Ontario Ombudsman will assume investigation responsibilities to better protect and help province’s most vulnerable children
Today, the Office of the Ontario Ombudsman will assume all investigative functions of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth. It is a crucial step towards building a better child protection system. These changes, set out in the Restoring Trust, Transparency and Accountability Act, 2018 introduced last fall, will bring greater oversight and provide better support for children in care.
“We want Ontario’s most vulnerable children and youth to thrive and be supported in reaching their potential,” said Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services. “We must strengthen oversight and hold service providers accountable when young people are not getting the services they need.”
The Ombudsman’s office will take on responsibility for investigations related to children and youth receiving services from children’s aid societies or residential licensees, and address complaints using the office’s early resolution and investigations mechanisms. The Ombudsman must also be notified of the death or of serious bodily harm to children or youth who have received services from a children’s aid society.
Staff from the office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth will be transferred to the Ombudsman’s office to help ensure quality service and appropriate resources for investigations. This will allow for a more effective transfer of investigations and is part of the overall approach to expanding the scope and mandate of the Ombudsman.
The minister earlier announced three new youth roundtables dedicated to sharing ideas for improvement. Overseen by three chairs appointed by and reporting directly to the minister, the three new roundtables will be made up of those with lived experience including Black and Indigenous youth, to support transformation of the child welfare and youth justice systems.
Children’s aid societies and residential licensees are now required to inform a child in care of the existence of the Ombudsman, the office’s functions, and how the office may be contacted. They are also required to provide a child in care who wishes to contact the Ombudsman with the means to do so privately and without delay. Children and youth will be able to use the same telephone number to reach the Ombudsman that previously connected them to the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth.