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May 14, 2015

Statement

The Honourable Tracy MacCharles
Minister of Children and Youth Services

Children and Youth in Care Day


Mr. Speaker, I am proud to stand before this House as we - and all Ontarians - mark 'Children and Youth in Care Day'.

In 2014, our government proclaimed May 14 of every year as 'Children and Youth in Care Day'.

Mr. Speaker, today we recognize the strength and resilience shown by these children and youth. This day is an opportunity to raise awareness about children and youth in the care of the province and to reaffirm our commitment to supporting them to reach their full potential.

It was when I had just become an MPP in November 2011 that young people currently and formerly in the care of children’s aid societies told us of their personal journeys during the Youth Leaving Care Hearings at Queen’s Park. As a new legislator at the time, I remember listening intently and being humbled by their stories and inspired by their courage.

Building on these hearings, a Youth Leaving Care Working Group was established to build a plan for change to Ontario’s child welfare system.

Their final report, "A Blueprint for Fundamental Change to Ontario’s Child Welfare System," told us that children and youth in care need stability in their relationships, supports to succeed in their education, and help with transitions while in care and when leaving care.

Mr. Speaker, our government has listened carefully, and we continue to take action.

These young people now have access to a range of new resources and supports that will help them stay in school, pursue post-secondary education and training, maintain strong relationships, and better prepare them for leaving care.

For example, we know how important a good education is to future success. That’s why we’re providing $2,000 a semester, through the Living and Learning Grant, to youth formerly in care enrolled in OSAP-eligible post-secondary and training programs to assist with their living expenses. We expanded eligibility so that more youth can receive the Ontario Access Grant for Crown Wards. The grant covers 50 percent of tuition, up to $3,000 per year. We partnered with 30 post-secondary institutions across the province to cover the full cost of tuition for Crown wards and former youth in care.

Our government also knows how important stability is to young people who have experienced upheaval.

That is why we have increased the minimum monthly financial support for youth leaving care to $850, why we are funding 60 Youth in Transition Workers to help youth in and leaving care to access the services they need in their communities, and why we partnered with the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies to introduce the new Aftercare Benefits Initiative that provides former youth in care with access to prescription drug, dental and extended health benefits.

And our work continues, Mr. Speaker.

We are developing new resources and training for our frontline staff and caregivers of LGBTQ children and youth in and leaving care. And we are developing mentorship resources so children and youth in care are supported as they transition to adulthood. All of these initiatives have been informed and developed with youth and we will continue to engage youth as we move forward.

Formally recognizing children and youth in the province’s care through a Children and Youth in Care Day will help keep the issues that affect the lives of children and youth in and from care in the public spotlight. And it will remind this House - and all Ontarians - to stay focused on the children and youth that depend on us.

Thank you.