November 24, 2016

Statement to the Legislature

The Honourable Michael Coteau
Minister of Children and Youth Services

Adoption Awareness Month

November is Adoption Awareness Month, Mr. Speaker. That is why I am taking a few minutes this afternoon to talk about the importance of linking youth with appropriate families, and how our government is helping both children and caregivers access the supports they need in order to find caring homes.

Mr. Speaker, we know that all children and youth need and benefit from the support, security and stability of a safe, loving, committed and permanent family.

This is something every child deserves.

And that is why it is our goal is to boost the number of children in care who are adopted.

As Minister of Children and Youth Services, is my job to remove as many barriers as possible in order to help connect families with children.

Last year, our government announced a number of improvements to our provincial adoption system to help do just that. Many of those improvements have already come into effect, and children and youth in care and their adoptive families have started accessing these supports.

We are continuing to increase stability in the lives of adopted Crown wards and support adoptive families by helping more children and youth find permanent homes, helping adoptive families succeed with post-adoption resources and reducing financial barriers for families who want to adopt.

To help more children and youth in the care of children’s aid societies find permanent homes, we are strengthening adoption recruitment support. We are funding 15 adoption recruiters in partnership with Wendy’s Wonderful Kids.

The Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program focuses on finding homes for historically harder to place children, including older Crown wards, siblings, and children and youth with special needs. And starting this month, these recruiters will be on the ground in communities across Ontario, increasing our capacity to find permanent homes for these young people.

We’ve also invested in province-wide post-adoption family supports to help children and youth and their new families settle in comfortably with each other. We are working with Adopt4Life to expand their Parent2Parent Support Network, so more families will have access to parent resources and peer support. This kind of resource is so vital and helpful for families to connect with one another in order to chat about experiences and share lessons learned.

Through the Adoption Council of Ontario, we are funding a specialized training program for parents who adopt through children’s aid societies. The training will give parents the knowledge and skills needed to respond to challenges they may face with their children.

These programs will offer the resources and support that families need long after the adoption has been finalized.

We have also expanded financial supports to reduce financial barriers for families who want to adopt. More families are now benefitting from the expanded targeted subsidies for adopted Crown wards.

Our government has extended the Living and Learning Grant to include adopted Crown wards. It is a $500 per month (or $2,000 per semester) grant to help them with educational expenses in post-secondary education. This change comes as a result of my ministry working in close partnership with the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development.

We’ve also extended health and dental benefits to now include adopted Crown wards between the ages of 18 to 24. If they don’t have access to drug and dental benefits, they will have access to these supports that they might not otherwise be able to afford.

We are also working closely with Indigenous partners to provide culturally appropriate living spaces and supports for children and youth as close to their communities as possible.

That is why we are providing one-time capital funding of up to $5,000 to customary caregivers, to provide a safe, secure and comfortable environment to children and youth, as well as to make home repairs or purchase furniture or other items needed to meet ministry and child wellbeing society standards. This will help to ensure children are kept as close to their homes and communities as possible.

Mr. Speaker, with these programs and supports, we are delivering on two commitments: to help more children and youth in the care of children’s aid societies find a permanent home, and to make it easier for families in this province to adopt.

In Ontario, approximately 1,000 adoptions are completed each year through children’s aid societies.

With the improvements that we have put in place that have come into effect this year, we expect that number to only continue to grow.

I am proud this is a government that provides a range of supports and services to those who need it most – our next generation. It is my goal, my duty and my job as Minister of Children and Youth Services to ensure all children and youth get the support they need in order to succeed in life.

Mr. Speaker, each year we’re doing more for children and youth in care, and with the ongoing support of our partners in the child welfare sector, we will continue to work towards our goal - to help these children and youth reach their full potential in a safe, loving family.

Thank you.

The Honourable Michael Coteau
Minister of Children and Youth Services