In July 2015, the Ontario government commissioned the Residential Services Review Panel to conduct a system-wide review of the province’s child and youth residential services system. The review examined foster and group care, children and youth mental health residential treatment, and youth justice facilities. The panel completed its report in February 2016; the Ministry of Children and Youth Services (MCYS) released it to the public in July 2016.
The ministry-funded report exposes a broken, fragmented system and makes 33 sweeping recommendations to MCYS.
OPSEU's position recommends:
- We urge the government to provide dedicated, stable funding to support the recommended changes outlined in this report.
- We recommend that the number of mental health beds for children and youth be expanded in every community.
- We agree that salaries need to be aligned as recommended in the report but we would go further. We recommend that the profit motive be removed from delivering residential care to vulnerable youth.
- The Ministry should proceed with caution on any plan to expand the scope of the Child Protection Information Network (CPIN).
- The Ministry must consult with unions through a central provincial table regarding changes that will impact the unionized workforce.
- We agree that standardized training should be provided to all frontline workers. Training should be provided by employers during work time and at employer cost.
- The requirement for current staff to obtain a college diploma within five years is financially onerous. Costs for educational requirements should be covered by the Ministry and/or employers. A standard for equivalency should be determined to account for a combination of experience and a related diploma.
- Wages must be commensurate with upgrading. Higher wages across the sector must be established to attract and retain a stable, qualified workforce.
- We agree with the recommendation to integrate the two separate secure custody systems (MCYS-operated and transfer-payment) for youth. OPSEU recommends that the single system be directly operated and run by MCYS.
- We agree with the recommendation to transfer youth in custody with specific needs for more than 30 days to other facilities with specific programs offering specialized support.
- We agree with the recommendation to minimize secure isolation.
- We agree with the expanded use of beds to be used in open custody facilities to assist youth transitioning back to the community after being in detention.