Perspectives on Tracking Across Sectors

The Ministry is currently unable to track children between sectors, which has serious implications for the province’s capacity to understand children and youth’s trajectories through residential care and outcomes following these services. Through our consultations, we learned that many children and youth obtain residential services at several points in time from multiple sectors, living in numerous settings with various levels of intensity and quality. Children and youth might return home between episodes of residential care or may be in care on a continuous basis from first entry to discharge. Pathways through residential services are as diverse as the young people who utilize these services. There is currently no mechanism for systematically documenting the various residential services that any given young person has received in their lifetime from birth to adulthood.

The Panel found several exemplars for collecting and sharing information and tracking children and youth through multiple systems. For example, the Ministry of Education has made strides in tracking children by assigning each child an Ontario Education Number (OEN). The OEN is a unique number that identifies students in the public education system and is used to track student records along with assessments and evaluations of achievement. Although the OEN began as an initiative for elementary and high school age children, it then expanded to early education and college and university level education. This involved collaboration across the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities and the Ministry of Education. The collaboration yields great potential for understanding educational trajectories between early childhood and adulthood.

MCYS has started an initiative with the Ministry of Education to move toward understanding educational outcomes for Crown and Society wards in the care of children’s aid societies using the OEN. While this initiative is ongoing and to date has not yet resulted in any reports on educational outcomes, it is critical that this kind of collaboration is supported and expanded to include children and youth in all forms of residential care, and to include information sharing across residential service sectors.

We found several examples of missed opportunities for developing the capacity to track young people across service sectors. For instance, the province developed the Child Protection Information Network (CPIN) to enable timely sharing of critical child protection information among children’s aid societies. At present, legislative restrictions to data sharing mean that CPIN will have limited capacity to track information across sectors. CPIN was developed to increase information sharing within the child welfare system, without the capacity to share information with the youth justice and mental health sectors and about young persons with complex special needs.