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IF IT'S WRONG,

RIGHT IT.

ADVOCACY

IF YOU'RE A YOUNG PERSON experiencing a problem involving a children's aid society, foster home, group home, mental health service, school or the justice system - and you feel like no one is listening - call us.

INVESTIGATIONS

IF YOU ARE SOMEONE WITH A CONCERN ABOUT A CHILD or a group of children receiving services from a children's aid society or a children's residence, and you've tried the official complaints process but the problem isn't solved, we may be able to investigate.



WE ARE HERE FOR YOU. CALL

1-800-263-2841


OR CALL COLLECT AT

416-325-5669

FIRST STEPS:

If you have a complaint about a service you have sought or received from one of Ontario's Children's Aid Societies, you must take one of these two steps before requesting an investigation from the Provincial Advocate's Office:

Make a complaint in writing to your local Children's Aid Society. (A copy of a sample complaint form we've created can be found below).
DOWNLOAD PDF

For a list of children's aid societies and their addresses click below
VIEW LIST

OR

Make a complaint in writing to an independent adjudicative tribunal: the Child and Family Services Review Board. (Click here for a link to the Child and Family Services Review Board's website)

If you are a young person, the Advocate's Office will help you with your complaint to either the Child and Family Services Review Board or the Children's Aid Society and we will support you at each stage of your complaint.


NEXT STEPS:

If the issue is not resolved after taking these steps, you may, in some cases, request an investigation from the Provincial Advocate. Call us at 1-800-263-2841 or download the form below.

DOWNLOAD PDF

IMPORTANT NOTE:

The Provincial Advocate cannot proceed with an investigation if the complaint falls within the category of something that only the Child and Family Service Review Board can decide. These situations include:

  • You were not given a chance to be heard when you raised your concerns
  • You were not given a chance to be heard when decisions that affected your interests were made
  • The children's aid society did not give you reasons for its decisions that affect your interests
  • The children's aid society refused to proceed with your complaint
  • The children's aid society did not follow its complaint review process or timeline
  • You are a foster parent and would like a review of the decision of a children's aid society to remove your foster child who is a Crown Ward and has been with you for at least 2 years.
  • You would like a review of the decision of a children's aid society to refuse to allow you to adopt a particular child
  • You would like a review of the decision of a children's aid society to remove a child placed with you for adoption
  • You believe your CAS file is inaccurate. If this is the case, you need to go through the internal complaint process of the Children's Aid Society before making an application to the Child and Family Services Review Board.

* If you are a neighbour, professional, or anyone else who is not receiving services from a children's aid society and you have a concern about the services provided by a children's aid society or children's residence you should call the Advocate's Office directly.

1

FIRST STEP:

If you have a complaint about a residential service provider you must first make a complaint using the internal complaints process. An example of a complaint form that you can use can be found below.

DOWNLOAD PDF

2

SECOND STEP:

If you are not satisfied with how the residential service provider handled the complaint, you may make a complaint to the Ministry of Children and Youth Services. We've created a complaint form that you can use to do this and it can be found below.

DOWNLOAD PDF

3

THIRD STEP:

If your problem is still not resolved you may request an investigation from the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth. To request an investigation you can call us at 1-800-263-2841 or use the form below.

DOWNLOAD PDF

If you are a young person, an Advocate from the Advocate's Office will help you and support you at each stage of your complaint.

*If you are a neighbour, professional, or anyone else who is not receiving services and you have a concern about the services provided by a children's residence you should call the Advocate's Office directly and speak to someone in the Investigative Unit.

IF YOU ARE A YOUNG PERSON, CALL ANYTIME

If you are a young person who is unhappy with your placement and want to be moved, speak with an Advocate by calling 1-800-263-2841 or click here. Young people over 12 have specific rights if they are unhappy with their placement.

