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The Youth Leaving Care Hearings were the first public hearings organized and run by young people at Queen’s Park, the home of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

The Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth partnered with dozens of volunteers — all young people in and from care — to hold hearings designed to address the issues faced by many of the 8,300 children and youth who are Crown Wards in Ontario.

On November 18th and 25th, 2011, children and youth from across the province spoke about their experiences and had the opportunity to help make changes. Professionals, families, and friends added their voices to help build understanding about what young people in care need to succeed as adults. Members of the Provincial Parliament, ministry staff, service providers and members of the public attended to listen and learn.

How it started
Irwin’s Story

In 2010, the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth, Irwin Elman, met with a group of young people through Family and Children’s Services of Guelph and Wellington County. They offered a number of great ideas on what they wanted to see change. Irwin was encouraged, but mentioned that the issues and ideas were similar to what he had been hearing since the 1980s. One of the youth paused, and then said "OK buddy, so what are you going to do about it now?"

This began a process that saw Irwin and his staff meet with other youth in and from care, including those living in group homes, foster homes and shelters, and attending YouthCAN events and meetings. They also met with 15 Ontario Ministers and Deputy Ministers, the Deputy Minister’s Council, and many other allied organizations. From all of these meetings, one message came forward – loud and clear – from the youth involved: “All of you have done your best, now itís our turn.”

The idea of the Youth Leaving Care Hearings was born!

Why were the Hearings important?

The Province of Ontario is the legal guardian of some 8,300 youth and children living in various parts of the care system. When youth in care leave the system (or “age out”) beginning at 18, sometimes they have not been sufficiently supported to develop the skills and resources they need to live independently. Youth in and from care wanted the opportunity to bring their voices together and tell their stories about the challenges of leaving care to those that have the ability to make meaningful and positive change.

How will the Hearings make change?

By placing children and youth in and from care at the centre of this process and supporting them to share what worked and what didn’t work for them, the Hearings offered a new opportunity to move forward.

After the Hearings, youth read and analyzed all of the submissions and wrote a report.  The report, called My REAL Life Book, is being presented to the Ontario Legislature on May 14, 2012.

 

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