After my husband wrote an open letter to Tracy MacCharles, Ontario’s Minister of Children and Youth Services, he received the following response, which we transcribed from the printed letter. We wanted to share and highlight in particular that the Minister in her response letter is inviting active involvement in the review of Ontario’s Child and Families Services Act, which is currently underway. Please see the end of the letter for the link.
Before receiving the letter from Minister MacCharles, my husband also got an emailed reaction to his letter from the PC Party critic for Children and Youth Services, Jim McDonell, which is posted below the Minister’s letter. Although we recently ended our own adoption journey, we are grateful to Minister MacCharles and Jim McDonell for taking the time to respond and react. Martin had also shared the open letter with the NDP’s critic Monique Taylor, and with Mary Ballantyne, Executive Director of the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies. Neither bothered with a reaction.
Letter from Minister MacCharles – Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services, Oct 17 2014
Dear Mr. Hofmann:
Thank you for your kind words of congratulations and for your correspondence to me and Deputy Minister Alexander Bezzina regarding adoption. I appreciate the opportunity to respond and provide you with some information.
I am pleased to hear that you are passionate about improving Ontario’s adoption system and want to thank you for sharing your recommendations. The government is committed to increasing the number of children in care placed in permanent homes so they can reach their full potential. In 2008, the Expert Panel on Infertility and Adoption was established to provide advice on improving Ontario’s adoption system. The panel’s August 2009 report, Raising Expectations: Recommendations of the Expert Panel on Infertility and Adoption, included 39 recommendations related to increasing adoptions and improving adoption services.
The government has implemented many of the recommendations, including:
· removing the legal barriers to adoption for Crown wards with an access order through the Building Families and Supporting Youth to Be Successful Act, 2011;
· providing additional funding to children’s aid societies to reduce the length of time persons have to wait for a homestudy to be completed in order to be approved for adoption;
· expanding the number of Adoption Resource Exchange events across Ontario; and
· providing targeted subsidies through societies to eligible parents who adopt or gain legal custody of Crown wards who are either siblings or ages 10 and older to help with the cost of caring for those children.
The Ministry of Children and Youth Services recognizes the importance of making it easier for prospective adoptive parents to navigate the adoption system, and increasing the number of children placed in permanent homes. That is why we provide funding to the Adoption Council of Ontario to manage the AdoptOntario program. This is a bilingual website tool that provides technological support to children’s aid societies to find the best match for children with prospective adoptive families across Ontario. The website also allows for collaboration and sharing of adoption resources between adoption practitioners, increasing the possibility of finding a match for prospective parents and children who are registered on the databank.
In your letter, you identified the need to improve the adoption process after Adoption Resource Exchange events. This year, the ministry is supporting the Adoption Council of Ontario to develop new automated features in the AdoptOntario program. The new features will send electronic updates on recruitment to adoption workers to help them identify appropriate strategies, track progress, and identify next steps in the process for each child registered on the AdoptOntario databank and presented at an adoption event. This will help societies improve follow-up with prospective adoptive parents after Adoption Resource Exchange events.
You also identified the need to improve oversight of children’s aid societies. Our government understands the importance of ensuring there is appropriate oversight of the child welfare system. We believe in the important work done by children’s aid societies and have mandated mechanisms in place to ensure the accountability of societies. For example, we require all societies to have clear, transparent and consistent complaint review procedures as set out in the Child and Family Services Act. We have established independent bodies such as the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth and the Child and Family Services Review Board. We have also provided the Ombudsman with the authority to investigate complaints, report and make recommendations arising from reviews about the board.
As part of Ontario’s Open Government initiative, we are taking steps to further strengthen oversight of the sector. We have re-introduced Bill 8, Public Sector and MPP Accountability and Transparency Act, 2014, to strengthen accountability, enhance oversight, and increase transparency in the public and broader public sectors. This bill, if passed, will amend the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth Act, 2007, to give the Provincial Advocate new powers that are similar to the Ombudsman, and will allow him to investigate matters relating to services provided by children’s aid societies.
While much has been accomplished to increase permanency for children and youth in care and help more families to adopt, the government recognizes that more needs to be done. That is why improving outcomes for children and youth through permanent placements, including adoption, will be a key area of focus in the third review of the Child and
Family Services Act that is currently underway. The review was announced recently on September 24, and is to be completed in 2015. I encourage you to be actively involved and engaged in the review process. More information about the review can be found on our website at: http://www.children.gov.on.caihtdocs/English/about/CFSA2014/index.aspx. The ministry will continue to work closely with the child welfare sector to improve adoption services. We will also review other jurisdictions’ practices to better support children and youth in care to reach their full potential, and ensure appropriate mechanisms are in place to hold societies accountable.
Again, thank you for writing and sharing your recommendations.
C: Deputy Minister Alexander Bezzina
Email from Jim McDonnell, PC Party Critic for Children and Youth Services, Oct 14, 2014
Thank you for CC’ing me into your correspondence to the Minister of Children and Youth Services. As the PC Critic for the Ministry, I am pleased to respond.
It is vitally important to provide a developing child with a strong, supportive and stable family environment in which to grow and thrive. Willing and suitable adoptive families should not have to face the administrative hurdles that many experience today.
The Ontario PC Caucus has previously supported expanding the Ombudsman’s oversight to Children’s Aid Societies and we expect to do so again when the issue eventually comes before the House. The Ombudsman is a trusted official whose advocacy on Ontarians’ behalf is strong and constructive. Most CAS workers are dedicated to their clients’ welfare and to ensuring children can exit CAS protection and succeed – Ombudsman oversight will ensure Ontarians trust them wholeheartedly to fulfill this mandate.
Family law and adoption procedures need to reflect the need for strong protection for the child (which includes thorough background checks) and to ensure the child’s biological family is not placed at a disadvantage. Several constituents who have sought my office’s assistance in CAS and adoption matters have imparted to me how each family and each child are different, and cannot be fit into a one-size-fits-all approach.
I will work with all stakeholders to ensure prospective adoptive parents have convenient access to all the services they need in order to prove their eligibility for adopting a child and that the procedures for placing a child with a family, or transitioning a child from foster status to adoption are as smooth as possible.
Member of Provincial Parliament