Ontario children’s advocate gets right to learn of...
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Dec 07, 2015  |  Vote 0    0

Ontario children’s advocate gets right to learn of child deaths

Irwin Elman has tried for seven years to ensure he gets timely details on death and injuries of kids who have been under provincial care

OurWindsor.Ca

Ontario’s official advocate for children and youth will soon get the power he has sought for seven years, to be informed when a child dies or is seriously injured within 12 months of receiving care from a children’s aid society.

“Currently, the provincial advocate has to rely on news reports to find out about deaths or serious injuries to children in care. That is unacceptable,” said NDP Children’s Critic Monique Taylor (Hamilton Mountain).

Every year, between 90 and 120 children and youth die within 12 months of receiving care from a children’s aid society, she told the legislature. And yet Irwin Elman, who is responsible for these children, largely has been kept in the dark about the circumstances of their deaths, she said.

When the provincial advocate doesn’t get full information, children become invisible, added Taylor, whose private member’s bill to make the change was approved by the legislature Monday.

“This bill is just one step in making Ontario a better, safer place for children and youth, and I’m delighted it passed with the support of all three parties in the legislature,” she said.

The bill is slated to become law later next year, six months after receiving royal assent.

Taylor introduced the bill earlier this fall after the Liberal government refused to include the measure in its sweeping public sector accountability legislation last year that gave the advocate power to investigate children and youth in the care of children’s aid societies.

Irwin Elman has been seeking timely and complete information on deaths of children and youth in his mandate since 2008, when he was first appointed to the role.

“We’re happy that we made a step forward, after seven years of trying. But we still have a long way to go,” Elman said in a statement. “It’s my belief that the safety of children increases with transparency.”

Elman had been seeking unredacted reports from children’s aid societies on deaths and serious injuries. Under the current legislation, he will receive summaries, without names or identifying information.

Elman also wanted the scope of the legislation broadened to include all the children and youth in his mandate, including those in the youth criminal justice and children’s mental health systems, as well as severely disabled children in residential care.

Liberal MPP Kathryn McGarry (Cambridge) defended the government’s decision to limit the scope of the bill to children’s aid societies, to mirror the advocate’s new investigative powers.

“I know any time a child in care dies, we have a collective responsibility to determine what happens,” said McGarry, a member of the standing committee on social policy, which reviewed the legislation. “Our Ministry of Children and Youth Services continues to work closely with the provincial advocate for children and youth . . . I don’t see us stopping the discussion here.”

Toronto Star

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(1) Comment

By G'dayEh | DECEMBER 08, 2015 04:40 PM
Sounds like a long overdue, logical initiative.
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