BILL 8, PUBLIC SECTOR AND MPP TRANSPARENCY ACT, 2014 AND AMENDMENTS TO THE PROVINCIAL ADVOCATE FOR CHILDREN AND YOUTH ACT, 2007

· Government news release and backgrounder
· View the Provincial Advocate and Children and Youth Act, 2007 and amendment
· View the Public Sector and MPP Transparency Act, 2014
· Hansard for debates


SUBMISSION TO THE STANDING COMMITTEE

· Submission by the Provincial Advocate's Offce - November 2014


MEDIA RELEASE

· November 24, 2014
· November 28, 2014


PRESENTATION TO THE NEW INVESTIGATIVE UNIT

· Bill 8
· Webinar (Bill 8)

About the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth

The Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth (the Advocate's Office) is an independent voice for Ontario's children and youth who are either “in care” or on the margins of government care in the following areas of its mandate:
  • Child welfare
  • Youth criminal justice system, youth in court holding cells or being transported to and from court holding cells
  • Children's mental health services
  • Developmental services and children’s treatment facilities
  • Students of provincial and demonstration schools
  • First Nations children and youth
  • Children and youth with special needs

Reporting directly to the Legislature of Ontario, the Advocate’s Office partners with children and youth to elevate their voices and promote action on their issues.

Deriving its authority from the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth Act, 2007, the Advocate’s Office is guided by the principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child – including the right to be heard – and strives to be a model of meaningful child and youth participation in every aspect of its work.

In response to a request, a complaint, or on its own initiative, the Advocate’s Office acts on behalf of concerns of individuals or groups of children or youth and can undertake reviews, make recommendations, and provide advice to governments, facilities, systems, agencies, or service providers.

As of March 1, 2016, the Provincial Advocate will have the legislative authority to investigate (individual and systemic) complaints concerning a child or a group of children receiving services from a Children’s Aid Society (CAS) or a residential licensee where a CAS is the placing agency, and make recommendations to improve services.

As outlined in its Act, the role of the Advocate’s Office is:
  • To provide an independent voice for children and youth, including First Nations children and youth and children with special needs, by partnering with them to bring issues forward
  • To encourage communication and understanding between children and families and those who provide them with services under the province’s care systems;
  • To educate children, youth and their caregivers regarding the rights of children and youth; and
  • As of March 1, 2016, investigate (individual and systemic) complaints concerning a child or group of children under the care of the CAS or a residential licensee whereby the CAS is the placing agency.

The Provincial Advocate and the Ombudsman are both independent Officers of the Legislature.

The Ombudsman’s role is to investigate public complaints made against government services and to identify systemic issues. The Ombudsman’s powers will now be expanded to include municipalities, universities and school boards.

As outlined in the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth Act, 2007, the Provincial Advocate’s role is to advocate on behalf of all children and youth who currently receive or are trying to access government services in the province’s care system.

Beginning March 1, 2016, the Advocate’s Office will have the legislative authority to conduct investigations and make recommendations to improve children’s aid society services and services provided by residential licensees where a children’s aid society is the placing agency. We are committed to carrying out fair, thorough and transparent investigations with the goal of ensuring young people feel heard, empowered and protected.

In October 2007, the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth was established with the passage of Bill 165 by the Legislature of Ontario. On July 14, 2008, an all-party panel of the Legislature appointed Irwin Elman to provide leadership to the new Advocate’s Office – the first of its kind in Ontario. Elman was later re-appointed for a second term in office.

Prior to becoming Ontario’s Provincial Advocate, Irwin was the Manager of the Pape Adolescent Resource Centre in Toronto (PARC) for more than 20 years. The award-winning organization supports young people as they leave child welfare care. Later, he served as the Director of Client Service at Central Toronto Youth Services, an innovative children’s mental health centre.

Elman is the current Chair of the Canadian Council of Child and Youth Advocates – an alliance of ten, provincially-appointed children's advocates from across the country.

Elman has a Masters of Education and a Bachelor of Education degree from the University of Toronto and a Bachelor of Arts Degree (Honours) from Carleton University. He currently resides in Toronto, Ontario with his wife and two young sons.


Contacting the Advocate’s Office

Every year, the Advocate’s Office answers thousands of calls from children, youth and others (e.g. their families, caregivers etc.) who are committed to protecting the rights of young people and ensuring their voices are heard.

Any child or youth who is currently receiving or seeking services from the province’s care systems (e.g. child welfare, youth criminal justice system, children’s mental health services) has a right to contact the Advocate’s Office.

