In June of this year, Ontario passed legislation intended to strengthen and modernize child, youth, and family services province-wide. The Child, Youth and Family Services Act, 2017 (CYFSA) replaces and repeals the previous Child and Family Services Act (CFSA) and makes significant changes to how Ontario provides services to children and youth in need of protection. The CYFSA also puts young people squarely at the centre of decisions regarding their care, strengthens oversight for children’s aid societies, and supports more responsive and accountable child and youth services.
The Child, Youth and Family Services Act, 2017
The CYFSA received royal assent on June 1, 2017. The CYFSA reflects feedback received during the most recent mandatory legislative review of the CFSA that occurred in 2015, a review of residential services for youth that took place in 2016, and recommendations from Inquests into the deaths of two children Jeffrey Baldwin (who died in 2014) and Katelynn Sampson (who died in 2016).
The Minister of Children and Youth Service stated, about the CYFSA:
We listened to people across the province, including young people with experience in care, and used what we heard to strengthen services and better protect and care for Ontario’s most vulnerable young people. Our Child, Youth and Family Services Act puts children and youth at the heart of decision-making and paves the way for services that are more accountable and responsive. These changes are an important step in our ongoing efforts to promote child and family wellbeing.
The CYFSA governs a wide range of service sectors including child welfare, youth justice, and residential services, and enables Ontario to respond to emerging issues and the changing needs of children, youth, and families.
Some key areas of change in the CYSFA include:
- Raising the age of protection from 16 to 18 in order to increase protection services for vulnerable youth in unsafe living conditions and to reduce homelessness and human trafficking;
- Making services more inclusive and culturally appropriate for all children and youth, including Black and Indigenous children and youth;
- Placing a greater emphasis on early intervention to prevent children and families from reaching a crisis situation in the home;
- Improving both accountability and oversight of various service providers, including children’s aid societies as well as licensed residential service providers, to help children and youth receive safe, high-quality, and consistent services across the province.
Some Facts About Child Welfare in Ontario
Last year, 38 children’s aid societies, and 9 Indigenous child wellbeing societies collectively provided services to more than 113,000 families across the province. Through increasing the age of protection from 16 to 18, it has been estimated that an additional 1,600 youth will have access to protective services within the first full year after the CYFSA is implemented. The province has committed an additional $134 million over four years to support new initiatives in child welfare, as grounded by the legislation.
What Does This Mean?
The new legislation is a product of consistently evolving family law in Ontario and marks a significant step forward in child and youth rights in the province.
In particular, the legislation incorporates an important recommendation arising from the Coroner’s Inquiry following the death of Katelynn Sampson. The jury in that Inquiry made 173 recommendations, the first of which they deemed “Katelynn’s Principle”, which stated that the child should be at the centre of all decision-making made by child welfare, youth justice, and the education system.
The CYFSA incorporates this directly into the Act through the preamble which states that “children are individuals with rights to be respected and voices to be heard.” This is a notable recognition that children should be able to meaningfully participate in major decisions about their lives.
If you are a parent, foster parent, or guardian and have questions about child protection proceedings, or if you have been contacted by the Children’s Aid Society about your child/children, or about a child/children in your care, contact the experienced and compassionate family lawyers at Borden Family Law as soon as possible. We have helped many families in Oshawa and across Durham Region to protect themselves and the children and wards they care for. Contact us below or call us at 905 576 6090 to see discuss flat rates and hear how we can help.