I reported recently that the Supporting Children, Youth and Families Act, 2017 (CYFSA) was given Royal Assent on June 1, 2017. Although it is not yet officially in force, once proclaimed it will make numerous changes to existing child-focused legislation in Ontario.
Most notably, the CYFSA repeals and replaces the longstanding Child and Family Services Act, and amends 36 other pieces of family- and child-related legislation. Although the upcoming amendments are numerous and broad-ranging, one of their overriding goals is to focus on government-provided child and youth services, and to put children at the centre of decision-making. They also aim to increase accountability, responsivity, and accessibility in relation to services and service providers.
Specifically, the new legislation sets out that the purpose of the CYFSA is to promote the best interests, protection and well-being of children. It recognizes that services to children and young persons should be provided in a manner that:
- Respects regional differences wherever possible, and takes into account physical, emotional, spiritual, mental and developmental needs and differences among children and young persons;
- Respects a child’s or young person’s race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, family diversity, disability, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression; and
- Respects a child’s or young person’s cultural and linguistic needs.
Next, the CYFSA also expressly recognizes that services to children and young persons and their families should be provided in a manner that builds on the strengths of the families wherever possible. It also gives special recognition to the needs and traditions of Indian and native children and families.
Other key changes include:
- Increasing the age of protection to include 16- and 17-year-olds. Children of this age may be found to be in need of protection; certain added circumstances apply to this age-group in making that determination. However, 16- and 17-year-olds may not be brought to a place of safety without their consent.
- Authorizing children’s aid societies to enter into agreements with 16- and 17-year-olds in need of protection, and to bring applications to court.
- Strengthening the focus on early intervention, helping prevent children and families from reaching crisis situations at home.
- Making government-provided services more culturally-appropriate for all children and youth in the child welfare system. This includes ensuring indigenous and Black children and youth receive optimum support.
- In connection with adoption, changing the matters that must be considered in determining the best interests of the child, in keeping with the nature of the changes that are implemented in other parts of the CYFSA. It also adds a new two-stage process for adoptions from outside Canada.
Finally, the CYFSA also sets out extensive rules for the collection, use and disclosure of personal information by government and service providers, and sets out new rules for obtaining consent and access to personal records, which are driven by privacy considerations.
These changes build upon feedback received by the government through the 2015 review of the Child and Family Services Act (CFSA). Note that the former Child and Family Services Act remains in-force until the new CYFSA is proclaimed in force.
For the full text of the yet-to-be-enacted legislation, see:
Child, Youth and Family Services Act, 2017, SO 2017, c 14, Sch 1