Ford government to overhaul child welfare system to focus on prevention

The Ontario government says it plans to redesign the province's child welfare system to focus on prevention and early intervention.

'Revamped system will seek more permanent homes for children and youth' associate minister says

Ontario's Associate Minister of Children and Women's Issues Jill Dunlop says the new system will 'ensure more families stay together and children and youth in care have the supports they need to be safe.' (Gary Solilak/CBC)

Ontario's child welfare system will be redesigned to focus on prevention and early intervention, the provincial government said Wednesday.

Associate Minister of Children and Women's Issues Jill Dunlop says the new strategy will also work to address the over-representation of Black and Indigenous families in the children's aid system.

She said children and youth in care experience worse outcomes than those in a family setting, including lower graduation rates, a higher risk of homelessness and more involvement with the justice system.

 "Child welfare should not be the system that is feared," Dunlop said in a news conference.

"No one should be scared to lose their children for speaking to a children's aid society. No woman should be afraid to go to a shelter for fear of losing her children."

The plan will aim to bolster community services and emphasize care in a family setting rather than in group homes where appropriate.

'More permanent homes'

Dunlop said the revamped system will seek more permanent homes for children and youth who can't stay in their families or communities, including a more centralized adoption process.

She said the plan was developed with input from youth, families, First Nations, community organizations and frontline workers through consultations and online surveys.

Wednesday's announcement did not, however, include new funding or legislative changes, nor did it set a timeline for the redesign.

Dunlop said the change will be "significant" and will take time.

Critics said that while the child welfare system does need to be reformed, the government's announcement doesn't lay out a real plan to do so.

"Without details, real resources or money, no timelines, and no commitment to transform the laws that govern child welfare, the Ford government is not dealing with these critical issues when Indigenous communities and children and youth in care desperately need a plan," members of the opposition New Democrats said in a statement.

Some advocates suggested more research is needed on outcomes for youth after care in order to know what kind of intervention and supports they need.

"It is tempting to conclude foster care produces poor outcomes; however, it is possible that without intervention youth may have fared worse," the not-for-profit Child Welfare Political Action Committee said in a statement.

"Rather, we suggest that foster care has failed to level life outcomes with peers who have not experienced the system. The child protection sector must level up by becoming evidence-based and aspirational. We believe innovations
with the best intentions are not effective without impact measurement."


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?