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Methodology

The work of the Panel was informed by multiple sources:

  1. Foundational materials supplied to the Panel by MCYS, including previous reviews, background briefing documents, and other materials that describe the current state of the residential services system and its activities, and the reforms that the Ministry has already begun. For a full listing of all materials provided to the panel please refer to Appendix 6.

  2. Additional foundational material requested by the Panel from various units within MCYS as well as service providers, professional associations, and others, also contained in Appendix 6. Publicly available information about comparator systems and sectors in Ontario, across Canada, and international jurisdictions to explore models of residential care and mechanisms that support public care of vulnerable populations such as licensing, funding, and quality assurance. Within Ontario, particularly focus has been placed on the Long-Term Care and Child Care sectors as exemplars of a progressive and comprehensive approach to daily delivery of quality care to vulnerable populations, and dedication to measuring outcomes for performance evaluation and quality improvement purposes. Outside of Ontario, Alberta, BC, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Quebec, New Brunswick, California, New York, Wisconsin, Illinois, the United Kingdom, Israel, Australia and Scotland were jurisdictions reviewed.

  3. Consultation with stakeholders and partners across the province representing young people, families, caregivers, front line and agency management staff, professional associations and government staff. A total of 865 people participated in the consultations, including 264 young people. The Panel encouraged candour in all its consultations, and took care not to identify young people in any way in order to protect their privacy. The Panel structured the consultation process to give voice to those with lived experience who are not always heard in other forums.

From the outset of this project, the Panel was committed to ensuring that the voices of young people in out-of­home care were to be at the core of its consultation process. To this end, we developed a comprehensive youth engagement strategy. Our goal was to ensure that we spoke to as many young people with lived experience in residential care as possible, and that we make every effort to hear the voices of young people who often are not afforded opportunities to share their experiences. Our strategy was endorsed by both the Ministry and Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth. It found strong support amongst all service providers we encountered along the way, and young people themselves expressed appreciation for the opportunity to contribute to this process.

As part of its broader engagement strategy, the Panel held consultation sessions with young people currently living in residential services (primarily foster care and group care) at six regional sites: Ottawa, Toronto, Kingston, Thunder Bay, Sudbury and London. We collaborated with the Child and Youth Care programs at the local colleges and universities in each of the regions. Six senior Child and Youth Care students were hired and trained at each location. They each facilitated a discussion table related to one specific question or theme. The Panel requested that Regional MCYS Offices work with service providers from the regions in order to identify 50 young people for each consultation session, ideally from a range of service providers within the child welfare, children and youth mental health and private per diem funded operators. The young people rotated in smaller groups for discussions of the six themes/questions at each of the tables facilitated by a student. The specific themes that were explored with young people included Voice, Family and Relationships, Education, Basic Needs and Food, Therapeutic Activities and Recreation, and Treatment.

Following the round table discussions, the facilitators at each table documented the core themes raised by the young people. At least two Panel members and one Research Assistant were in attendance at each session. In addition, the Panel ensured the presence of at least one professional child and youth care practitioner who was available to young people who may have required support during the consultation process or respite from the consultation activities.

In terms of criteria for the identification of young people, the Panel asked the following to be taken into consideration:

  1. A smaller number of young people between the ages of 10 and 13;

  2. A larger number of young people between the ages of 14 and 19;

  3. All young people currently live in either foster care or group care, with both living arrangements represented more or less equally;

  4. Social and communication capacity to comfortably participate in small group discussions for a total period of up to three hours, with breaks and food provided throughout.

The Panel recognized from the beginning that many young people may not feel comfortable in larger group discussions, and therefore engaged in one-on-one consultations with young people who otherwise may not have been heard, including many young people with developmental disabilities and those impacted by Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), Autism and intellectual disability. In addition, the Panel held several focus groups with young people living in secure custody facilities, and furthermore consulted with young people already participating in formal or semi-formal groups through the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth (PACY - Youth Amplifiers), Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies (OACAS - YouthCan), Children and youth mental health Ontario (CMHO - New Mentality), MCYS and others. The Panel also joined the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth on a site visit and youth consultation day at a large residential service provider. And finally, the Panel ensured youth engagement of young people situated in unique contexts, including LGBTQ2S youth, Black Youth, Inuit youth, First Nations youth, and Métis youth.

The Panel’s rationale for a youth engagement strategy that included large groups, small groups, individual consultations and focus groups reflects its belief in the importance of the incorporation of youth voice and lived experience in understanding residential services. A critical aspect of the Panel’s work and final report is the meaningful integration and focus on youth voice.

During our consultations with young people, they were provided with materials and encouraged to sketch on the paper covering each round table if they wished to do so. The result were many colourful drawings, which the Panel has been happy to incorporate into our report with the permission of the artists.

For a full listing of organizations, professionals and young people who were represented throughout the consultations, please refer to Appendix 5.