Legislation to support children, youth and families

The legislation makes improvements to several areas of child, youth and family services. The chart below outlines the changes that impact four key areas: prevention and protection, quality improvement, governance and accountability, and relationships with First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.

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Prevention and Protection

The Child, Youth and Family Services Act, 2017 (CYFSA) puts children and youth at the center of decision-making and paves the way for services that are more respectful and responsive to their voices and needs. The Act supports child-focused, proactive and culturally appropriate services that protect vulnerable young people and prevent crisis situations for children and families.

Child and Family Services Act Child, Youth, and Family Services Act, 2017 Impact

The Child and Family Services Act (CFSA) did not sufficiently recognize the rights of all children and youth receiving services under the Act.

The new Child, Youth, and Family Services Act (CYFSA) affirms and strengthens the rights of all children and youth receiving services under the Act, including their right to have their views heard in decision making regarding the services they receive.

Children and youth will be made aware of their rights when receiving services, and will have a voice in their service decisions.

Clear expectations for service providers on how to work with children, youth and families.

The CYFSA did not sufficiently address the diversity (e.g. culture, race, creed, gender identity and gender expression, sexual orientation) of children, youth and families across Ontario who receive services.

The  CYFSA affirms Ontario’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, and seeks to address systemic racism and the barriers it creates for children, youth and families receiving services.

The legislation also requires children’s aid societies to make all reasonable efforts to pursue a plan for customary care for First Nations, Inuit and Métis children and youth in need of protection.

In addition to the legislation, the ministry:

  • Supports the implementation of the One Vision One Voice framework, developed by the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies in partnership with leaders from the Black community, to support culturally appropriate child welfare services for Black children, youth and families;
  • Has implemented Identity-based data collection in Youth Justice Services for the diversion, probation and detention/custody programming. This data will help the ministry better understand who is receiving youth justice services and improve the outcomes for specific groups requiring children’s aid societies on the Child Protection Information Network to collect and report aggregate identity-based data about the children and youth they serve, including data about race, Indigenous identity, gender identity, and sexual orientation. This data will help the ministry and children’s aid societies better understand who is receiving child protection services and improve the outcomes for specific groups.

Better information through public reporting and data collection will inform policies and programs and enhance service planning and delivery for all children and youth.

Services will be more inclusive and culturally appropriate for all communities in Ontario, supporting better outcomes for children and youth of all cultural backgrounds.

Some youth aged 16 and 17 have limited access to child protection services.

The  CYFSA incorporates changes to the CFSA that came into effect on January 1, 2018 raising the age of protection to include all children under the age of 18.

All 16 and 17-year-olds will have access to protection services, reducing their risk of homelessness, human trafficking and involvement in crime.

Need for greater focus on prevention services.

The  CYFSA confirms Ontario’s commitment to prevention, early intervention, community support services and strengths-based services.

Focus on early intervention and prevention will help children and families avoid crisis situations as well as future involvement with child protection services.

Need for greater clarity around expectations of service providers.

The CYFSA puts children and youth at the centre of decision making and recognises that children and youth have rights to be respected and voices to be heard. Service providers are required to inform children or young persons about their rights and to support them in understanding and exercising their rights.

Improvements to the complaint process and accountability measures with decisions made by service providers to strengthen the rights of children and young persons in care.

In determining the best interest of a First Nations, Inuk or Métis child in child protection matters, consideration is given to the importance of their cultural identity and connection to community when making decisions.

A new privacy framework that will outline rules and responsibilities for the collection, use and disclosure of personal information, and will support privacy-protective child and youth services planning, management and delivery once implemented (targeted to come into force January 1, 2020).

The CYFSA also provides:

  • Greater authority to promote the safety of children in child welfare cases outside Ontario’s borders
  • Regulation-making authority to prescribe police record check requirements for service providers to further protect the safety and wellbeing of children and youth
  • Limits on the use of mechanical restraints on children and young persons
  • Physical restraints are prohibited unless authorized under new regulations, and only in limited circumstances, including that there is imminent risk that the child or young person may injure themselves or others and a less intrusive intervention is or would be ineffective in preventing, reducing or eliminating the imminent risk.
  • Authority to conduct searches in youth justice facilities and to dispose of contraband found during a search.

Stronger rules and regulations so that service providers are offering high-quality care and protecting children’s safety and wellbeing.

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Quality Improvement

Improving the quality and consistency of services across the province to better address the needs of children, youth, and their families.

Challenge Change Impact

The adoption system would benefit from better coordination and transparency.

The new legislation includes provisions to clarify and enhance openness in adoption processes. The CYFSA will better align inter-country adoption requirements with The Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption.

Children will have a stronger voice in adoption proceedings.

Children involved in inter-country adoptions will be better protected.

Information-sharing requires clearer guidelines.

The new CYFSA sets out clear rules for the collection, use, disclosure and access to personal information held by government-funded and licensed providers.

The legislation also includes the Minister's authority to request the collection of information, including race-based data, from clients of service providers.

Children, youth and their families will only have to tell their story once, and will receive integrated services across the province.

