Ontario Increasing Mentoring Opportunities for Children, Youth in Care

Ontario Increasing Mentoring Opportunities for Children, Youth in Care

Investment in Big Steps to Success helping kids succeed in school

February 03, 2022

Children, Community and Social Services

TORONTO — The Ontario government is investing $2.2 million in a first-of-its-kind program by the Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada to change the lives of children and youth in care. Funding for Big Steps to Success will provide youth with a trusted mentor who will help guide and inspire them to improve their school performance and graduate high school.

“Our government is committed to removing barriers and supporting the youth of Ontario in realizing their full potential. Having a positive mentor to inspire young people can greatly contribute to their success,” said Jane McKenna, Associate Minister of Children and Women’s Issues. “Big Steps to Success offers a model for consistent, well-structured and widely available access to adult mentors for young people involved with the child welfare system in locations across Ontario.”

The program connects kids in care with positive adult mentors to help them benefit from having a caring and consistent relationship with a trusted adult and to improve their educational outcomes at the primary and secondary school levels, supporting higher rates of high school graduation. It focuses on children and youth ages 7-14, considered a critical time for intervention as kids this age are most likely to be receptive to adult role models and experience long-term academic benefits.

Ontario’s investment in the national program supports delivery sites in Toronto, London, Halton-Hamilton and North Bay. The North Bay site is focused on Indigenous children and youth, in partnership with local Indigenous communities.

One of the program goals is addressing the significant challenges faced by young people, such as systemic racism, which often lead to outcome disparities for First Nations, Inuit and Métis, Black, racialized and LGBTQ2S+ children and youth in care.

Supporting Big Steps to Success is a direct investment in educational supports for children and youth in care, a key tenant of Ontario’s child welfare redesign strategy. Ontario also funds Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada’s mentoring for children and youth through the School-Based Mentorship program, which received $1.5 million annually since 2018 to support students facing adversity, including children and youth in care.

“Providing students with school-based mentoring programs is another way we can support children and youth in care — allowing them to overcome barriers, build their leadership skills and realize success,” said Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education. “The presence of a caring adult in a child’s life is a crucial factor to student success and well-being, and it’s partnerships like these that are giving young people, especially those in underserved communities, greater opportunities to thrive and succeed.”

“With this new approach, our goal is to close the achievement gap that children in care have experienced for too long. Through Ontario government support, plus private-sector philanthropic investment — and participating local child welfare agencies — we are creating a community of practise whose aim is advancing the academic success and long-term stability of young people involved with the child welfare system,” said Valerie McMurtry, President and CEO, Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada.

“When potential is ignited early in life, youth are better able to face and navigate life’s adversities. We are dedicated to helping enrich young people’s lives through the power of one-to-one mentoring. Our data shows that for every dollar invested, there is a 23-fold return. Not only do the children benefit, but also the communities where they live benefit. We are proud to collaborate with our partners to create a positive social impact and equalize opportunities for youth experiencing the child welfare system,” said W. Matthew Chater, President and CEO, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada.

Quick Facts

  • More than 12,000 children and youth are in the care of children’s aid societies in Ontario.
  • Children and youth leaving the child welfare system are more likely to experience a range of negative outcomes, such as homelessness, mental health concerns, unemployment, lack of education and involvement in the justice system.
  • Big Steps to Success supports a pillar of Ontario’s child welfare redesign strategy by better meeting the educational and employment needs of youth in and leaving care.
  • Ontario’s investment supports only program sites in the province. The program is also receiving a national investment of $2.5 million from BMO.

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