Complex Special Needs

Within the residential services system of Ontario, there appear to be few mechanisms to ensure that the inherent rights and well-being of young people identified as having complex special needs are attended to. Many of the past and present youth engagement initiatives implemented across the residential system of Ontario unfold at the exclusion of young people identified as having complex special needs. The Panel found no evidence that these young people have a voice and some agency in influencing major decisions impacting their lives. Additionally, placement decisions related to these young people are often made based entirely on bed availability and provisions for Special Rate Agreements. The Panel is concerned that the human resource context of Special Rate Agreements (one-to-one staffing) unfolds with limited consideration of necessary staff qualifications and supervision (see also Chapter 6 – Human Resources).

During our consultations, the Panel heard that unlicensed programs are emerging across Ontario, often operated on a for-profit basis, seeking to house these young people. While there may be merit in the small setting approach embedded in this model of service provision, the oversight, accountability and standards related to these operations rests entirely with placing agencies, who often are challenged to communicate amongst each other and to ensure sufficient presence in the settings. This is troubling, and further exposes young people identified as having complex special needs to circumstances of disempowerment, a lack of agency and voice, as well as dependence on profit-oriented professionals.