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Panel Recommendations for Legislative Amendments to the CFSA

As the Panel worked through identifying issues and formulating its recommendations pertaining to governance, quality and continuity of care, human resources, data, and voice, the need for legislative reform to remove barriers, provide enablements, and clarify or modernize language became clear. The Panel’s perspectives on legislative reform will complement The Report on the CFSA Review (2015a) process completed by the Ministry, and the resultant recommendations for consideration in the policy work currently underway. Many of the Panel’s views are consistent with the themes that emerged from The Report on the CFSA Review (2015a).

The Panel is interested in changes to the Act that would strengthen the Ministry’s authority to exercise oversight of residential services. Licensing is a major category that could be strengthened through legislative reform. Overall, the Panel believes that any child in out-of-home care must only reside in a licensed home. The two categories of licenses currently provided for within the CFSA do not capture emerging models of care that involve 2 or fewer young people. A new category of license that would provide for a customized license for unique service concepts that fall outside of the two existing categories would ensure that all care contexts are licensed. Additional aspects that would strengthen the impact of the licensing process include enabling unannounced inspections at any time by a broad range of designates, and meaningful consequences for non-compliance through progressive consequences, potentially beginning with administrative monetary penalties of graduating levels, and ending with broader criteria for the removal of a license. Transparency of inspection results through the public availability of status/reports is also recommended.

Public reporting is another category that could be legislatively enabled. Requiring an independent study assessing the quality of care, continuity of care and outcomes of children and youth in out-of-home care at a defined period of time (e.g. Every 5 years) to be presented to the Legislature by the Minister of Children and Youth Services would provide an external complement to internal oversight mechanisms. In addition, requiring the public posting of service provider performance through license status, licensing inspection reports or other measurement data would also improve the oversight of the sector. These recommendations are consistent with The Report on the CFSA Review (2015a) theme of increasing transparency and accountability.

The Panel recommends changes to the Act that would enhance the quality and continuity of care provided in out-of-home care. Legislative enablements to ensure that all staff that care for vulnerable children (full-time, part-time, and designated one-to-one staff in group care as well as to workers assigned to foster homes or family-based care) are qualified to do so through a combination of pre-service and in-service criteria are key to the Panel, as are provisions for tracking young people throughout their journey in residential care (including across sectors) and into independence. The Report on the CFSA Review (2015a) also cited issues related to transitions and continuity of care and information sharing in its report.

Also consistent with The Report on the CFSA Review (2015a) participants, the Panel is concerned about some of the language contained within the Act. The Review identified a need to modernize the language in the Act, including the “removal of language from the CFSA that is viewed as archaic, confusing or stigmatizing. The language in the legislation should be amended to be more common, current, respectful, strengths-based, and child- and youth-focused.” The Panel would suggest that the use of the term Crown Ward and Society Ward are prime examples of language that is pejorative and in need of modernization.

The Panel also recommends that the Ministry consider capping occupancy at 8 residents in group care, children and youth mental health, and open custody/detention and units within secure custody/detention centres. While we did not identify evidence in the literature, our observations and feedback from stakeholders suggested that the establishment of effective relationships with children and youth is best accomplished in smaller settings.