Improving Outcomes for Children and Youth in Care in Ontario
By Pat Convery, Adoption Council of Ontario
On September 29, 2015, the Ministry of Children and Youth Services (MCYS) in Ontario announced initiatives that will improve outcomes for children and youth who are Crown Wards and in the foster care system. The announcement moves forward an agenda that Ontarians embrace. We recognize that the best way to improve outcomes for children and youth is to help them leave the foster care system with the permanency of a family for life. It is fitting to take a few minutes this week – National Foster Care Week – to bring some attention to the role of foster parents in accomplishing this goal of permanency for many of our children.
Foster parents are integral to success in permanency planning for children in foster care. Foster parents give children the family they need while the court and child welfare system work with birth family members to address issues that led to the need for the children to come into care. They work with birth family and extended family members to maintain and build the relationships that give a child that critical sense of connection to their roots.
When a child cannot go back to their birth family, foster parents are first to be considered to adopt a child in their care. Foster parents can give a youth the continuity of a family they know well in a community that is familiar to them. Foster parents have often built a positive rapport with birth family members and are the keepers of much information and knowledge about a child’s story and background that is often lost when a child transitions to a new family.
Sometimes foster parents are willing and able to adopt a child in their care. Sometimes they are willing but not able to do so without some financial assistance. This is reasonable to expect given the needs a child or youth may have as a result of experiences of trauma and loss in their early years.
Foster parents in Ontario must be pleased to hear that our government is now supporting them to be the caring adult a youth needs beyond the age of 18. Foster parents who adopt a child over the age of eight may qualify for a monthly subsidy that will remain in place until the child turns 21. As well, recognizing that some older youth may not want to be adopted, foster parents are able to have support to continue care for a youth past the age of 18 (when foster care ends) until the age of 21 or the youth completes Grade 12.
Permanency is a family to grow up and grow old in. Permanency of a family is what everyone needs. We celebrate that, in Ontario, foster families are always involved in permanency planning for children and now, even more of our foster families will be the ‘forever family’ for the children and youth they care so much about.
Bio for Pat Convery
Pat Convery is the Director of the Adoption Council of Ontario and a member of the Children in Limbo Task Force with 30 years of experience in child welfare and adoption practice. As a committed advocate for permanency of a family for all children and youth in foster care, Pat works with Ontario Child Welfare agencies toward a vision of every child and youth leaving foster care with a family.
Note from UNICEF Canada
UNICEF Canada is happy to see initiatives announced by the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services that are guided by the best interests of the child, a key consideration enunciated in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The child’s right to adoption is likewise protected in the UNCRC, and must, like all children’s rights, be promoted and respected.
Header photo taken by jonathanfoucher and cropped by UNICEF Canada.