Implications for Recommendations

The Panel has considered the feedback from our consultations in the area of governance, including issues of oversight, service delivery, accountability and funding. We have also taken into consideration similar findings from reports over the past decade and the best and promising practices identified through our inter-jurisdictional review as well as right here in Ontario.

We have not identified an alternative model for which there is such clear and compelling evidence of its superiority that we believe Ontario should consider implementing it. We are also mindful of the differences between the Ontario system of residential services for children and youth and others and the difficulty in imposing a model from another jurisdiction. One would have to carefully consider the breadth of the province’s geography, the numbers of young people served across sectors, and the long history of a large, mixed public-private, decentralized service delivery system before proposing the destabilizing effects of a complete disruption of the current system.

Having said that, there is an urgent need to address the existing challenges in the current model of residential service delivery in Ontario. The Ministry must be equipped to provide the overarching, integrated oversight for its large and complex residential services system. It must ensure that it can compel, receive and analyze all of the information and data it requires and that it can be assured that high quality of care is consistently being provided to the many vulnerable young people it is responsible for in this province. The Ministry must ensure that there is transparency of information, strong accountability in the provision of services and that the everyday lives of children and youth in residential care are positive.

While the Panel considered various models of governance, including arms-length options, we are convinced that the authority and oversight of residential services must rest directly with the Ministry. The longstanding issues and challenges that we heard about can only be addressed, in our view, through clear Ministry leadership. We recognize that the Ministry is the steward of the system and it has shared responsibilities in many respects with its partners (parents, caregivers, agencies, Children’s Aid Societies, service providers, associations). Nevertheless, the strong, systemic, integrated oversight function must reside within the Ministry. Building and stabilizing this internal capacity within the Ministry should be a high priority and should reside within the Ministry for a substantial period of time prior to considering an outsourced or third party model.

The Panel envisions that a new, centralized Quality of Residential Care structure within the Ministry would provide integrated oversight of the quality of all residential services for children and youth, including child welfare, youth justice and children and youth mental health. The new structure would act as an integrating mechanism across sectors to avoid siloing, raise standards for quality of care, create consistency and support a continuous quality improvement culture in residential care. The new Quality of Residential Care Branch/Division would be situated in such a way that it reported jointly to the two operational Assistant Deputy Ministers in order to create an integrated means by which the divisions could work more seamlessly on the oversight of quality in residential services.