If you are a child or youth with a concern about your experiences with a service provider or feel that your rights may have been violated, or you need information on how to access a service in the province’s care systems, please call the Advocate’s Office at: 1-800-263-2814 (toll-free) or 416-325-5669.

Anyone who has a concern about a child or a group of children receiving services from a Children’s Aid Society, or about a children’s residence where the young person has been placed by a Children’s Aid Society, may request an investigation if, after existing complaint procedures have been exhausted, the issue remains unresolved. Examples of such complaint procedures include:
  • For Children’s Aid Societies:
    • The internal complaints process at their local Children’s Aid Society OR the Child and Family Services Review Board
  • For children’s residences:
    • The internal complaints process at the children’s residence OR the Ministry of Children and Youth Services

Once you have attempted to resolve the issue through existing complaint procedures, you may be able to request an investigation from the Investigative Unit.

If you are an adult with a concern about a child or youth who is seeking or receiving services from the province’s care systems, you can contact the Advocate’s Office.

It is important to understand that the Advocate’s Office takes a rights-based approach to advocacy. This means that advocates take instructions directly from the young person (unless they are deemed incapable). Therefore, it is critical that advocates hear directly from the young person about their concerns and work with them to elevate their voice.

If you are a young person calling the Advocate’s Office, you will be connected to an advocate who will listen to your situation and your specific concerns. The advocate can offer you support, information, advice and, if needed, speak on your behalf to service providers and others.

Conversations between an advocate and child or youth will be kept strictly confidential and the advocate will not disclose or share information to other parties without the young person’s consent.

The Advocate’s Office is committed to returning every call made by a child or youth within 48 hours.

You are always welcome to bring a trusted person with you to meet with an advocate or to have someone with you on the phone call.

When speaking with an advocate, you will be asked to share your name and other personal information. This information is necessary so the advocate can address your complaint. This information will not be shared or disclosed without your consent. If you wish to remain anonymous, you may choose to do so, but this may limit our ability to act on your behalf.

The Advocate’s Office was created to provide an independent voice for children and youth; to encourage communications between children and families and those working within the children’s services sector; and to provide education on the rights of children and youth.

Beginning March 1, 2016, the Advocate’s Office will have the legislative authority to conduct investigations and make recommendations to improve the services to children and youth who are under the care of a CAS or a residential licensee where a CAS is the placing agency.

Drawing on the strength of young people, the Advocate’s Office works to fill the gap between what government, service providers and caregivers intend and the reality experienced by the most vulnerable children and youth in the province.

Under the law, every child and youth who is in the province’s care systems must be informed about the Advocate’s Office.

Every child and youth receiving or seeking services under the Child and Family Services Act has the legal right to speak privately and without delay with an advocate about their experience and any concerns with the province’s care systems.

The Advocate’s Office is committed to listening to the child or youth’s concerns and working with them to ensure that their voice is heard by service providers, parents and guardians, children’s aid case worker, and others.

If you experience retaliation for contacting the Advocate’s Office, it is important to alert an advocate.

The Advocate’s Office hears from many young people who believe that decisions about their healthcare (including health prevention measures, medical treatment etc.) are being made without their involvement or consent. The needs and rights of the child must come first and be at the heart of every decision that affects their life.

Many young people in the care system are not aware of their individual health rights. Working with young people, the Advocate’s Office developed the Ultimate Health Rights Survival Guide – a practical tool aimed at empowering young people in the care system by helping them to understand their individual health rights; know how to apply their rights to their own situation; track their progress; and learn the steps to make decisions about their own healthcare.

We encourage you to review this guide and contact the Advocate’s Office to discuss your specific concern.

The Advocate’s Office is committed to listening to your concerns and working with you to ensure that your voice is heard by your CAS case workers and others. If you are over the age of 12, there are appeal procedures available to you. The Advocate’s Office will work with you to discuss your particular concerns and support you in every step of the process.


About the Office’s new investigative power

The Public Sector and MPP Accountability and Transparency Act, 2014 (also referred to as Bill 8) was introduced by the provincial government and passed into law in December 2014.

