Circle of participants doing web activity.

Contact Information

Poem (Forward)

We are youth in care and this is part of our story
Some may say it’s our “#Trajectory”
We know that some policies are pre-existent
However, from experience they remain inconsistent
We’re representing children from every age range
We using our voice to implement #FundamentalChange

Please show me I mean more than a temporary smile
Remind me that I’m important and that I’m worthwhile
We may bring baggage but don’t give up on us
It will take time to open up and trust
We make mistakes like every human being
But please look beyond the behaviour you’re seeing
We know it’s not simple to do what you do
But just know there are supports there for you

Times will get tough and we may disagree
But please keep in mind the effects restraints have on me
Communication first, law enforcement last
We’re really not criminals, we just had to grow up fast
Accessibility is beyond what you see
Sometimes it’s about accepting our individuality
Please implement structure but include us in the plan
Be open to flexibility and we’ll be your biggest fan

So, if you’re listening and you’re still on the fence
Read between the lines, this is just common sense!

A rain cloud showering dry earth. A plant sprouting from cracked earth.

Executive Summary

Our Message

  1. Children and youth are supported to develop skills and have resources needed to live independently and mature into adulthood.
  2. Children and youth are supported to develop meaningful community relation-ships.
  3. We are all unique and different and should be acknowledged and treated as individuals in every aspect of our lives.
A group home floating above a playground excludes home residents from activities other young people experience.
Panel members expressed barriers of a group home included exclusion from activities a young person should experience

These past 6 months, we explored three key themes: Quality of Care, Continuity of Care and Youth Voice. Our input into these themes has been organized into six key domains.

Our Domains

  1. Voice, Rights and Communication: Youth have a voice in everything that affects them. Their rights should be respected and enforced by those who provide them with care. Service providers need to support this voice and should be regularly reviewed and evaluated to ensure the supports and opportunities needed for young people to thrive are available to them. Children and youth have a voice that needs to be respected and heard in all scenarios. Communication is vital and mandatory when it comes to engaging with children and youth especially in the residential care system.

  2. Homes and Ongoing Support: It is important to outline what needs to be in place in order for youth to thrive. Many of the things needed for children and youth in care to succeed are interdependent therefore agencies and organiza-tions need to have integrated and a multidisciplinary approach when it comes to providing care. Ongoing support is necessary to ensure that children and youth are set up for success.

  3. Individual Plans and Fulfillment: Embrace individuality and not a one size fits all mentality. We want to make sure that the diversity of children and youth is tak-en into account when supporting them to thrive. The system should be further customized to meet individual children and youth’s needs. Children and youth should be supported to make their own decisions and these decisions should be respected.

  4. Belonging, Relationships and Accepting Environments: Promote stable rela-tionships that are maintained by all people involved in the lives of the child or youth, especially those initiated by a young person. Build safe, welcoming and comfortable environments.

  5. Identity and Culturally Relevant Care: Culture is essential to a person and the way in which they live their lives; someone’s culture directly contributes to their identity and lack of culturally relevant care or cultural knowledge can lead to identity issues and a lack of self-esteem. Culturally relevant care is an important component of ensuring the quality of care provided to children and youth is top tier. Children and youth need to be able to freely express and embody the culture which they identify with. Service providers need to partake in culturally relevant training. Most importantly, children and youth need to be provided with the supports and resources that they need in order to maintain and nourish relationships with their cultural communities. Opportunities must be presented to develop community, culture and identity through a network of long-term relationships.

  6. Service Providers and Caregivers: Service providers and caregivers have the most contact with some of the most vulnerable populations of children and youth. It is crucial to ensure that they carry out their jobs properly. Stricter re-quirements and educational qualifications need to be put in place for those who work with the children and youth. Service providers and caregivers need to be qualified and held to the highest standard so they know how to properly care for the children and youth and don’t end up causing harm. Positive relationships between the service providers and the children and youth are critical when ensuring the children and youth’s experience in care is a positive one.

A consistent theme that emerged in all of our discussions was the need for accountability across all domains. Our MCYS partners were often surprised to hear that existing policies are not being followed. We, therefore want to make sure that everyone knows how important accountability is to us.

