The Investigative Unit:
Ensuring Young People Feel Heard, Empowered and Protected
Since opening its doors on March 1, 2016, the Investigative Unit at the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth (Advocate’s Office) has been busy responding to calls from young people, parents, service providers and the general public. These calls relate to the care of a child or a group of children receiving services from a children’s aid society (CAS) or a residential licensee where a CAS is the placing agency. I would like to share an update on our activities:
- As of Feb 28, 2017, the Investigative Unit has received 235 number of calls. The vast majority of those calls were referred to an existing complaints process at the local CAS, the Child and Family Services Review Board, or the Ministry of Children and Youth Services. After referring individuals to other complaints processes, the Unit has followed up with each referral within 30 days to check if callers encountered any obstacles in those processes. Whistleblowers who wish to raise a concern can do so directly to our office, and are not required to go through other complaint processes.
- We have initiated 14 individual and systemic investigations based on the concerns of young people, parents and whistleblowers. In addition to services provided by a children’s aid society (CAS) or a children’s residence, these investigations cross a number of systems including policing, education, hospital care and special needs.
- The office has launched a very large systemic investigation into the use of physical restraints at group homes and children’s residences across the province (excluding youth justice facilities). In the summer, we invited individuals to share their experiences or concerns about the use of physical restraints, and we remain interested in hearing from individuals who would like to share their stories. We will also be meeting with interested stakeholders in different regions of the province to hear their concerns.
- The Investigative Unit has established a Youth Advisory group to provide advice to the unit on developing best practices, including how to work with young people during investigations. We will also convene a separate advisory group for each systemic investigation the office undertakes.
- We have created a pamphlet for stakeholders who are the subjects of an investigation entitled, “What to expect from an investigation.” Over the next year, we will be developing similar materials for youth and the general public.
For more information about the Investigative Unit, please visit: https://provincialadvocate.on.ca/main/en/investigations/index.html
As always, I welcome your feedback.
Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth