The Ontario Government is shifting away from group care

Ontario Government Shifting Away From Group Care

Group Care Not Always The Best For Foster Youth

Group homes are a traditional landing point for kids in foster care, and they play an important role within our government care system. However, for a lot of youth the transition between group care and foster families can cause change when stability and routine is what they need most.

Because of this need, Quinte Children’s Homes has always followed a more child-focused approach to care. There isn’t a lot of hard evidence to prove that a stable family environment makes it easier for kids to succeed, but experts agree that it makes a clear and positive impact. That’s one reason why the Ontario government is shifting more emphasis to foster or specialized care within families and away from group care.

Aiming for sustainable and cost effective solutions without group care

“The system is trying to provide sustainable care to kids in the most cost effective way,” explained Terry Stevenson, corporate director of Quinte Children’s Homes. “For example, there’s an increased focus on something called kinship care – placing children with family members or close family friends over strangers – as well as permanency planning, where guardianship might be designated to someone who’s formed a longer-term bond with a child.”

While it’s important to normalize things, Stevenson does point out that for kids who need professional help it can be harder to coordinate outside of specialized care.

“If it’s triaged properly – with positive family attitude, good support, and appropriate treatment – this type of care is excellent.” he said. “The caution is that when there are mental health issues, and 80-90 per cent of kids in foster care have mental health issues*, it’s harder to ensure that the right services are available when they’re needed.”

Access to services still an issue

Service availability in Ontario can be unpredictable, with wait times and access varying from one county to another. That’s a situation the Ontario government hopes to change; their Action Plan for Improving Child and Youth Services in Ontario, released in 2010, has four priorities:

  1. Improving standards
  2. Improving training and tools for licensing staff
  3. Improving access to information on residential services
  4. Supporting greater accountability for agencies and organizations serving children and youth.

This is attention that Stevenson feels is needed. “If a youth is in care and needs specialized help, they can be referred to appropriate services. However, if a family friend becomes their legal guardian, for example, when they need that help they have to start at the beginning again. Where wait lists are long that can be a problem, and families often can’t afford the support they need.”

If you’re interested in learning more about the specialized care available through Quinte Children’s Homes, please contact us.

* From the source: “It has been estimated that approximately 80 percent to 90 percent of children and youth living in foster care have complex mental health and developmental needs that are related to a diagnosable psychological difficulty” (Osborn, 2006; Stein, Evans, Mazumdar, and Rae-Grant, 1996).