, known as legal custody, involves an extended family member, community member, or foster parent legally gaining guardianship of a child. A distinguishing feature of legal custody is that the child is cared for by a relative or someone else close to them while maintaining their name, contact with family, and rights of inheritance.

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What is adoption in Ontario?

Adoption is the legal process that gives children a permanent, loving relationship with a new family when their birth families are unable to care for them. Adoption is intended to provide children with the stability and lifelong security that comes from a permanent home.

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Supports and Subsidies for Adoption

The province of Ontario provides adoption supports to families that have adopted through a Children’s Aid Society.

These supports include:

  1. Targeted subsidies for adoption for families with an annual income of $93,700 and under. The subsidies provide $1,035 per month per child between the ages of 8 and 21, up to a maximum of $12,420 per year per child;
  1. The Aftercare Benefits Initiative, which has now been extended to include adopted Crown wards between the ages of 18 to 24, if they don’t have access to drug and dental benefits through their employer, adoptive parents, or a spouse’s plan. The adoption must have occurred on or after June 1, 2016. The program offers prescription drug, dental, extended health and counselling benefits, and life skills supports that they might not otherwise be able to afford. Eligibility will be for four consecutive years up to age 24. It is administered by the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies (OACAS);
  1. The Living and Learning Grant (LLG) to help youth from care and adoptive families with the costs of pursuing postsecondary education. Ontario is expanding eligibility to include adopted Crown wards aged 18 to 24 who were adopted on or after August 1, 2013. Youth must be enrolled in full-time postsecondary programs that are approved under the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) beginning August 1, 2016. Effective August 1, 2016, the grant will provide eligible youth with $2,000 a semester ($500 per month) of full-time postsecondary studies to a maximum of $6,000 per academic year to help with educational expenses. Eligible youth may receive the grant for a maximum of four academic years;
  1. Funding to support customary care, a culturally appropriate placement option for First Nations children and youth. The one-time financial assistance of $5,000 supports First Nations families to provide a safe, secure, and comfortable environment to children and youth;
  2. Specialized training through the Adoption Council of Ontario for parents who adopt through Children’s Aid Societies;
  1. The Parent2Parent Support Network to support families that are new to adoption by matching them with experienced adoptive parents. This program is run by Adopt4Life, the association for adoptive parents in Ontario.

To learn more about these supports and subsidies please visit the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Servicess.

What is “transition to adulthood”?

In Ontario’s child welfare system, youth formally leave care at the age of 18. Every attempt is made to find a permanent, life-long family for youth in care prior to their 18th birthday, but for a variety of reasons this is not always possible, or desired by some youth. Children’s Aid Society staff and the youth make decisions together about the best plans to meet the youth’s needs, which include considering a range of CAS supports described below.

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