September 18 – 22, 2023 marks Kinship and Alternate Care Awareness Week in Ontario and provides us with a dedicated time to recognize and raise awareness of the important role that kin networks play in keeping children and youth connected to their families, communities, and identities.
Kinship is any living arrangement in which a relative or a community member who has an emotional connection to a child/children, youth or family takes primary responsibility for the child/children or youth when they are not able to reside with their parent or caregivers. Kinship families can include Kin such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, or Kith such as teachers, neighbours, or family friends.
Under the CYFSA and Ontario Kinship Service Standards our Agency has a legal responsibility to search and explore kinship plans for child(ren)/youth who are at risk of being brought to a place of safety.
Our partnerships with kinship families have become an integral part of our Agency’s priority of reducing the number of children and youth who come into care and addressing the disproportionate number of Black children and youth involved with our Agency. In 2022-2023 we facilitated 500 kinship placements, with 17 per cent more kin and kith placements than the previous year. There was also an increase in referrals from child welfare agencies across the province and country for kin/ kith assessments.
In 2022-2023, we added two additional positions for a total of eight Kinship Connections Workers. The growth of this team has resulted in a decrease in wait times for children and youth who need a kinship search completed to expand placement options, establish contact, and/or build their family/community network. We also implemented a system to support kinship families at the onset of a children and youth placement via funding through the Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada to assist with immediate needs. In addition, every child and youth entering a kinship placement, received a comfort kit including items such as gift cards, a tablet, comforting and sensory items, books and more.
This week, and every week, we’d like to thank Kinship families and our staff members for their commitment and collaboration to support the safety and well-being of children and youth in our communities.