OACAS Report regarding Ontario’s Children in Care, Released October 1, 2008
Child abuse remains a serious concern as many children and youth are at risk of abuse or are suffering from lack of proper care. Children’s Aid Societies protect children from abuse and neglect, help parents and caregivers build healthy families and provide a safe, nurturing place for children and youth to grow up and realize their full potential.
Children’s Aid Societies can only act to protect children from harm when a concerned citizen or professional calls to report their suspicions or a parent calls for assistance. More education is needed to remind the public that everyone has an ongoing responsibility to protect children by reporting suspected child abuse.
According to the Child and Family Services Act, Section 72.1, everyone, including professionals who work with children has an ongoing obligation to report promptly to a Children’s Aid Society if they suspect that a child is or may be in need of protection. A child is in need of protection where there is a risk of sexual, physical or emotional abuse from an adult, caregiver, family friend or stranger or when a caregiver fails to provide proper care or deprives a child of support and affection.
There are 53 Children’s Aid Societies in Ontario. They are incorporated not-for-profit agencies governed by volunteer boards of directors elected from the local community and funded by the Province of Ontario.
Child welfare agencies are exclusively mandated by the Child and Family Services Act to protect children from abuse and neglect employing clinically trained child protection workers who are guided by the provincial regulations and standards, Child Protection Standards and Tools in Ontario and the Ontario Child Welfare Eligibility Spectrum to determine the kind of support and service needed to keep children safe and families stable in situations involving child abuse and neglect.
Ontario’s Children in Care
Over the 12 month period from April 1, 2007 to March 31, 2008, Ontario’s Children’s Aid Societies provided child welfare services to communities across Ontario. The Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies (OACAS) collected information from 51 of 53 mandated child welfare agencies in Ontario to prepare this report on services provided during the fiscal year. OACAS also collected information on the number of children in the care of Children’s Aid Societies as of March 31, 2008.
Under the Child and Family Services Act, Children’s Aid Societies are required to:
- investigate allegations of abuse and neglect;
- protect children and provide guidance, counseling and other services to support families
- to help them care for their children
- provide care or supervision for children assigned to their care
- place children for adoption
Investigation and child protection
Children’s Aid Societies investigate allegations of abuse and neglect from concerned citizens, neighbours, health care professionals, educators and police. Whenever possible, Children’s Aid Societies work to keep children at home with their biological families, but when children cannot remain at home or live with relatives safely, societies offer a variety of substitute programs and also facilitate the adoption of Crown wards (permanent wards of the province).
- 77,089 allegations of abuse and neglect were investigated by Children’s Aid Societies
- 27,816 children were in the care of a Children’s Aid Society for protection from child abuse and neglect
Of the children who were cared for by a society during the year, 9,468 came into care upon completion of abuse investigations:
- 6,565 children had not previously been in care
- 2,903 children were returned to care due to new child protection concerns
- Less than 1% of Ontario’s 3 million children were in the care of Children’s Aid Societies last year
- Of the 3 million children in Ontario, 3 in 1,000 care of Children’s Aid Societies last year
The number of childrencoming into care each year has continued to decline, in line with the general downward trend in Ontario’s child population. In 2007/08 9,468 children came into care, a 26% decline compared to 2003/04. The rate of admissions into care was 3 childrenper 1000 of Ontario’s children population.
Children’s Aid Societies also provide assessments, crisis intervention, counseling and services to prevent child abuse and neglect. In addition, Children’s Aid Societies help vulnerable families protect and support their children. Many prevention programs are offered in partnership with other community agencies. Child protection workers also work to support families in crisis where their children are not in need of protection. A child protection worker remains involved with the family to ensure the appropriate supports and community services are in place.
24,955 families received ongoing support from Children’s Aid Societies where a child was in need of protection.
Caring for children and youth
Ontario’s Children’s Aid Societies provided substitute care for children in need of protection from physical, emotional, sexual abuse or neglect. Fifty-one Children’s Aid Societies responded to the annual OACAS survey of children in care as of March 31, 2008.
Children come under the care, supervision and protection of an agency through a court order or an agreement with their parent or caregiver. Children who are Crown wards or society wards are cared for by an agency which becomes their legal guardian.
On March 31, 2008, 17,945 children were in the care of agencies as:
- 9,199 Crown wards* (51.3%)
- 2,383 former Crown wards age 18 to under 21* (13.3%)
- 1,563 society wards* (8.7%)
- 4,079 children in the temporary care of a society (22.7%)
- 536 children in customary care* (6.2%)
- 125 children placed for adoption (0.7%)
- 60 children with special needs in care under a special needs agreement (0.3%)
Crown wards – permanent wards of the Crown, province has legal guardianship.
Society wards – temporary wardship, Society has legal guardianship for 12 months.
Former Crown wards- youth ages 18 to under 21 who have agreements with their Children’s Aid Society for supports as they transition to adulthood
Customary care – status Indian or native children are cared for in an agreement according to the custom of the child’s band or native community.
- 2,512 children in care are of First Nations or Aboriginal ancestry (13% of all children in care)
- 1,960 are Aboriginal as defined by the Indian Act
- 552 are of First Nation or Aboriginal ancestry
- 446 Francophone children in care
- 384 Francophone children were placed in French-speaking foster homes
- 426 foster homes were able to provide care and service in French