This article, written by Lindsay Izsak who is part of our EquippingKids Canada team, highlights how conscious we need to be about protecting communication channels for children who are facing disadvantages. Children's voices are important and should be heard, limiting this carries significant social risks.
A Month without a Voice:
Is the Ontario Ombudsman Office doing enough for Children and Youth?
As of May 1st, 2019, the Provincial Government officially closed the Ontario Advocacy Office for Children and Youth, shifting this role to the Ontario Ombudsman in their new Children and Youth unit. When the announcement of this closure was first made there was out cry from adult professionals, children and youth across Ontario.
Now, a month later, we may review the new process that the Ontario Ombudsman has established for youth to bring forward their concerns, complaints and have their voices heard. We are left to ask the important questions, is this enough to replace the Advocacy Office or will the children and youth in Ontario be left ignored and voiceless?
Below we spoke to a Youth Amplifier who is familiar with the Ontario Advocacy Office approach to hear their thoughts on the new process for Children and Youth outlined by the Ontario Ombudsman Website (Link Below).
What was the Process to reach out the Ontario Child and Youth Advocate before it closed?
It was pretty straightforward. There were posters [for the Ontario Advocacy Office] everywhere, in schools and around the community. When you called their number you would speak with a receptionist and then be transferred to the advocate on duty. They would talk with you about your concerns; ask you how you wanted to move forward and what you wanted to do next. When I first called [the Ontario Advocacy Office] my emotions were high and my advocate came to me to help support me with what I needed in person.
How did it feel reaching out to the Advocate for support?
I enjoyed the process; it gave me the opportunity to make a connection with someone who genuinely cared about my concerns and me. It was not just a matter of dealing with the issue that I called about and closing my file. My advocate kept in contact with me over the years until the day the advocacy office closed and continues to stay in touch today. They [the Advocates] were in this role because they loved their jobs and generally cared for the children and youth that they helped and supported around Ontario.
Do you feel this new process is as accessible to children and youth in need?
Absolutely Not! It is not very child/youth friendly and is difficult to find your way through to the contact forms. At least with the Advocacy Office you had someone who you could actually talk to on the phone or in person. This process is not good in general; there are so many better ways they could do this.
What would make this process better for children and youth?
Have someone to talk to in person. If you are making a complaint a lot of the times your emotions are high and it is easier to have someone to talk things through with. They can help talk you through your emotions, feelings and concerns. If I was still in the age gap to utilize Child and Youth Services and this was the way to go…I totally would not have used this process.
In general a government should not be monitoring a government. When you have people monitoring themselves a lot of time the person making the complaint becomes the target or victim. I worry that children and youth will go to the ministry for ministry related issues and they will be ignored; this is my biggest fear! Children and Youth will now be going to someone who has their own agenda and are looking at their own budget instead of the needs of the kids. At this point the Ontario Ombudsman it is only covering part of what the Ontario Advocacy office covered (see image for complaint categories below). The Advocacy office would deal with everything and anything. They [the Ontario Ombudsman] are not meeting nearly as many of the issues facing children and youth in Ontario as the office was when it was opened.
“Children and Youth Being Ignored is my Biggest Fear”
Overall, the Ontario Ombudsman has a lot of work ahead of them in order to truly match the work and positive impact that the Ontario Advocacy Office had for children and youth. Over the next month we will continue to examine the Ontario Ombudsman Office’s new approach.
Do you have thoughts about the closure of the Ontario Advocacy Office or the new approach by the Ontario Ombudsman Office?
We want to hear form you, continue share your thoughts!
Get in touch – firstname.lastname@example.org
Ontario Ombudsman Website: