Ontario’s child protection system fails children, again

TheStar.com – Opinion/Editorials
Sept. 26, 2018.   By

Children should, at the very least, survive the attempts of Ontario’s child protection system to help them.

What an incredibly low bar that is, Ontario’s child advocate noted. And how shocking that, yet again, Ontario has failed to meet it.

A new and rightly scathing report by Ontario’s coroner is calling on the provincial government to overhaul the child protection system that keeps failing children.

The panel of experts appointed by Ontario’s chief coroner Dirk Huyer examined the tragic deaths of 12 youths who were placed in foster homes and group homes for their safety and well-being, and yet died while under provincial care.

Eight of the 12 were Indigenous, cut off from their communities in the north, and eight youth died by suicide. All 12 of these young people, who died over a three-and-a-half-year period, were known to have serious mental health challenges and yet the panel found little was done to help them.

“Despite complex histories and the high-risk nature of these young people’s lives, intervention was minimal and sometimes non-existent,” the report states.

Ministry oversight of homes is inadequate, caregivers lack proper training and vulnerable children are being warehoused and shuffled from one home to the next without getting the care they need. In fact, the child protection system can barely be called a system given its lack of co-coordinated services, Huyer said.

And what makes this worse is that it has all been said before.

To her credit, Children, Community and Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod didn’t seek to dodge these findings. “From the CASs to group homes to my ministry, we all bear some responsibility,” she said. “As the new minister, the buck stops with me and I will take action.”

Let’s hope this time it’s action that actually makes a difference in kids lives.

That means, as this expert panel has said, getting away from a “crisis driven and reactionary” response, to prevention-focused care that works with children and their families, whose troubles are often driven or compounded by poverty.

Just yanking kids from their homes, especially when they are placed into a system that has repeatedly proven incapable of dealing with their complex needs, isn’t a solution.

The panel was struck by how often these kids were classified as “safe with intervention.”

The tragedy is that they were far from safe because they didn’t get the constructive intervention they needed.

https://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/2018/09/26/ontarios-child-protection-system-fails-children-again.html

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