Improved service delivery and evaluation through a better understanding of how particular groups are being served.

Enable the government to enhance service planning, delivery and evaluation to help children, youth and their families receive the services they need.

Support the full implementation of Ontario’s Child Protection Information Network (CPIN) in children’s aid societies.

Need for a modernized licensing framework for child and youth residential services.

The new CYFSA improves the licensing framework for child and youth residential services.

Residential licensing regulations under the CYFSA include enhancements that support the health, safety, and well-being of children and youth in licensed residential settings, including requirements for children’s rights, fire safety, providing reasonable access to nutritious food in addition to regular meals and cleanliness of the residential setting.

It introduces new and enhanced accountability mechanisms. The licensing framework includes the authority for unannounced inspections and new authority to publish certain licensing and compliance information.

Strengthened oversight of licensed residential services will help to improve the quality of care for children and youth.

Limited ability for the government to intervene in children's aid societies, if needed in the public interest.

The CYFSA provides the ministry with new, more flexible tools to address society compliance or performance issues when in the public’s interest to do so. These tools include: the authority for the ministry to issue a compliance order, appoint or replace a minority of Board members, appoint a supervisor to temporarily operate and manage a society, or amalgamate societies.

More efficient and consistent service experiences for children, youth and their families.

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Accountability and Oversight

Strengthening governance and accountability by improving monitoring, oversight and transparency across the child welfare and licensed residential services sectors.

Challenge Change Impact

Need for improved oversight of licensed residential services

Accountability and oversight of licensed residential services has been strengthened to ensure children and youth in Ontario receive the best possible care.

The legislative and regulatory requirements for licensing of residential services have been enhanced to further improve quality of care, safety and well-being of children and young people in residential settings, including:

  • Specifying requirements that apply to all licensees, group care and foster care;
  • Prescribing intervals at which children and youth will be informed of their rights and making enhancements to residential service provider complaints processes
  • Enhancing the safety requirements related to fire safety, the use of physical restraints and the state of repair for children’s residences; and
  • Adding a new Minister’s regulation, in effect on July 1, 2019, which expands licensing categories

Increased oversight will lead to improved quality of care for children and youth who require supports that cannot be delivered at home.

Need for independent advice on child welfare.

The CYFSA provides legal authority for the Minister of Children and Youth Services to appoint members to an advisory group to provide guidance on child and family wellbeing, including child welfare.

The Minister's advisory group includes partners across the child welfare and residential services sectors.

Better information will lead to more effective policy development and programs to improve services and outcomes for children and youth.

Limited tools to hold children's aid societies and transfer payment agencies accountable.

The CYFSA allows the Minister of Children and Youth Services to appoint or replace a minority of children's aid society board members, including the chair, and appoint a supervisor to temporarily operate and manage a society in certain circumstances.

It also provides personal liability protection to members of children's aid societies' boards of directors when they have acted in good faith.

In addition to the new legislation, the government also intends to require children's aid societies to:

  • begin collecting identity-based data and provide aggregated data reports to the government
  • promote responsible executive compensation in the sector
  • share annual budgets and board members' annual expenses publicly
  • report publicly on activities to better serve diverse communities in annual reports
  • continue reporting on compliance with Child Protection Standards. The next review of the standards will be conducted by the ministry in partnership with Ontario's Anti-Racism Directorate.
  • report on the composition of boards and how they reflect the diversity of the communities they serve
  • implement a standard complaint form across all children's aid societies

Increased accountability and financial oversight helps allow for a stronger, more efficient children and youth services system, with more resources going toward the provision of services.

Personal liability protection helps support the recruitment and retention of skilled directors to govern children's aid societies.

The new CYFSA enables the designation of lead agencies, including child and youth mental health agencies, and provides authority to prescribe their functions.

Establishing lead agencies for child and youth mental health will help improve accountability in the sector and help improve the service experience for children, youth and their families.

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Relationships with First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples

Supporting the best possible outcomes for Indigenous children and youth through culturally-appropriate supports, and working in partnership with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis community leaders.

Challenge Change Impact

The CYFSA did not reflect the unique relationships between First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples living in Ontario and the Government of Ontario.

The new CYFSA acknowledges that First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples are constitutionally recognized peoples in Canada, with their own laws, and distinct cultural, political and historical ties to Ontario.

The CYFSA also references Jordan's Principle, and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples' acknowledgment of the importance of belonging to a community or nation.

The changes expand and modernize language throughout the legislation by:

  • replacing outdated terms such as "Indian" and "native person" with expanded and more inclusive terms such as "First Nations, Inuk or Métis child," as well as allowing for self-identification.
  • replacing outdated terms "Native community" with "Band," and "First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities," respectively.

This supports the Ontario Indigenous Children and Youth Strategy, with the goal of improving outcomes and opportunities for First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and their families and communities by making services more community driven, integrated and culturally appropriate.

These changes recognize the importance of culturally appropriate services in connecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children and youth to their cultures, communities and heritage, and in promoting improved life outcomes.

The changes also support the increased participation of First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities in child and family services for their children and youth.