Accountability: It is what transforms ideas from words on a piece of paper to action. It means ensuring:

  1. That service providers are trained properly and extensively. They work with some of the most vulnerable populations so they should be kept to the highest standard.
  2. That services are consistent across Ontario and the various sectors. This includes the ministries and agencies that support youth in residential care.
  3. That youth have a say and a voice in the decisions that affect them; this voice needs to be respected and carry influence at all stakeholder levels of policy, regulation and decision-making.
  4. That government is vigilant about supervising the implementation of the various policies and procedures put in place to protect and care for children and youth and regularly evaluates and re-evaluates progress and impact by gathering voice from young people through diverse feedback mechanisms.
  5. That existing and new policies are being implemented properly, and service providers face consequences upon failure to do so.
  6. That there be public reporting and transparency. This means that nothing should go unreported.


The Residential Services Youth Panel (Panel) is made up of 12 youth aged 18-25 from across Ontario with experience in the residential care system. We have been meeting monthly since December 2016 to provide input to the Ministry of Children and Youth Services (MCYS) as they work on developing the blueprint to improve residential services in Ontario. The blueprint outlines the direction that MCYS will take to begin the long-term process of reforming the residential care system. It is our objective that the input we’ve provided into the blueprint will result in #FundamentalChange for young people in the care of a Children’s Aid Society, in Mental Health treatment facilities, in Youth Justice facilities, and those with complex and special needs. We acknowledge that more work needs to be done to reach out to Youth in Justice Facilities to ensure their voices are consistently heard.

Our panel been supported by a team of adult allies, youth amplifiers and a professional counsellor. The organizations that have supported the Panel to date include: the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth (OPACY), MCYS, the Students Commission of Canada (SCC), Three Things Consulting and Bartemias.

We have grown through this process. Both collectively and as individuals. This Panel has created lifelong relationships through shared stories, experiences and a vision to create a better system. Our work on the panel has given us the opportunity to work closely with MCYS staff and we have connected with them on a personal level. For many of us, our views and perceptions of the ministry have positively shifted as a result of this process. We need this feeling to continue so we want to ensure that our input is reflected in Blueprint.

As panel members, we have contributed our unique experiences, expertise, knowledge and skills towards this Blueprint. We are passionate about #FundamentalChange because we have each experienced life changing challenges within the system made to protect us. We are determined to make sure the system is better for future generations of youth. This is our input into the Blueprint.

Residential Services Youth Panel group

Our Process

Collage of photos taken throughout the process

For our panel process to be successful, it was first necessary to establish a trusting and accepting community so that all members felt safe to share their unique lived experiences and insights. We spent time engaging in community building activities, ceremonies and sharing meals to build trust and relationships with one another. This focus on building positive relationships with one another and the adult allies from the participating organizations allowed us to work effectively together. It is our view that the panel process is a reflection of how residential service providers should form relationships: through youth-adult partnerships that emphasize mutuality.

Our process was grounded in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Specifically, Articles 4, 12, 17 and 31.

With these articles in mind, our weekend panel meetings start and close with ceremonies grounded in Indigenous culture. We engage in community building activities so that we can reconnect to each other and the work that we have to do. These activities have also been used to re-energize the group as we often have very long days and sharing our experiences can be emotionally tiring.

Our process has also been centred around a mix of small group and large group work. A variety of diverse methods have been used to gather our voice: spoken word, written word, art, poetry, and other creative methods.

We have been focused to date on providing input to MCYS on their Blueprint. We have explored three key themes: Quality of Care, Continuity of Care and Youth Voice. Our input into these themes has been organized into six key domains. Each domain includes elements that define and describe the domain.

We conducted regional outreach in Windsor where we engaged young people with experience in the residential care system. We learned that the issues we discussed were similar to what they were experiencing. We acknowledge that more regional outreach sessions could have been completed. We also want to reiterate that more work needs to be done to engage Youth in the Justice Facilities.

This report is a summary of our work from the past six months and of input we’ve contributed to the Blueprint. It is our hope that this report will convey the work we’ve done, and more importantly, the critical changes that need to be made to improve young people’s experience in residential care in Ontario. Our process now shifts into a new phase: implementation. We will spend the next months working together and with our intergenerational partners to define how we implement #Fundamental Change in this province.

