Ontario’s chief coroner has pointed an accusing at the child welfare system says it’s letting youth down by ignoring their cultural and emotional needs, and by not allowing them a direct say in their own care.
Twelve youths in the care of a children’s aid society or Indigenous Child Wellbeing Society died between 2014 and mid-2017. Two-thirds were indigenous, most died by suicide, all were dealing with mental health issues.
The report paints a picture of a cash-driven, patchwork system that risks leaving youth adrift and uncared for.
[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”Child protection agencies seemed to be overwhelmingly concerned with immediate risk and more often than not failed to address longer term risks, which the panel often felt were both predictable and preventable.”[/perfectpullquote]
It found many of the children had numerous residential placements ranging from formal care with more distant relatives to group homes hundreds of kilometres away from family. Each lived in an average of 12 placements. One young girl had 20 different placements over 18 months.
The panel also found no consistent means of tracking a child’s placements, no standard definitions for the various types of care homes available and the services they provide, and little oversight from Ontario’s Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services.
The report makes several recommendations, including:
- the creation of a “holistic” and “integrated” set of core services available to all children mental and physical health services, education and child care among them
- improving the number and quality of placements for people in care
- ensuring high-risk youth have a slate of services available to them until the age of 21
- providing equitable, culturally and spiritually safe services to Indigenous communities