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Who is Involved in Supporting Young People in Ontario?

Ensuring that Ontario's young people have what they need to succeed involves the efforts of many individuals, groups and organizations.

Programs, services and supports for youth currently available in Ontario are spread over a wide range of service sectors (such as education, justice, recreation, and private business) that each have different mandates and areas of focus.

As a result of the breadth and diversity of these sectors, we know that many programs and services for youth are developed independently with limited cross-sector collaboration. This means that many of Ontario's youth services are not as effective or efficient as they could be. Several recent reports51, 52 have argued that many youth-oriented services lack sustainability and that duplication, fragmentation and gaps persist.

Stepping Up has been developed to help break down these barriers across youth services by proposing an aligned and common purpose for those involved in supporting youth to succeed. This includes:

The Government of Ontario: The Ontario government provides many services that affect the daily lives of young people, such as education, health services, child welfare and services for youth with disabilities or special needs and their families. The government funds more than 150 programs and initiatives across 18 ministries that impact youth in some way. These services:


Families: Families – including blended families, foster families, extended families and chosen families – provide the basic necessities for youth to thrive. They play a critical role in creating a safe and supportive space for youth to develop. Families help youth to create and achieve their goals – beginning in childhood and continuing into adulthood. For youth in care, an extended network of guardians and caregivers may have the responsibility of meeting their needs and nurturing them to reach their full potential. The foundational support of families and caregivers is fundamental to positive youth development.

Other levels of government: Federal, municipal and regional governments and First Nations bands provide a range of important services and supports to youth, from immigration, affordable housing and employment supports to funding for public transit, libraries and recreation programming. These governments play extremely important roles in ensuring that services and supports for young people are available.

Foundations and philanthropic organizations: Ontario is home to many private and community foundations and philanthropic organizations that invest in providing young people with a range of opportunities, programs and services. These investments can range from building safe youth recreational spaces to supporting aspiring young filmmakers. Many youth maintain long-term relationships with foundations and philanthropic organizations through volunteerism or local community initiatives.

The Laidlaw Foundation invests in innovative ideas that support youth in becoming healthy, creative and fully contributing citizens. The foundation believes this vision can be achieved through youth and civic engagement, as well as the fostering of a diverse and socially inclusive society.53

Public agencies and boards: Ontario's publicly funded agencies - including school boards, children's aid societies and police services - have a big impact on the experiences of all youth in Ontario. These agencies are directly accountable to government and deliver some of the most important services in the lives of young people.

Charities and community organizations: Charities, not-for-profit agencies and youth-led local community organizations provide young people with a multitude of services, supports and activities - from local gymnasiums to mental health services or education supports. Some are large, sophisticated charities that receive funding from multiple foundations and government ministries. Others are smaller organizations which may operate with minimal resources and in response to a direct need.

Faith-based and cultural groups: Faith-based and cultural groups play an important role in supporting young people to establish their identities and develop relationships outside of the home and school. Young Ontarians represent a wide variety of spiritual and cultural backgrounds and many see faith groups and cultural communities as important in their lives.

Sport clubs, arts-based groups and other community associations: When youth are able to participate in sports, arts, and other community activities, they have important opportunities to build skills, gain confidence and make connections to their communities. Many of Ontario's young people look to coaches, counsellors and peers for support and guidance.

The private sector: Many private businesses provide youth with employment and mentorship opportunities and funding for youth programs. They also provide important services that facilitate positive developmental outcomes. Many businesses play a direct role in supporting youth through partnerships with government or charities. Some promote youth employment, provide youth mentorship programs, or support youth with disabilities or special needs to participate in the workplace.

Individual youth allies: When young people are asked who they see as their allies, they are likely to talk about individual people who they know in their communities, like mentors, peers and community leaders. Professionals and front-line workers such as teachers, coaches, counsellors and outreach workers play an extremely important role in supporting young people to develop successfully into adulthood. Any individual can become a youth ally. It is about building trusting relationships with young people and providing space for them to flourish and grow.

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