“Being in care can be like being a Purolator box. You get shipped around, your box may get damaged and you run out of ‘postage’ at 18. Then you may be stuck wherever your box was sent.”
Residential Services Youth Panel
 A circle of people holding colourful string that is passed from one person to another connecting everyone.
The panel team participated in this web activity, that was a part of the opening ceremony, to open in a good way. This particular activity allowed us to demonstrate how we are all connected to one another.
People writing messages to each other.
The “I love you because…” activity was a ceremony to honour voices lost in residential care. The ceremony focused on healing and sharing hopeful thoughts with another. This allowed the team to express the love they had for each individual.
Young person showing small painting on canvas.
A panel member showcased their art piece on identity and culture in the care system and how young people in care often have to choose between their own culture and that of the home they’ve been placed in.
Panel member drawing.

Our Domains

The purpose of the domains is to demonstrate the most important areas of quality of care identified by the panel members. These six domains provide an overview of the key elements that must be visibly, reliably, and consistently present in the lives of young people in residential care at all times. These domains will ensure that the experience in care is a positive one. There are “look fors” listed next to each key element that provide examples for how the quality of care being provided for children and youth can be measured. These “look fors” may seem obvious and simple, but they are essential elements that every young person needs to thrive. These domains come from lived experiences, and are what we wish we had.

Please note that the “Look Fors” highlighted in red are additions from the adult reference group that also supports MCYS. We have included them here and kept them highlighted so you can clearly identify our voice and the voice of the adult reference group.

Voice, Rights and Communication

Access to the Internet and Technology

Look fors

Voice and Choice Resulting in Action

Look fors

Understanding and Upholding the Rights of Children and Youth

Look fors

Complaints Mechanisms

Look fors
“It is hard for youth to express, and don’t feel like they can express their concerns about their residential care. Youth can advocate for themselves but need supports to feel like they can. They need space to feel like they can and will be heard.”
Residential Services Youth Panel
Display includes a model house with furniture and a poster board with various quotations pasted to it.
One of our panel members brought back their culminating project from their final year in post-secondary education. The project described a young person’s experience in care.
“We need people to care about and love us too. We need foster parents and staff to stop being afraid of getting in trouble if they open up to us or being afraid to tell us that they care and love us. This would have had a huge impact on me and I would have known that I was cared about and loved if they were able to instead of feeling alone.”
Residential Services Youth Panel

Homes and Ongoing Support

Informed Placement Decisions

Look fors

Continuity of Care

Look fors

Supported Transitions

Look fors
Artwork showing a youth standing alone on the street looking at a window display presenting a family: mother, father and two children.
“Quality of Care means dignity. Why are things locked up in residential care such as toilet paper or fridges? There is no dignity in having to ask for these basic needs to be unlocked.”
Residential Services Youth Panel
“It is about young people having say in how their lives are lived, and having the ability to change this.”
Residential Services Youth Panel

Individual Paths and Fulfillment


Look fors

Plans While in Out-of-Home Care

Look fors

Life Skills

Look fors


Look fors
An illustation of a youth in a wheelchair with many arms reaching for key needs: food, support, accessibility, family, toilet paper and shampoo.Things that make them feel they belong and are accepted. Youth says, Youth safety and home security in balance.
Based on youth panelist idea.

Belonging, Relationships and Accepting Environments

Sense of Belonging

Look fors

Respect and Dignity

Look fors

Meaningful Relationships

Look fors

Safety and Accessibility

Look fors

Transparency of Rules/Procedures

Look fors
“Giving children their childhood is so important. These things build up self-esteem later in life. Kids in care have to grow up much faster than other kids.”
Residential Services Youth Panel
“Workers tend to over exaggerate every single thing, and attribute it to being a youth in care rather than simply being a youth. As a youth in care, you can’t act up or else it will have consequences for how you are taken care of.”
Residential Services Youth Panel
Sacred medicines gifted to the panel: sage, cedar, tobacco and sweetgrass.
“My colour is not my culture.”
Residential Services Youth Panel

Identity and Culturally Relevant Care


Look fors

Cultural Respect and Knowledge

Look fors

Connection to Community(ies)

