FPSO Letter to Ministry of Children and Youth Services July 8 2016 RE:New Host Family Policy

July 8, 2016

TO:

Honourable Minister Michael Coteau                           Honourable Minister Helena Jaczek

Ministry of Children and Youth Services                      Ministry of Community and Social Services

56 Wellesley Street West                                            80 Grosvenor Street

Toronto Ontario, M5S 2S3                                          Hepburn Block 6th Floor

Toronto Ontario, M7A 1E9

 

Deputy Minister Alexander Bezzina                             Deputy Minister Janet Menard

Ministry of Children and Youth Services                      Ministry of Community and Social Services

77 Wellesley Street West                                            80 Grosvenor Street

Toronto Ontario, M7A 1N3                                          Hepburn Block 6th floor

Toronto Ontario, M7A 1E9

Peter Kiatipis, Director Child Welfare Secretariat            Irwin Elman, Provincial Advocate for

101 Bloor Street West, 3rd Floor                                  Children and Youth

Toronto Ontario, M5S 2Z7                                          401 Bay Street, Suite 2200

Toronto Ontario, M7A 0A6

The Foster Parents Society of Ontario (FPSO) as the dedicated voice of the foster parents of Ontario has written this letter regarding some challenges and concerns we have concerning the new Host Family Policy recently released by the Ministry of Community and Social Services.

We understand the foundational intent of this new policy, and we support the overarching goal of ensuring what is in the best interest of adults with developmental disabilities. We also understand that the new Host Family Policy may have inadvertently created barriers to the permanence of some of the adults the policy is designed to care for and may actually creates systemic discrimination against these adults.

The Ministry of Child and Youth services has made changes over recent years that are designed to give greater support to the pursuit of permanence for children and youth in the care of the Children’s Aid Society. Along with the changes that support legal permanence there have also been changes to the legislation to extend the opportunity for young people who are aging out of foster care to remain in the foster home or in the care of the CAS. Many of the changes in recent years are designed to promote the longevity of family relationships, and support the finishing of high school and ideally attendance to postsecondary education.

The FPSO is supportive of the changes within the Child and Family Services Act (CFSA) pertaining to improved opportunities for permanence. Some of these changes FPSO actively lobbied for on behalf of our members and the children in their homes. We are diligently watching as the CASs’ develop their own internal policies to support the facilitating of the changes in the CFSA. We support the changes that increase opportunities for adoption as well as the extending of supports by the CAS and MCYS to enable higher education. We believe both sets of changes will have a positive effect on reducing homelessness, increasing opportunities for family relationships and provide a foundation for a stable adulthood.

However, for a specific group of young people the changes in the CFSA and CAS policy are not equally available.  A young people with developmental disability will be designated as TAY (Transitional Age Youth) and their future planning is not towards maintaining them in their family home if their family is a foster family. The planning is to transfer the care of the developmentally disabled young adult to a Host Family Facility.

Historically FPSO has lobbied for the reduction of the barriers within the CAS that prevent or discourage a foster home from “home sharing”. Some CAS do not allow a foster family to also provide adult services, even if this provision is only intended for a foster child who is ageing out of care, yet would  still benefit from remaining in the family home. We would suggest a young person who has lived for a number of years in a foster home, once they become eighteen (18) years of age, if the foster family is interested in maintaining this family relationship, we feel this should be supported. This is often supported in cases where the young person is not developmentally disabled; through an Extended Care and Maintenance (ECM) contract, a Continued Care and Support for Youth (CCSY) Contract or the new Stay at Home for School Policy. We feel a developmentally disabled young person should have the same supports to maintain their family home as a young person who is not developmentally delayed.

Having lobbied and advocated for foster families to be allowed to offer both foster care and adult services in order to expand the support of a young person placed in their home, FPSO has been encouraged to see more CAS willingness to allow, “home sharing”.

Unfortunately, the new Ministry of Social Services Host Family Policy may have compromised the work done to support our foster family members in maintaining their developmentally delayed young adults in their foster homes under adult services.

The Host Policy states:

2. Cap on Number of Placements and Exemptions Cap for New Host Family Placements2 There can be no more than two placements (i.e. persons placed – children and/or adults) in a Host Family’s home. This includes children or adults who have been placed in the Host Family’s home by an agency funded by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services or the Ministry of Community and Social Services. This, however, does not include short-term3 caregiver respite placements. Exemption and Extenuating Circumstances In order to preserve existing family arrangements, families who foster children through a Children’s Aid Society are exempt from the above-noted cap, in the following situation: • Where the foster family has more than two foster children placed by a Children’s Aid Society and • Where one of those foster children has a developmental disability, and would continue to stay with the foster family as a Host Family Program placement after he/ she turns 18 years of age. Where this exemption applies, no additional placements for adults or children beyond those allowed by the above exemption are permitted. In extenuating circumstances, as set out below, an agency may permit an exception to the cap on compassionate grounds where: • There is a need to provide a temporary or interim placement on an urgent or emergency basis for an individual in the Host Family Program who cannot stay in his/her current placement; or • There is common parentage (e.g., the sibling of an individual placed with the Host Family also seeks a Host Family placement), where the sibling was not part of the original placement. 2 The cap on the number of placements in/with a Host Family is effective on April 1, 2016. This cap

This clause in the Policy effectively:

  • Gives no latitude for the CAS to continue to place up to four foster children in any foster home who wished to provide an adult services placement.
  • Pushes foster homes to choose between fostering or being a host family.
  • Complicates confidentiality boundaries, as neither can the adult services provider share confidential information regarding the developmentally delayed adult to the CAS, or can the CAS share confidential information regarding any foster children to the Host Family Agency.
  • Prevents a foster family who already have three or more foster placements who have a developmental disability from providing a home for all of them once they are adults, as there is no provision within the Host Family Policy for more than two placements unless they are legally or biologically related.
  • Provides no criteria by which individuals will be assessed as being developmentally disabled; will the criteria for assessing adults be used or the criteria the CAS’s uses for assessing children? As we understand the two systems criteria to be very different.

Additionally there does not appear to be any protocols in place for MCSS and the CAS to communicate, or share information.

FPSO on behalf of our members is recommending improvements to the grandfathering parameters in this new Host Family Policy so that the Province of Ontario can avoid:

  • Losing more foster homes, as some will choose to be a host family instead of a foster family. The Child Welfare system cannot afford another reason to lose foster homes, as we are presently seeing significant loss of foster homes.
  • Losing prospective Host families, as some will choose not to home share as a host family.
  • More young people with developmental disabilities removed from the foster home they know as family and relocated to a home with strangers.
  • The gradual attrition of foster homes as the developmentally disabled children in their care age out of their foster care bed and into a host family bed within the same home, causing the transition of the home from a foster home to a host family home.

FPSO would further recommend as Ministries develop and write a policy provide opportunities for consultation with those who the policy will affects, directly or through their leadership.

FPSO would be happy to make ourselves available for any future conversations or meetings regarding the new host family policy.\

Respectfully Submitted

Vanessa Milley

FPSO Governance and Policy chairperson

Cc: Mary Ballantyne OACAS Executive Director

CAS Executive Directors