Report slams Ontario's child protection system

A new report slams Ontario's child protection system and says youth must have a say in how the system is restructured.

Province commissioned report

Cheyanne Ratnam, who spent time living in Brampton group homes, said many youth in Ontario are distrustful of the child protection system. (CBC)

A new report slams Ontario's child protection system and says youth must have a say in how the system is restructured.

The province received the Because Young People Matter report, which it commissioned, on Friday. The panel recommends the province restructure the entire child protection system so it can be managed properly with young people as partners in the decision-making.

Kiaras Gharabaghi, director of Ryerson University's child and youth care program and one of three expert panelists who wrote the report, describes a system in which the Ministry of Children and Youth Services can actually lose track of kids in its care.

"We're worried people are ultimately discarded as objects in the system," Gharabaghi told CBC News.

The report also said the program doesn't give young people the life and social skills to live independently and lacks any standard qualifications for front line staff — the only standards being that they clear a police background check and have no communicable diseases.

"The person you meet on the street today … could be hired to provide treatment to the most vulnerable and complex young people in our society," Gharabaghi said.

Cheyanne Ratnam, who spent time living in group homes throughout Brampton while in the youth and child welfare system, said that while she turned out OK she knows many others who didn't.

"We had a young person who would [go absent] all the time, and they would be moved from house to house," she said.

That instability, she said, led to increasing struggles for that youth.

"That person, I know for sure, does not have stability to this day."

Ratnam said the new report confirms what she and others who have spent time in care already know: that the system is a mess. Right now, she said, youth simply don't trust the system.  

The question for both Ratnam and Gharabaghi is whether or not the report will lead to change.

Irwin Elman, Ontario's advocate for children and youth, said he believes the government — which commissioned the report — is serious about making changes in the area.

"The government came to me as a provincial advocate and said 'we want young people to be at the centre and help to create a blueprint to make these recommendations real,'" he said.