Among other legislative changes, the bill expands the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth’s mandate to “conduct investigations and make recommendations to improve CAS and services provided by residential licensees where a CAS is the placing agency.” The bill does not permit the Advocate’s Office to investigate other areas of its mandate (e.g. youth criminal justice, children’s mental health etc.). A new Investigative Unit has been created to assess complaints (individual and systemic) and determine if an investigation is warranted. Following the completion of each investigation, the Advocate’s Office will publish a public report outlining its findings and recommendations to promote the best interests, protection and well-being of children.

We are committed to carrying out fair, thorough and transparent investigations with the goal of ensuring young people feel heard, empowered and protected.

The Investigative Unit exists to help and protect young people.

The Advocate’s Office will have the authority to investigate any matter, concerning a child or group of children, about the services they receive from a CAS or a residential licensee where a CAS is the placing agency. This includes systemic investigations into critical injuries and child deaths. Following the investigation, the Advocate’s Office may identify systemic recommendations that will lead to better outcomes for all children or youth in care.

Any individual or systemic matter concerning a child or group of children under the care of a CAS or a residential licensee where a CAS is the placing agency can be brought to the Office’s attention.

As outlined in Bill 8, investigations by the Advocate’s Office can only be initiated as a “last resort.” An individual must exhaust all other complaint procedures before a request for an investigation can be made (see section 20 of the FAQ).

Diana Cooke is the Director of Investigations at the Advocate’s Office.

She joined the Advocate’s Office in 2000 and previously held the position of Director of Advocacy Services from 2009. Diana has a Master in Social Work and a Master of Laws Degree.

If you are a child or youth seeking or receiving services from the child welfare system and you have a concern about your experience, then you have the right to speak up. Please call the Advocate’s Office at: 1-800-263-2841 (toll-free) or 416-325-5669.

An advocate will work with you to raise your complaint with the existing internal complaints process. They will work with you to determine the best course of action and support you at every stage.

Anyone who has a concern about a child or a group of children receiving services from a Children’s Aid Society, or about a children’s residence where the young person has been placed by a Children’s Aid Society, may request an investigation if, after existing complaint procedures have been exhausted, the issue remains unresolved. Examples of such complaint procedures include:
  • For Children’s Aid Societies:
    • The internal complaints process at their local Children’s Aid Society OR the Child and Family Services Review Board
  • For children’s residences:
    • The internal complaints process at the children’s residence OR the Ministry of Children and Youth Services

Once you have attempted to resolve the issue through existing complaint procedures, you may be able to request an investigation from the Investigative Unit. An advocate can help you with this request.

It is important to understand that the Office’s new investigative power could be invoked by concerned individuals once all other complaint procedures have been exhausted. This means that a matter that is eligible for review by an existing complaints process (e.g. through the local CAS’s internal complaint process or the Child and Family Services Review Board, or through the internal complaints process at the children’s residence or the Ministry of Children and Youth Services) must be resolved before contacting the Advocate’s Office. In some areas, a decision made by the CFSRB is binding.

Please call the Office’s main number at 1-800-263-2841 (toll-free) or 416-325-5669 and we will triage your call to the most appropriate area to discuss your individual concern.

Following the completion of each investigation, the Advocate’s Office will prepare a public report (available on the Office’s website) summarizing its findings and recommendations.

Every investigation is unique; therefore, it is not possible to give a specific timeframe for the completion of each report.

The Advocate’s Office may initiate individual and systemic investigations that have been brought to its attention from any source. In its first year, the investigations unit will undertake a number of systemic investigations. These will be in the areas of child welfare, children’s residences and child deaths.

The Advocate’s Office continues to meet with its child welfare partners to share timely updates and to gather your feedback as we develop our implementation plan and priorities.

As we prepare for the investigative powers to come into effect on March 1, we are committed to keeping child welfare partners, youth and the public informed about our expanded mandate. A useful webinar was held in November to inform stakeholders about Advocate’s new investigative powers.

Please check back regularly for useful resources (e.g. fact sheet, toolkit, webinar) and other updates in the coming weeks. In the meantime, visit the Office of the Provincial Advocate’s website for important updates and other useful tools at: http://provincialadvocate.on.ca/