Look fors
Illustration of medicine wheel.
Three supporters including Counselor, Ministry and Advocate participating in group activity.
Throughout the panel all levels of support worked in partnership to support panel members in to building a blueprint and building this document.
“When I was at camp some kids worried about bed bugs. These experiences make a difference later in life. When I was in care, I was told “if the bed bugs bite, take your shoe and knock them coo-coo.”
Residential Services Youth Panel

Service Providers and Caregivers

Positive Relationships

Look fors

Recruitment and Qualifications

Look fors


Look fors


Look fors
Hand holding a colourful flower made from pipe cleaners.
“Understand that life happens. Don’t attribute all my faults or mistakes to being in care. I am still a kid.”
Residential Services Youth Panel


Without accountability, we feel that policies are nothing more than words on paper. In our experience, there was often a disconnect between the intention of policies and the care we actually received. During our panel process, we learned that communication between the key players in residential services is often lost in translation. Also, those who occupy higher positions are not properly holding caregivers (e.g., group home staff, foster parents, nurses) accountable for their actions which hinders the assurance that young people are being provided the best care possible.

We strongly feel that a first step in ensuring accountability in residential care is to create a culture in which the voices of young people are listened to and trusted. We also feel that those who occupy higher positions need to ensure that people (service providers) who work directly with young people are providing the best care possible by following up with both the young person and the service provider on a regular basis. Those who work with young people directly need to have a voice and sufficient authority to ensure that their employers don’t create barriers for excellent practices. Everything that is occurring within residential services needs to be examined using a transparent lens, because if people remain unaware about what is actually occurring in residential care, then the fundamental change we seek will never transpire. Finally, we need to assure that every person who plays a role in residential care is striving to continuously improve it because as we have learned, creating change is a process. There must be mechanisms to ensure that youth voice is being continuously accounted for.

Protect the Core diagram. For long text description click link immediatelty below.

Moving Forward

Our Message: The youth panel does not want the blueprint to sit on the shelf. We want these recommendations to be implemented into policy. We cannot afford any more delays in change. Implementing the ideas discussed within the blueprint will result in positive outcomes for children and youth in their future endeavours.

Studies show that youth in residential care are placed at a greater disadvantage than the rest of the population and face increased difficulty. There are high rates of unemployment, economic hardship, involvement with the criminal justice system, social assistance dependence and lack of education amongst youth who were formerly in care and the ideas presented in this blueprint presents solutions to many of these issues. Regardless of who the Minister of Children and Youth Services is, we want our recommendations to be implemented with urgency and haste. We feel that our countless hours that were put into the creation of this document will go to waste if these Domains and Look fors are not reflected in future policies and regulations.

Children and youth are all different. As a result, they have different experiences and different views. This diversity amongst children and youth needs to be recognized, respected and catered to so that chronically voiceless and marginalized children/youth are able to safely express their views and opinions. Youth who are incarcerated lack opportunities to participate in panels or projects like this one due to restrictions placed on them as a result of their incarceration or involvement with the Criminal Justice system. Therefore, action needs to be taken in order to ensure that government and service providers reach out to this population, and other marginalized groups such as African-Canadian and First Nations youth.

The youth on this panel are dedicated to ensuring that fundamental change to residential services is made. While our panel is committed to being involved in an ongoing manner, we recognize the need for diverse youth and their opinions to be incorporated. This panel only has 12 members, so we acknowledge that we may not be representative of all young people in care in the province. This is why it is extremely important that more opportunities similar to this one are integrated into policy development so that more children and youth can have meaningful input into the decisions that will directly affect their lives. Involvement in this process as panel members has been rewarding and we would like the opportunity to be extended to additional youth who have different experiences (i.e. involvement with youth justice).

We hope that our process of youth engagement through this panel becomes a best practice for government as they draft policies that involve children and youth. We want the government to continuously improve upon this process and provide the opportunity for youth to be involved in similar undertakings.

The panel would like the recommendations and direction put forth in this report and the Blueprint to be disseminated to all of the necessary stakeholders. This includes youth-in-care from across the province and those who provide care to young people. We have been intentional about including creative pieces in this document so that it is engaging for different audiences, especially young people themselves. However, a common theme has been a lack of awareness from young people of their rights and we hope that this blueprint and this document empower young people to understand and exercise their rights. In order to have this occur, a communication strategy needs to be in place. This can include circulation on social media and access online and in print via the Students Commission of Canada and the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth.