Alex Smith, quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, and youth speak about the challenges of living in foster care and the need for investing in the education of foster youth. This video provides a way to help spread the message about the challenges of transitioning from care and how individuals and organizations can help.
Bark Lake Leadership Retreat
On September 7th-9th 2012, YPAAG (Youth Policy Advisory and Advocacy Group) members spent 3 days together at the relaxing and beautiful Bark Lake Leadership Retreat. This year YPAAG welcomed several new members to the team! Members developed new friendships while demonstrating their leadership qualities through various team building activities such as icebreakers, challenging high rope courses, tandem canoeing, and campfires. YPAAG has been a leader in moving forward youth advocacy issues over the past six years.
An enthusiastic group of youth from Family and Children’s Services of the Waterloo Region got together to create a video entitled ‘Youth Leaving Care’. The video captures the realities of being a youth in care facing the prospect of ‘aging out’ of the child welfare system. It is their attempt to add their voice to a provincial campaign advocating for additional supports for youth leaving care. For more information on how you can help please visit their website.
Also, see The Provincial Advocates Youth Leaving Care Hearings Report for more initiatives related to advocacy for youth in care issues.
My REAL Life Book
The Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth partnered with dozens of volunteers — all young people in and from care — to hold hearings designed to address the issues faced by many of the 8,300 children and youth who are Crown Wards in Ontario.
On November 18th and 25th, 2011, children and youth from across the province spoke about their experiences and had the opportunity to help make changes. Professionals, families, and friends added their voices to help build understanding about what young people in care need to succeed as adults. Members of the Provincial Parliament, ministry staff, service providers and members of the public attended to listen and learn.
How it started
In 2010, the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth, Irwin Elman, met with a group of young people through Family and Children’s Services of Guelph and Wellington County. They offered a number of great ideas on what they wanted to see change. Irwin was encouraged, but mentioned that the issues and ideas were similar to what he had been hearing since the 1980s. One of the youth paused, and then said “OK buddy, so what are you going to do about it now?”
This began a process that saw Irwin and his staff meet with other youth in and from care, including those living in group homes, foster homes and shelters, and attending YouthCAN events and meetings. They also met with 15 Ontario Ministers and Deputy Ministers, the Deputy Minister’s Council, and many other allied organizations. From all of these meetings, one message came forward – loud and clear – from the youth involved: “All of you have done your best, now it’s our turn.”
The idea of the Youth Leaving Care Hearings was born!
Why were the Hearings important?
The Province of Ontario is the legal guardian of some 8,300 youth and children living in various parts of the care system. When youth in care leave the system (or “age out”) beginning at 18, sometimes they have not been sufficiently supported to develop the skills and resources they need to live independently. Youth in and from care wanted the opportunity to bring their voices together and tell their stories about the challenges of leaving care to those that have the ability to make meaningful and positive change.
How will the Hearings make change?
By placing children and youth in and from care at the centre of this process and supporting them to share what worked and what didn’t work for them, the Hearings offered a new opportunity to move forward.
After the Hearings, youth read and analyzed all of the submissions and wrote a report. The report, called My REAL Life Book, is being presented to the Ontario Legislature on May 14, 2012.
See what others are saying about the Youth Leaving Care Hearings:
Response to the request for advice on strengthening family-based care from the Commission to Promote Sustainable Child Welfare. On February 11, 2012, 15 members of YPAAG met in Toronto. Part of the group’s time was spent on developing responses to the questions asked by the Commission. As a large group, the documents from the Commission were reviewed and the questions were discussed overall. The group then broke into four smaller groups and worked on the individual “requests”. In each group there was a recorder, a presenter and report assistant (provide input for final write up). Afterwards, the group came back as a whole again. The sub groups presented what they had worked on and the large group was offered time to provide feedback and make additions. As a take-away, the report assistants were asked to provide a summary of their groups’ work which also was to include the additional input from the larger group. The YouthCAN Program Coordinator then completed the final write up based on the report assistants’ summaries and provided the document to YPAAG members. Click here for download.
2011 Letter of thanks from the Commission to Promote Sustainable Child Welfare to YPAAG for their recommendations related to issues faced by youth aging out of care. Click here to download.
2010 Child and Family Services Act Review.
The Youth Policy Advisory and Advocacy Group welcome the mandated 2010 review of the Child and Family Services Act (CFSA). This process allows for valuable input from youth in care in Ontario and the opportunity for positive changes to be made to the Act. YPAAG believes that there are legislative changes needed that would enable more youth growing up in Ontario’s child welfare system to experience success as adults. Click here to download.