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Message from the Minister of Children and Youth Services

Welcome to the 2016 Stepping Up Annual Report.

Our government is working to ensure that all children and youth in this province are best positioned for success in life.

We have achieved a great deal for our province’s youth. Last year, Ontario’s high school graduation rate reached an all-time high of 85.5 per cent, and that number has continued to rise; the percentage of youth employed full-time in work related to their field increased to 89.1 per cent; and the youth violent crime rate dropped steadily—down by 13 per cent since 2013.

Our government has created a more responsive system to help young people thrive. We have improved access to child and youth mental health services. We worked to better support young people living in and transitioning out of the care of children’s aid societies, Indigenous child wellbeing societies, and other residential care settings. We also announced an unprecedented investment to enhance autism services to better meet the needs of children and families in our autism community.

Ensuring youth in Ontario have the opportunities they need means addressing the barriers they face, and the barriers faced by their parents, caregivers and communities. We made a commitment to address systemic racism and discrimination, and to be inclusive of gender diversity. We also welcomed and helped to resettle refugees from Syria and other parts of the world into our communities. This year, our government continued its commitment to work in partnership with First Nations people, Métis, and Inuit on recommendations made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. We will continue to work together with Indigenous communities and leaders as we implement the Ontario Indigenous Children and Youth Strategy, upholding our government’s commitment to reconciliation.

This report also highlights what we plan to do in 2017. Changes to the Ontario Student Assistance Program will ensure students can go to school based on their ability to learn, not their ability to pay, by making tuition free for more than 150,000 eligible low- and middle-income students. A new, innovative employment program for people with disabilities will include a youth focus. The new Child, Youth and Family Services Act, 2017 replaces and improves the previous law, raises the age of protection, and ensures our children and youth are at the centre of decision making. With the Ontario 2017 budget, Ontario became the first province in Canada to make prescription medication free for all children and youth 24-years-old and under. These are just a few of the significant goals we are accomplishing this year.

We have made great strides, and will continue to raise the bar for all of our province’s children and youth. As we move forward, our efforts will continue to be guided by the voices of young people, their families, and those who work to support our youth. Moving forward together we will build a future where our province’s unique and diverse children, youth, and families can grow and reach their full potential.

Michael Coteau
Minister of Children and Youth Services