The Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services is hoping reforms will provide more investigative powers, when the ombudsman's office is asked to look into the death of a child in care. These include foster agencies, children's residences, youth justice facilities and secure treatment programs. The ministry notes these powers are broader than existed with the child advocate's office.
A report issued last fall showed how the system had failed children in care, who had lost their life, including Azraya Kokopenace. The minister responsible, Lisa MacLeod, vowed quick changes, following the release of the report. This included closing the child advocate's office and folding it into the ombudsman's responsibilities.
"By transferring the powers of the Ontario Child Advocate to the Ombudsman, we are helping to expand the scope of investigations to new types of service providers," said Genevieve Oger, on behalf of the ministry.
"The ombudsman will be able to investigate complaints about services provided by children’s aid societies and licensed residential service providers. These include foster care agencies, children’s residences such as youth justice facilities and secure treatment programs. These investigative powers are broader than those the advocate currently has," Oger continued.
In addition, the minister has announced the creation of three new advocacy roundtables for those with lived experience in:
the child protection system; Indigenous child welfare system; and youth justice system.
"These will be invaluable as we work to make the necessary improvements to the current system," Oger continued.
Last year, the ministry said it had amended rules to help support children aging out of care and transitioning to independent, adult life. This comes after 16-year-old Hezekiah Wesley was found dead in a boxcar in Kenora's railyard last spring.
A police investigation is ongoing, as two suspects are set to appear in a Dryden court next week, in connection with the death of a three-year-old in Dryden.
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