On June 1, 2017, Bill 89: the Supporting Children, Youth and Families Act (CYFSA) received royal assent in the Ontario Legislature. Bill 89 introduces historic amendments to the Child and Family Services Act (CFSA).
The CYFSA will govern a range of sectors in addition to child welfare including youth justice, child and youth mental health and residential services. It focuses on four broad areas for service improvements:
• Prevention and Protection
• Quality Improvement
• Accountability and Oversight
• Support for First Nations, Métis and Inuit People
The legislation, once proclaimed, will put children at the centre of decision-making. The Preamble to the CYFSA calls on Children’s Aid and Indigenous Child Well-Being Societies, as well as other service providers, to fulfill the spirit and intent of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The new Act requires that services to children and young persons be provided in a manner that takes into account a range of aspects of their unique identity. It also contains a clear and explicit set of rights for all children and young people receiving services under the Act. These provisions focus on a child or young person’s right to participate and express their views when decisions are being made that affect them, a foundation of Katelynn’s Principle.
The CYFSA will be proclaimed into law in two stages. Provisions regarding raising the age of protection to include services for 16- and 17- year olds will be proclaimed on January 1, 2018 with all other parts of the bill coming into effect in the spring of 2018. The current Child and Family Services Act will remain in effect until full proclamation of the CYFSA.
The objective of raising the age of protection is to support the delivery of child protection services to all eligible youth until their 18th birthday. Currently CASs in Ontario are mandated to provide services to youth to their 16th birthday. This change to raise the age of protection has been something the child welfare sector has long advocated for and they strongly support this initiative. At the same time, there are concerns with regard to how this provision will be implemented and the impact it may have not only on CASs but on other social service agencies as well. More community supports and services will be needed given the complex developmental, social, and emotional needs of many youth.
On November 22nd, the Kawartha-Haliburton Children’s Aid Society held a half day information meeting with local community partners to discuss upcoming changes related to the CYFSA, and will continue planning with the community into the new year. Highland Shores Children’s Aid will be holding similar sessions with its community partners during the month of December.