After the extravagance of the holiday season how many of us put budgeting as one of our new year’s resolutions? Most of us spent more last year on ‘luxuries’ than we planned to. Time to cut back, spend responsibly and prioritize what we really need. This is noble and good thinking.
BUT sometime we have to think about the real cost of decisions that we make to cut back. Consider the real Cost of Doing Nothing about the challenges that face our Child Welfare system especially in the area of permanency planning for children and youth in foster care. This is the January theme of our Kidsdeserveafamily campaign.
Currently in Ontario, just under 7,000 children and youth live as Crown Wards, permanent wards of the Ontario government. The Expert Panel on Infertility and Adoption (Ontario 2009) noted very conservatively that it costs a least $32,000 a year to keep a Crown Ward in care. They noted that it costs significantly less to provide supports and subsidies to help adoptive families parent children.
More recently, a report by the Conference Board of Canada presented in April 2014 found that a child “aging out” of care today will earn about $326,000 less income over his/her lifetime compared to the average Canadian.*
- As a result of their lower income, they also require more social assistance and pay less income and consumption taxes over their lifetimes.*
- On a per-person basis this will cost all levels of Canadian government more then $126,000 per year in the form of higher social assistance payments and lower tax revenue.*
To put some perspective on let us consider some facts:
- all children and youth in foster care have experienced trauma and moves from home to home that have impacted the continuity of their education not to mention special needs for learning they may have had when entering the child welfare system (82% will be diagnosed of children in care will be diagnosed)
- fewer than 50% of Crown Wards will complete grade 12
- less than 3% will obtain a College or University degree
Compare these stats to the general population where more than 80% of youth graduate from grade 12 and about half will go on to complete college or univeristy. From there, more than ½ of these young people will return to their parents home or accept financial support from their parents until they are 30 or older.
The fact is that it is the support of a family that helps a youth through the complex challenges of high school, college and finding a place in the adult work force.
The Call to Action that we are making this month to our government in making decisions about funding for social service, child welfare and children’s mental health programs is to make a commitment to support Permanency for Children. As a society, as a system, Ontario needs to invest in programs that will ensure that children and youth who are waiting in foster care will have the permanence of a kinship, customary care or adoptive family as soon as possible AND that Ontario will build the village of community based supports to help families on the lifelong journey.
Over the next few months, we will be highlighting the evidenced based programs that are essential to build in Ontario –
- family recruitment and preparation programs;
- education for mental health and child welfare professionals so they can help families dealing with complex mental health issues;
- parent support and respite programs;
- subsidies to ensure that families can access the programs their children need when they need them.
We have a Blueprint to build the Village of Supports in Ontario.
Rest assured that we will ‘watch the budget’ by ensuring that we are working in partnership with all of our stakeholders and building programs that are community-based, inclusive and sustainable over time. As Henry Ford once said - If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.
We have a collective responsibility to do more.
*The Conference Board of Canada, Success for All: The Economic Case for Investing in the Future of Canadian Children in Care, 2014.