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Introduction

Overview

The purpose of the Ontario Child Protection Standards (2016) is to promote consistently high quality, responsive service delivery to children and families receiving child protection services from Children’s Aid Societies (CASs) across the province. High quality and responsive child protection services are focused on producing positive outcomes in the areas of child safety, permanency and well-being, while simultaneously demonstrating accountability for decisions made and services provided in keeping with the expected level of performance set by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services (MCYS). The standards are the mandatory framework within which child protection services are to be delivered. They clarify expectations regarding the minimum level of performance for child protection workers, supervisors and CASs, and create a norm that reflects a desired level of achievement.

The 2016 Standards guide the child protection professional in his/her practice at each phase of service delivery, starting from the receipt of a referral and eligibility determination, through the investigative phase of service, case transfer, ongoing service case management, and finally, the closing of a child protection case. The Standards also include requirements with respect to supervision that occurs throughout the different phases of service. The first standard, new in 2016, outlines practice standards relevant to all the phases of child protection service that are described in this document.

The 2016 Standards replace the Child Protection Standards in Ontario (February 2007). They are consistent with the Child and Family Services Act (CFSA) and its regulations and should be applied in keeping with the paramount purpose and the other purposes of the CFSA (see CFSA s.1(1-2)). O. Reg 206/00, “Procedures, Practices and Standards of Service for Child Protection Cases” requires CASs to use the Standards, and the Standards are consistent with the legislated requirements in the regulation.

Standards Revisions

In 2013, the Child Welfare Secretariat (CWS) of MCYS led a review of the Child Protection Standards in Ontario (February, 2007). At the time the Standards were reviewed, approximately 6 years had passed since their implementation and a review was timely to ensure that the Standards continued to provide optimal protection for children and consistency with current best practices and research.

The MCYS Strategy to Reduce Administrative Demands on CASs and the Ontario Government’s commitment to the “Open for Business Initiative” (OFB) were also key influencers for completing the review. The strategy balances the need for more effective and integrated accountability processes to keep children and youth safe with more efficient and effective ways of doing business. The goal of the government’s OFB initiative is to enhance government-to-business interactions by improving service delivery, increasing efficiencies and streamlining processes.

In their Working Paper Reducing Administrative Burden in Child Welfare (2010) as well as their Final Report Realizing a Sustainable Child Welfare System in Ontario (2012), the Ontario Commission to Promote Sustainable Child Welfare identified the previous Child Protection Standards in Ontario (February 2007) as a significant source of administrative burden for CASs. Key findings from the Commission’s Final Report were that the Standards placed “unrealistic and ineffective compliance expectations” on CASs, and that there was inconsistent interpretation by CASs of the requirements. The Commission concluded that it is critical that workers are able to use their skills and competencies, and that checklists (e.g. standardized assessment forms) should not replace the role played by professional judgment.

A comprehensive review of the Child Protection Standards in Ontario (February 2007) was undertaken by a Working Group with representation from CASs, the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies (OACAS), the Association of Native Child and Family Services Agencies of Ontario (ANCFSAO) and MCYS including CWS, Regional Offices, Client Services Branch and the Child Protection Information Network (CPIN). CAS working group members included representation from both urban and rural CASs, small and large-sized CASs, multi-service agencies, and Aboriginal CASs. Additional feedback was also collected from CASs who were not members of the Working Group to inform the review.

The mandate of the Working Group was to undertake a review of the Standards with the primary objective of streamlining them to reduce administrative burden so that child protection workers are able to spend more time providing high quality direct services to children and families in order to improve child safety. The Working Group assessed the requirements in the Child Protection Standards in Ontario (February 2007) using a standardized review tool which ensured an analysis of whether the requirements:

Consultations were also held with the Office of the Chief Coroner and the Violence Against Women sector on specific changes to the standards related to their relevant areas of expertise.

During the drafting process, additional consultations were held with key child welfare sector and Ministry stakeholders. Additional jurisdictional research and reviews of the literature were also undertaken to inform the revisions. The revisions are aimed at achieving the following objectives:

A revised draft of the Standards was reviewed by the Working Group members, as well as a number of second level readers who had not been part of the original Working Group. The second level readers were from both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal CASs from across Ontario, and were representative of front line child protection workers, supervisors and Directors of Service. The feedback provided on the revised draft was incorporated into the final version where appropriate.

Format of the Standards

Each standard includes the following sections:

The 2016 Standards also includes the following sections:

Differential Response Model

The Differential Response Model of Child Protection Service in Ontario (the DR Model) continues to be the MCYS mandated practice approach for delivering child protection services in Ontario. Used in combination with the Child Protection Tools Manual1 and the Ontario Child Welfare Eligibility Spectrum2 , the DR Model offers differential approaches to service delivery which are based on the type and severity of child maltreatment, and are customized to provide what each child and family requires.

1 As it may be amended from time to time and implemented by policy directive. ?
2 As it may be amended from time to time and implemented by policy directive. ?

The DR Model promotes a strengths-based approach to service delivery and encourages engagement of the child, family and their support system in decision making and service planning. Client engagement is a means of effectively assessing and securing the safety of the child.

The goals of the DR Model are as follows:

History of the Ontario DR Model

In 2003, the Ministry of Children’s Services Child Welfare Program Evaluation Report was released. The report, which resulted from an extensive evaluation of child welfare services in Ontario, made a number of recommendations for improvements to the child welfare system that would result in better outcomes for children, and be fiscally sustainable over time. In 2004, the CWS was created to develop or revise policy and amend legislation in order to bring the evaluation recommendations to life, and to transform child welfare service delivery in Ontario. The implementation of the DR Model was one component of this overall child welfare transformation.

The Ontario DR Model was initially developed following a comprehensive review of existing DR models from other jurisdictions across North America and Australia, and the child protection policies and procedures of those jurisdictions. The CWS reviewed the evaluations of a large number of existing models and selected components of the models that appeared to be most effective and that were suitable within the Ontario context. A focus group of Service Directors from several CASs provided feedback throughout the development of the Standards. The DR Model and the Child Protection Standards in Ontario (February 2007) also underwent an extensive province-wide consultation process with CASs prior to implementation.

The previous standards, the Child Protection Standards in Ontario (February 2007), were the primary vehicle through which the DR Model was first implemented in Ontario.

Acknowledgements

The revised content of the 2016 Standards has been informed by the hard work and dedication of the members of the Working Group to Streamline the Child Protection Standards in Ontario, which was comprised of representatives from the following organizations:

This process would not have been possible without the commitment of the members of the Working Group from the above organizations as well as the many second level readers who provided their time to review and provide input into the final document. The questions raised and recommendations made by them and the many other representatives from the child welfare sector throughout the review process have contributed to a document which better reflects current best practices and research. Their breadth and depth of experiences serving some of the most vulnerable children and youth in Ontario were integral to the review process.

This collaborative review process has culminated in a set of renewed standards which support the ultimate goal that children and their families will experience high-quality, responsive services from CASs, that are focused on improved outcomes in the areas of child safety, permanency and well-being.