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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

CONTACTING THE ONTARIO CHILD ADVOCATE FOR INVESTIGATIONS

1. What are the investigative powers granted to the Ontario Child Advocate?

The Public Sector and MPP Accountability and Transparency Act, 2014 was introduced by the provincial government and passed into law in December 2014. Among other legislative changes, this expanded the Ontario Child Advocate’s mandate to “conduct investigations and make recommendations to improve children’s aid society services and services provided by residential licensees where a children’s aid society is the placing agency.” This does not permit the Office to investigate other areas of its mandate (e.g. youth justice, children’s mental health etc.).

Following the completion of each investigation, the Office will publish a public report outlining its findings and recommendations to improve Children’s Aid Society services in order to promote the best interests, protection and well-being of children in care. 

We are committed to carrying out fair, thorough and transparent investigations with the goal of ensuring young people feel heard, empowered and protected.

2. Who can contact the Ontario Child Advocate for an investigation?

Anyone who has a concern about a child or a group of children receiving services from a Children’s Aid Society, or about a children’s residence where the young person has been placed by a Children’s Aid Society, may request an investigation if the issue remains unresolved after existing complaint procedures have been exhausted. Examples of such complaint procedures include: 

  • For Children’s Aid Societies:
    • The internal complaints process at their local Children’s Aid Society OR the Child and Family Services Review Board 
  • For children’s residences:
    • The internal complaints process at the children’s residence OR the Ministry of Children and Youth Services.
    • Once you have attempted to resolve the issue through existing complaint procedures, you may be able to request an investigation from the Investigative Unit.

3. How do I know if I should contact the Investigative Unit?

Anyone who has a concern about a child or a group of children receiving services from a Children’s Aid Society, or about a children’s residence where the young person has been placed by a Children’s Aid Society, may request an investigation if, after existing complaint procedures have been exhausted, the issue remains unresolved. 

If you are a child or youth, an Advocate will work with you to raise your complaint with the existing internal complaints processes. They will work with you to determine the best course of action and support you at every stage. Please call the Office at: 1-800-263-2841 (toll-free) or 416-325-5669. 

If you are an adult, staff at the Investigative Unit will assist all adult callers in submitting documentation for complaint systems. 

It is important to understand that the Office’s investigative powers could be invoked by concerned individuals once all other complaint procedures have been exhausted. This means that a matter that is eligible for review by an existing complaints process (e.g. through the local CAS’s internal complaint process or the Child and Family Services Review Board (CFSRB), or through the internal complaints process at the children’s residence or the Ministry of Children and Youth Services) must be resolved through those means first. In some areas, a decision made by the CFSRB is binding. 

Please call the Office’s main number at 1-800-263-2841 (toll-free) or 416-325-5669 and we will direct your call to the most appropriate area to discuss your individual concern.

4. What does the Investigative Unit mean for children in care?

The Investigative Unit exists to help and promote the best interests and well-being of children. 

The Ontario Child Advocate has the authority to investigate any matter concerning a child or group of children about the services they receive from a Children’s Aid Society or a residential licensee where a CAS is the placing agency. This includes systemic investigations into child deaths. Following the investigation, the Office will release a public report that may identify systemic recommendations that will lead to better outcomes for all children or youth in care.

5. What kind of investigations could come to the Office’s attention?

Any individual or systemic matter concerning a child or group of children under the care of a CAS or a residential licensee where a CAS is the placing agency can be brought to the Office’s attention. 

Investigations by the Ontario Child Advocate can only be initiated as a “last resort.” An individual must exhaust all other complaint procedures before a request for an investigation can be made (see question 3 “How do I know if I should contact the Investigative Unit?” above).

6. Can the public access a copy of the investigations report?

Following the completion of each investigation, the Ontario Child Advocate will release a public report (available on the Office’s website) summarizing its findings and recommendations to improve Children’s Aid Society services.