Hot! Ontario should support Crown wards until age 25

TheStar.com – opinion/editorial – Crown Wards

January 23, 2013.   By Carol Goar, Editorial Board

Any parent of children in their late teens knows that for all their bravado, the kids still need the loving embrace of a supportive home. It’s the safety net that gives young people confidence to launch independent lives.

Sadly, youth who have grown up as Ontario Crown wards in foster care or group homes are cut loose at the age of 18, leaving many struggling to finish high school — let alone post-secondary education. It’s a cruel way to treat vulnerable kids, but the Ontario government has now been given a blueprint to fix this fundamental flaw in its child welfare system.

As the Star’s Laurie Monsebraaten reports, a government-appointed panel has released a report recommending that these young people be allowed to stay in foster or group homes until the age of 25, instead of being kicked out at 18. It also urges the government to continue financial and emotional support until the age of 25, as long as they remain in school.

Ontario Minister of Children and Youth Laurel Broten says she is “pleased and inspired” by the report. That’s a promising response, but once the Liberal party chooses a new leader this weekend the government must create real change. To do nothing would be unconscionable.

There are 8,300 Crown wards in the province, raised in the care of Ontario Children’s Aid Societies. Many have survived a deeply dysfunctional childhood; without support in their late teenage years they often struggle with school and employment. Only 44 per cent graduate from high school, compared to 82 per cent of other Ontario youth. They are also more likely to suffer from poverty, homelessness, mental health problems and end up in the criminal justice system.

It is a testament to the potential of Crown wards that nine of the report’s authors grew up in the system, and with Irwin Elman, Ontario’s advocate for children and youth, they are leading the push for action. “This is just the beginning of fundamental change for Ontario and Canada,” said one of the authors, 19-year-old Anna Ho, a Ryerson University social work student.

For a Liberal government that is rightly focused on reducing Ontario’s deficit, funding is always an issue. Elman addresses this bluntly, saying it will cost an additional $26 million a year to extend support to age 25, but the money will be recouped in savings from reduced time in jail or on welfare. Not to mention the millions of dollars in increased tax revenue from productive young adults.

So here’s a message for Liberals gathering this weekend to pick a leader: Once your political machinations are (temporarily) over, tell the new premier to practice good government and take action to make life better for thousands of young people. Give them an opportunity to thrive with support from stable relationships and homes. It’s the right thing to do.

< http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/article/1319116--ontario-should-support-crown-wards-until-age-25-editorial >

1 Comment

  1. Although I’m glad that Laurel Broten (Minister of C&Y) is pleased and inspired by the government appointed report, I believe further inspiration would come from a policy that is inclusive for ALL minors who are in need of wardship (a parent) prior to the age of 18, and beyond (the proposed 25 year old mark).

    Currently CAS will not provide protection or support for children ages16 and 17 who are experiencing abuse in their home. Their mandate only allows children to ENTER the system prior to their 16th birthday. Thus, although it is great that the province is beginning to recognize the need of further support, there are a number of abused and neglected children whose basic rights are being overlooked, and whose opportunity for wardship is denied based on their age.

    Furthermore, for those who are brave enough to move out on their own (or for those whose situations are so volatile that being homeless is a better option), they are not eligible to receive financial support (Ontario Works) without 1) having their parents agree to pay child-support to the state, 2) prove that the abuse/neglect occurred, and/or 3) arrange a trustee to manage their finances.

    YES- lets recognize that crownwards need continued support, however, lets not overlook the exclusivity that keeps many at-risk youth either in abusive homes, or fleeing to the streets.

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