Ontario Helping Young People Prepare for Independence
Ministry of Children and Youth Services
The Ontario province is investing in a new Aftercare Benefits Initiative. Starting this summer, eligible young people ages 21 to 24, who were previously in the care of a Children’s Aid Society, can access:
Health and dental services, including prescription drugs, vision care and hearing aids.
Extended health services, such as physiotherapy, psychotherapy, acupuncture, and chiropractic treatment.
Additional benefits, including therapy and counselling.
Ontario is helping young people leaving the care of Children’s Aid Societies find the right supports and services by creating 50 Youth-in-Transition worker positions across the province.
The Youth-in-Transition workers will help young people ages 16 to 24 by:
Securing local affordable housing.
Finding education and employment resources to help cover the cost of postsecondary education and training, or to find a job.
Identifying skills training, such as financial literacy courses and meal planning.
Accessing health and mental health services like being connected with a family doctor and counselling.
Locating legal services, including advice for youth in the justice system.
Since 2007, numerous changes have been introduced. In addition to the community based Crown Ward Education Championship Teams, the following financial and service supports are now available for youth from CAS care. Please note that in order to qualify for most benefits youth must apply for Ontario Student Assistance Plan (OSAP).
Application fee reimbursement for youth applying for post-secondary education:: Ontario Crown Ward Postsecondary Application Fee Reimbursement Program (2007)
Tuition grants of up to 50% (for university) to 100% (for single year college) of tuition up to a maximum of $3,000 per academic year for a maximum of four years: Ontario Access Grant for Crown Wards (OAGCW) (2007). This grant is based on financial eligibility.
Special OSAP exemptions for non-merit scholarships and bursaries for Crown wards, up to $3,500.
OCBe savings, provided to youth 18 years old, were not intended to offset educational costs, nor are they to be treated as income or assets in applying for OSAP, up to $3000 (please refer to MCYS directive).
Universal changes to OSAP, allowing increased earnings, more financial assistance, extended repayment schedules Strengthening Student Support in Ontario (2010) Some programs (e.g. book allowance) have been scaled back to fund the tuition fee reduction announced on January 3, 2012.
Ontario Tuition Grant (OTG) or fee reduction (announced as “the New 30% off tuition”) effective January 3, 2012 which provides tuition fee rebates to eligible students. This 30% cannot be added to any other tuition reduction (such as the Ontario Access Grant for Crown Ward Program)
Continued Care and Support for Youth and Extended Care and Maintenance (ECM) allowances are not treated as income for purposes of OSAP needs assessment, meaning that youth may keep full allowance and qualify for more financial assistance through OSAP. (Giving more kids a place to call home: September 2011) For more information, see CCSY Fact Sheet (ENG) and CCSY Fact Sheet (FRE)
Learning Living Grantof $500 per academic month for youth ages 21-24 inclusive who are registered in an OSAP eligible college or university. This is in addition to other grants and is to assist students transitioning out of care. (2013) Students must apply for this grant by visiting the OSAP website and submit before the deadline. To apply, click here.
Legislative change to allow youth whose court-ordered care was terminated at age 16 or 17 to return to CAS for financial and non-financial supports to age 21 Renewed Youth Supports (RYS)(2011)
OACAS three-year pilot project funded by Green Shield Canada for former Crown Wards, aged 21 to 23, to access Employee Assistance Plan-type benefits, delivered through Shepell FGI. 24-7 access to health & wellbeing, financial, legal and addiction counselling. Crown Ward Aftercare Benefits Initiative (2010)
New Continued Care and Support for Youth (CCSY) program came into effect May 15th and replaces Extended Care and Maintenance (ECM). It is a strength-based model. Youth sign a CCSY Agreement and complete a “Youth Plan” also. Youth receiving financial and other supports through CCSY is not contingent on them reaching their goals as outlined in the “Youth Plan”. For more information, see CCSY Fact Sheet (ENG) and CCSY Fact Sheet (FRE) or please contact the Ministry of Children and Youth Services for more information.
Crown Ward Aftercare Benefits Program is a pilot project funded by Greenshield Canada’s Social Surplus Fund and administered by Sheppell-FGI. The program offers counselling and other EAP type supports for youth transitioning out of care. Youth who turned 21 in 2011 or 2012 are eligible to access the program until their 23rd birthday. For more information visit www.oacas.org/crownward.
The Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies (OACAS) published the 2013 Child Welfare Report, providing recommendations to the government to help improve and advance child welfare in Ontario. The priorities speak specifically to the recommendations arising from the report of the Commission for Sustainable Child Welfare, Realizing a Sustainable Child Welfare System in Ontario, and signal recommendations to help the sector move forward in the areas of sustainability and modernization.
As of May 15, 2013, the Continued Care and Support for Youth (CCSY) program has replaced the former Extended Care and Maintenance (ECM) guidelines. Through CCSY, youth ages 18, 19, and 20 can receive financial and other supports from a Children’s Aid Society (CAS). This support is intended to help youth build on their strengths and meet their goals during their transition into adulthood.
We are thrilled to open registration for the 7th Annual YouthCAN Conference, Fit for SUCCESS! This year, the conference theme is centered around mental and physical well-being, and how being ‘fit’ in all areas, mentally, physically, academically, etc., is essential to being successful. The YouthCAN team, with advice from the conference planning committee made up of Children’s Aid Societies staff from across the province, has worked extremely hard to ensure that this year’s event will have something for everyone!
Here are some of the highlights:
Over 30 interactive workshops, including multiple workshops offered by former and current youth in care on topics such as the new CCSY policy, mental health, physical fitness, and life skills
Creative workshops on multiple forms of dance, art, and music/vocal, like Bollywood, salsa, spoken word, and physical storytelling
The conference will be attended by a number of community organizations that serve youth in care such as PFLAG, Supporting Our Youth (SOY), CTYS, The New Mentality, Planned Parenthood, YMCA, and Pape Adolescent Resource Centre (PARC)
a lunchtime “Opportunities Fair” poster session on August 13th featuring over 15 community organizations that serve youth in and from care
An introduction to Seneca College and interactive sessions hosted by Seneca staff on career planning, health and nutrition, cyber safety and more
“YouthCAN Idol” Talent Show
Recreational sports such as basketball, volleyball, and tennis
Lots of prizes to be won for both youth and staff
Opening keynote by former youth in care and award winning musician Shy-Anne Hovorka
Closing ceremonies by Toronto’s Playback Theatre
On top of the jam-packed and fun program, youth and staff will get a real “post-secondary” experience at Seneca’s recently renovated campus! You will eat at the college, sleep at the residence centre and hear from Seneca staff about programs, services and supports for students. There will be lots of opportunity for youth to think about post-secondary education as an option.
On May 24th 2013 16 young leaders from the Youth Policy Advisory and Advocacy Group (YPAAG) spent three days at the Bark Lake Leadership Retreat Centre. This years group welcomed many new members while were happy to see familiar leaders as well. They spent three days building on teamwork skills through low ropes course challenges, tandem canoes, high ropes, and many other team building activities such as an amazing race! YPAAG continues to be a leader and go-to voice for many standing commissions. They meet with decision makers, influence legislation, and act as the unifying voice for youth in care in Ontario.
“Thanks to all whom attended this years awesome retreat! I have met great friends, have great memories and a larger support system not only to help me but also for me to help guide if someone needs to talk! This event helped shaped me more into the leader I see myself becoming ” -by: YPAAG Youth”
“From North, East, South and West,
We come together, to learn our best,
We may be new, different, divided,
… But through advocacy and teamwork we are UNITED
Youth Policy Advocacy & Advisory Group, you were definitely invited
We come together and in the end we’re YPAAG UNITED” -by: YPAAG Youth
Tale of a Youth in Care – Mandy Richards at TEDx Youth in Sudbury
Mandy Richard is a 22 year old youth from the Wikwemikong Unceeded Reserve on Manitoulin Island, in Ontario Canada who currently lives in Toronto. She came into care when she was 9 years old.
Mandy has been involved in the YouthCAN program since 2006, has been a strong leader with the Youth Policy Advisory and Advocacy Group, played an integral role at the Youth Leaving Care Hearings and most recently completed an internship at OACAS in Communications. Last week, Mandy graduated from the Journalism program at Canadore College in North Bay.
Click here to watch Mandy’s presentation at the TEDx event in Sudbury in May 2013.
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.
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.
The Youth Leaving Care Hearings were the first public hearings organized and run by young people at Queen’s Park, the home of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
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.