Ontario is boosting support for children and youth in care through a $21-million investment over three years to improve transportation services and provide educational liaisons for children and youth in the care of Ontario’s Children’s Aid Societies and Indigenous Societies.
The funding, announced by Minister of Education Mitzie Hunter and Minister of Children and Youth Services Michael Coteau at St. Michael Catholic Elementary School on October 23, will provide more stability and assistance at school to enable students to reach their full potential.
“We know how challenging it can be for some kids out there in our society and it’s our job, as elected members, as community leaders and as educators, to make sure that young people are set up for success,” said Minister Coteau.
“Ontario is ensuring all kids face as few barriers as possible, so they can learn, grow and reach their full potential.”
Stressing that schools need to be places of well-being for all students, Minister Hunter, in her formal announcement, recognized the need to reinforce the link between achievement, well-being and equity in education “so that every student is equipped with what they need – the skills and the knowledge to face the challenges of life with confidence and with resiliency.”
“I see how important it is for an education system to really focus on the social, the cognitive, the physical and the emotional well-being of all students as well as their sense of self and spirit – who they are,” she added.
“As part of our work to support achievement and well-being, we really need to ensure that that happens across our system for every student. We want to make sure that all students can achieve their best possible outcomes.”
“And that is what brings us here today.”
Committing $21-million over three years to fund Educational Liaison Officers across Children’s Aid Societies, Minister Hunter said these positions will be an important bridge between the child welfare system and the education sector.
“Their role is to advocate on behalf of children and youth in care, to maximize student achievement and well-being within the education system.”
She added that the education liaison officers will provide students with a greater awareness of education and community supports, and access to in-school mentoring, tutoring and experiential learning programs, as well as work with children and youth in care, their family members, teachers and child welfare workers, to develop a plan that helps students achieve their individual educational goals.
The funding will also supplement student transportation services to provide more stability for children and youth in care.
“That means if a child’s place of residence changes mid-semester, they would have the opportunity to remain at the school they’re currently in until a natural break occurs in their learning, like at the end of the semester or the end of the school year, if that is in the best interest of that child,” said Minister Hunter.
“This promotes the ability to maintain an existing relationship with a caring adult, a teacher or friends at the student’s current school.”
That’s important, noted Principal Mary Jane Rossi. She explained that when children are moved mid-year, “not only are these children being pulled out of their home, but they’re also being removed from their friends and a familiar place where they feel secure and safe.”
Like all schools in the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School, St. Michael Catholic Elementary School has two designated Catholic Children’s Aid Society (CCAS) case workers who meet with students in care once a week to ensure they are realizing their best possible outcomes.
“I know that what we’re announcing today – providing all of the children within the Children’s Aid Societies, giving them the additional supports to navigate the system of education while they’re going through challenging times – is critical,” said Minister Hunter.
“It’s the type of support we need to provide as a system to support our students. Nothing wrong with our students; they’re fine. The system needs to support them and that is exactly what we’re doing.”
“Now, together with our partners,” she concluded, “we can make important progress reaching our shared goals and continuing to build a foundation that will support student achievement, well-being and equity, and improved outcomes for all students in Ontario.”
In 2016-17, the average number of children and youth in care was 13,980.