When children and youth require out-of-home care, CASO prioritizes kinship care, followed by foster care placements.
Kinship placements offer care and support in a way that is consistent with family and community traditions, while ensuring that children and youth maintain connections with their existing networks. CASO’s use of kin services has increased by 6.3 per cent over the previous fiscal year. At the same time, there has been a 9.8 per cent decrease in the total number of children and youth in care. These trends are indicative of our efforts to leverage kin services as a least intrusive placement option over in-care arrangements such as foster care or group care for children and youth whenever safely possible.
However, in instances where families and care providers are unable to meet the needs of children and youth, specifically those with complex needs or challenging behaviours, group homes offer a necessary and beneficial temporary placement option.
In 2022, CASO introduced a committee-based approach to reviewing group care placements. We now organize meetings for every child or youth placed in group care. These meetings include family engagement workers, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion-focused staff, senior management, the placement worker and their supervisor.
These meetings serve a vital purpose: to explore ways of reducing the length of stay of a child or youth in group care, or in cases where group care is determined to be the best temporary placement option, to ensure that the child or youth has access to necessary resources and is maintaining connections with their social and community networks. While the percentage of group care placements has remained stable at 9 per cent over the previous fiscal year, CASO’s journey towards reducing group care and promoting family-based care is making progress, as seen through an 11.4%reduction in the number of paid days of group care in 2022/2023, and a decrease of more than 22% since the beginning of the strategic plan in 2021.