Ontario Child Advocate
The Ontario Child Advocate (OCA) reports directly to the Legislature, and partners with children and youth to elevate their voices and promote action on their issues. OCA derives authority from the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth Act, 2007. OCA's legal name is the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth, however in February of 2018 the brand name was officially changed to the Ontario Child Advocate. More easily recognizable, child- and youth-friendly and impactful, the new platform reflects OCA's growing mandate in the domains of their advocacy and investigative work.
OCA has separate investigative and advocacy functions:
OCA advocates on behalf and for children and youth seeking or receiving services from the children's services sector (including child welfare, youth justice, children's mental health, developmental services and children’s treatment services). This includes students of the provincial and demonstration schools, youth in court holding cells or being transported to and from court holding cells, First Nations children and youth, and children and youth with special needs.
OCA has the function of investigating any matter that comes to its attention from any source or on its own initiative concerning a child or group of children, including a systemic investigation, with respect to a service of a children’s aid society, or a service provided by a residential licensee where a children’s aid society is the placing agency. Please note that the Director of Investigations and the Investigative Team cannot concurrently conduct investigations and provide advocacy services on the same complaint/identified issue.
Currently OCA is undetaking a systemic investigation on the use of physical restraints at children’s residences. In order to inform this investigation, as well as to gather feedback on the Advocate’s recently released report, In Harm’s Way? Serious Occurrences Report Volume 2, a consulation session was held in Markham on February 28th for all residential service providers. Agencies may send feedback further to this session directly to the OARTY Office to be compiled and submitted to OCA.
Your Responsibilities to OCA
Residential service providers and children’s aid societies have a duty to comply with OCA investigations. OARTY, in partnership with the Ministry of Children and Youth Services developed a compliance manual to assist residential service providers in complying with an investigation. You can access this resource, along with supporting policies, forms and templates at www.oarty.net/compliance-manual.html.
Reporting Death or Serious and Bodily Harm
Agencies and service providers have a responsibility to report when children and youth in care die or suffer serious bodily harm. This applies to all children living in care, and those who sought or received services from a children's aid society within 12 months of the incident. You can get full details from OCA's website here - https://provincialadvocate.on.ca/main/en/investigations/dsbh/index.html