CARE4CARE: Celebrating Children & Youth in Care Day Out Loud and Online
On May 14, 2020, the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies (OACAS) joined in celebration with our members, partner organizations, Members of Provincial Parliament, and young people across Ontario to recognize Children and Youth in Care Day. This important day, proclaimed provincially in the Children and Youth in Care Day Act, 2012, is an opportunity to recognize the enormous contributions that current and former youth in care make to the province, as well as the strength, bravery, and resilience shown by these children and youth in the face of adversity.
This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the OACAS YouthCAN team released a toolkit to support child welfare agencies to celebrate virtually. The toolkit, informed by the OACAS Youth for Change Steering Committee and CAS staff, included activities to make celebrations more accessible, authentic, and engaging. Some of the ways agencies recognized their youth this year included: dropping off care kits; delivering pizza and messages of warmth and support; gifting movie passes and setting up virtual parties for their youth to connect and socialize; putting together videos to show their young people they are surrounded by a supportive community; and encouraging youth to share what Children and Youth in Care Day means to them.
With the hashtag #CARE4CARE, OACAS focused on building social media presence to raise awareness within and beyond the child welfare sector about the importance of the day. OACAS successfully engaged forty-two Members of Provincial Parliament, 7 Ministers, the Premier, and all Provincial Party Leaders in recognizing Children and Youth in Care Day on various social media platforms. For a full breakdown of who participated, view our chart here.
For many of the young people in and from care, the public nature of the celebrations on social media meant that they were participating in the day in a much more visible way to those outside the child welfare sector. For some, this meant publicly disclosing their status as a person with lived experience in the Ontario child welfare system for the first time. It also meant that events held remotely were more accessible to a wider range, and potentially more diverse group, of young people in and from care given the reduction of barriers to participate. However, the need to improve young people’s access to technology became even more apparent on the day, as there was a significant gap between those with stable Internet and devices, and those without. This is especially important because those with technological barriers disproportionately include young people who are rural, remote, Northern, and/or from marginalized identity groups (e.g., Indigenous/First Nation/Inuit, African Canadian).
Due to COVID-19, the challenges that young people in and from care face (e.g., inaccessible mental health services, housing instability, lack of community support) have been severely exacerbated. This was weighing heavily on the minds of many youth who engaged on May 14. Participants were vocal about the need for increased supports for those transitioning out of care, anxiety about when the moratorium will end, and the quality of care for those still in the system.
Overall, the celebration on May 14, 2020 reflected a diverse range of engagement within and outside the child welfare sector. The nature of social media provided a platform for those with lived experience to amplify their voice. The hope is that recognition for children and youth in and from care, and intentional discussions about reducing challenges within the system, is something we build into our every aspect of our work.
The ultimate hope is that the resilience we celebrate young people having is no longer the skill required to survive the system.
Children and Youth in Care Day 2020 – Let’s Celebrate Together!
This important day, proclaimed into law as the Children and Youth in Care Day Act, 2012, offers an opportunity to recognize the enormous contributions that current and former youth in care make to this province, as well as their strength, bravery and resilience in the face of adversity.
Who are children and youth in care?
They are children and youth who live in kin, foster, and group homes.
They are children and youth who are not able to live safely with their primary caregivers because of neglect and abuse.
An average of 800 youth in care transition to adulthood and independent living every year.
OACAS and YouthCAN have created a new Children and Youth in Care Day Toolkit to help support celebrations and awareness raising on May 14. The Toolkit was developed by OACAS with input from both our Provincial Youth Steering Committees (composed of a diverse group of youth in and from care) and YouthCAN agency staff champions.
To support the new Children and Youth in Care Day campaign OACAS also has developed a new hashtag – #CARE4CARE – and logo. The lion in the new logo represents the bravery and courage these children and youth need in order to overcome the obstacles and challenges of being an individual in and from care.
On May 14 we are asking for your help to raise awareness within and beyond the child welfare sector about the importance of caring for children and youth in/from care. The more people understand their unique lived-experiences, the more likely children and youth in and from care will get the supports they need to reach their full potential.
Come celebrate with us! Use the resources on this page to help spread the word about Children and Youth in Care Day!
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