The child welfare sector of Ontario is committed to using data to continuously improve the services it provides to children and families. This page explains what “performance indicators” are in the context of child welfare, why they are important, and the next steps in the Performance Indicator Project.
Performance indicators were one of the mechanisms suggested by the 2009 Commission to Promote Sustainable Child Welfare. The performance indicators measure provincial service performance by Ontario Child Welfare Agencies (agencies) in the areas of :
- permanency; and
- well-being of children, youth and families.
The Provincial Performance Indicator Project began in April 2013. Since that time, the child welfare sector has collaborated with academic and research partners, the OACAS, and the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services (MCCSS). Together, these key groups support the development, collection and reporting of indicators that measure outcomes of children and youth. The impact of the Project continues to evolve as data is analyzed and agencies strive to gain further insight into service quality, performance and outcome measures.
Child Welfare Societies and Performance Indicators
Through the Provincial Performance Indicator Project (PI Project), child welfare agencies have taken important steps to increase transparency and accountability and demonstrate their commitment to improving service quality and achieving better outcomes for the children, youth and families they serve.
Why is service performance measurement important?
Analysis and reporting of service performance indicators:
- Fosters ongoing learning and continuous service quality improvement;
- Increases transparency, and accountability for society service performance;
- Supports effective organizational planning
The use of indicators for performance analysis enable agencies and the sector to answer the following strategic questions:
- What areas of work of a child welfare agency are most important in achieving good outcomes for children, youth and families?
- How can we better understand the impact receipt of services are having on the safety, permanence and well-being of the children, youth and families being served?
- How well is an agency serving children and families?
- Are agencies making positive progress in improving their services to children, youth and families?
Facts and Figures
Child welfare agencies, along with research partners, the OACAS, the MCCSS and other provincial stakeholders, will continue their work to develop indicators that effectively measure progress toward key outcome areas of safety, permanency and well-being. Agencies are committed to examining their results in order to achieve additional insight into sector and local agency’s strengths and where to focus continuous improvement strategies.
Current Performance Indicators
About the Performance Indicators
By definition, performance indicators can be both descriptive and numerical results that measure the performance of an important service. They can also measure efficiency, effectiveness, value for money, and client satisfaction. For example, numerical performance indicators can measure outputs such as: how much of a service was delivered, percentage of age groups, proportion of specific factors, or the cost of interventions.
In the provincial system of performance indicators, Children’s Aid Societies are collecting numerical data to measure performance in five areas of child welfare: safety, permanence, well-being, organizational capacity, and governance effectiveness.
As of March 2015, the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Servicess has been reporting on five performance indicators from Children’s Aid Societies to the public. These performance indicators focus on safety, permanency, and well-being.
Performance indicators will inform the practices, protocols and procedures of Children’s Aid Societies as well as help influence management decision-making related to program development, budgeting and planning. They will help to build public confidence in the continuously evolving child welfare field.
Ultimately, provincial performance indicators will tell the story of children and youth by identifying what has been accomplished and highlighting areas where improvement will lead to a stronger child welfare system.
The performance indicators project is a long-term initiative that is in its second phase. The focus has been on developing province-wide performance indicators based on standardized definitions that measure important aspects of child welfare service. Tools and resources have been developed and provided to agencies to build capacity to collect data around these standardized definitions. As the project moves forward, the number of performance indicators collected and reported publicly will continue to evolve.
Some examples of Ontario service data that are publicly available are:
The Ontario Looking After Children project (OnLAC):
Children’s Aid Societies have been providing data to the OnLAC database, housed at the University of Ottawa, since 2000. The data come from the detailed assessment that CAS workers fill out for each child who has been in care for more than a year, and covers health, education, identity, family and social relationships, social presentation, emotional and behavioural development, and self-care skills. This data is used by Children’s Aid Societies to inform strategies for improvement. To read the OnLAC summary report for Year 20 (January 1, 2020 – December 31, 2020) click here.
Ontario Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect (OIS):
The University of Toronto Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work conducts the Ontario Incidence Study every five years. This study examines the incidences of substantiated maltreatment at Children’s Aid Societies. There have been six cycles of the study, conducted in 1993, 1998, 2003, 2008, 2013, and 2018. These studies can be accessed through the Canadian Child Welfare Research Portal which provides access to up-to-date research on Canadian child welfare programs.