Overview of Child Welfare in Ontario

‘Child welfare’ refers to the system of services provided to children and youth in need of protection because they have been abused or neglected, or are at risk of abuse or neglect. Ontario’s child welfare system is unique in Canada as the province does not directly deliver child protection services. These services are delivered by children’s aid societies and Indigenous child societies, which are independent, non-profit corporations governed by a volunteer board or directors and in one case by a First Nation Band Council. The Ministry of Children and Youth Services funds and has an oversight role with respect to societies.

The governing legislation for child welfare in Ontario is the Child, Youth and Family Services Act (CYFSA).[See: Ontario Strengthens Legislation for Child and Youth Services]  The paramount purpose of the CYFSA is “to promote the best interests, protection, and well-being of children.” Under the CYFSA, societies have the exclusive mandate to deliver child protection services to children up to their 16th birthday, including investigations of allegations of abuse and/or neglect by a caregiver. A society also has the authority to apprehend a child in substantiated cases of abuse and neglect. Once a child comes into the care of a society the child is placed in an out-of-home residential placement that is determined based on the child’s needs and the options available in the community. The range of residential placement options for children in care include: kinship care, customary care, foster care, group care, legal custody and adoption.

Finding permanent homes for children and youth in care is recognized as a key contributor to improving their outcomes as it provides them with safe, nurturing and stable relationships, and opportunities for growth and development.

Some children and youth in care will not be placed in a permanent home and will grow up in society care. Youth leaving care at age 18 (or earlier) must assume responsibility for their own health and well-being, relationships, employment, accommodation, education, as well as build connections within their community. 

To support youth transitioning out of care the ministry supports the Youth-in-Transition Worker program which provides funds to community agencies across the province to support young people as they transition out of care by linking them to resources and supports including housing support, education resources, employment services, and life skills training available in the community.

From January 1, 2018, 16 and 17-year olds who are in need of protection will be eligible for the full range of child protection services in Ontario.

If you are 16 or 17-years old, find out about the help available from your local children’s aid society.

If you work with youth, learn about child protection services for 16 and 17-year olds in Ontario.