It’s official! May 14th is now Children and Youth in Care Day
In late March, the Honourable David Onley, the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, granted royal assent to Bill 53, an Act to Proclaim Children and Youth in Care Day.
This Act recognizes May 14 of each year as Children and Youth in Care Day, acknowledging the enormous contributions current and former Crown and Society wards make to the Province, as well as the strength, bravery and resilience shown by these children and youth in the face of adversity.
The new law is the result of a private member’s bill put forward by Soo Wong, MPP for Scarborough-Agincourt.
Mary Ballantyne, Executive Director of OACAS, said “On behalf of our children and youth, the Ontario Association of Children`s Aid Societies (OACAS) thanks the government, and particularly Soo Wong for marking May 14th as Children and Youth in Care day. This is one more way to show that we value our young people and acknowledge the unique experiences they face. Youth will now have a day that they can call their own, a day to be proud of and a day to feel united across Ontario. We thank MPP Wong for her dedication to making this day a reality.”
Click here to learn more about Soo Wong`s private member bill.
Celebrating Children and Youth in Care Day
To celebrate this important milestone, YouthCAN and OACAS will be hosting a Youth Civics Day event at Queen’s Park on May 14th, 2014. This event will unite youth in care from all across the province to connect, celebrate, and learn about provincial politics at the legislature. For more information, click here.
In November 2011, youth in and from care shared their experiences and stories growing up as Crown wards of the province during the Youth Leaving Care Hearings at Queen’s Park. The Hearings were the first of their kind in Canada and examined the challenges that Crown wards face when they begin to age out of care at 18. The project was organized in the format of Standing Committee Hearings and captured verbal and written presentations from over 200 individuals, primarily youth and former youth in care, as well as professionals serving children and youth. The youth organizers, panelists and presenters included many youth from the OACAS YouthCAN program. OACAS was officially represented at the hearings and comments are captured in the written report.
‘My REAL Life Book’ a report that outlined recommendations from the Youth Leaving Care Hearings, and written with the input of youth in and from care, was subsequently submitted to the government in May 2012 by the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth. The report called for “fundamental change” to better support youth as they transition from care, including the proclamation of a Children and Youth in Care Day.
Recently, new supports were announced for youth leaving care, including the creation of 50 Youth-in-Transition workers and access to health, dental and extended health services for young people previously in care, ages 21 to 24.
Click here to learn more about post-secondary supports for youth in care.
More needs to be done to help youth reach their full potential
These supports are an important step forward, but more needs to be done. Evidence shows youth often respond to crisis by running away and living on the street. Children’s Aid Societies are not currently permitted to protect youth of 16 and 17 years in need of protection from abuse or neglect.
Youth in care should have every opportunity to remain “at home” (in foster care, group care or ideally adopted) until they complete high school. However, current modes of practice continue to assume that youth leave foster care at 17 years of age. Research has demonstrated that youth have better chances of completing school if they remain at home until 21.
Click here to learn more about OACAS recommendations to support these young people to reach their full potential.