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Gearing Up

Message from the Minister of Children and Youth Services

As the Minister of Children and Youth Services, it is my privilege and job to ensure all kids in Ontario are supported along their paths to reach their full potential.

As a parent of two kids in the middle years, I see how much they are growing every day and how their experiences shape them. As a parent I try my best to help them navigate the complicated worlds of school, friends, and community. I talk with them about what it means to be inclusive and to stand up to discrimination. I show them how important it is to put down our phones and go outside, and I talk with them about their lives. I try to model healthy habits every day.

I often hear from parents about the challenges they face supporting their kids. How difficult it can be to access transportation and to access the programs and services their kids want. I hear how challenging the cost of sports, music, cultural and recreational activities can be. I hear their worries about bullying and the devastating impact of discrimination. I also hear how families feel disconnected, and want a stronger voice in the programs and services their children receive.

Their stories are backed up by statistics – not enough kids have access to vegetables on a daily basis, get enough sleep, are active, or have a caring adult to talk to when needed. Our kids today sometimes feel alienated and are discriminated against for their race, ethnicity, culture, gender identity, or sexual orientation. At an age where kids can be vulnerable because of their mental health, early intervention and support is more important than ever.

This is why the Ontario government has created Gearing Up: A Strategy to Support Ontario Middle Years Children to Thrive.

We are gearing up by bringing together Government, community, and philanthropic partners to drive innovation and collaborations to work together to improve the wellbeing of kids and families across our province. We are putting family voice at the heart of policies and programs across government. We are extending initiatives to serve middle years children and families. Much is underway in Ontario to support middle years children, and we are committed to doing even more.

For the first time, the government of Ontario has a holistic, balanced, strengths-based plan to make these outcomes a reality for all children and families. Gearing Up outlines our aspirations for middle years children and their families. In addition to our goals for all kids, we have specific outcomes for First Nations, Métis and Inuit children and families in Ontario that are aligned with the Ontario Indigenous Children and Youth Strategy. We want children to be active and well, to have caring and connected families, to have positive relationships, to engage in learning, to feel valued, and to have communities that support them and their families to thrive. It is what all families want for their children.

We are reaching out to families, communities, educators, coaches, Indigenous partners, Elders, service providers and all adults working with children to Gear Up together. Together we will support more healthy, happy, hopeful and thriving children and families in Ontario.

Michael Coteau

Minister of Children and Youth Services