Referrals: Anyone can make a referral for an advocate. If the young person is able to call, we encourage you to support them to do so. There are times when it is mandatory for caseworkers to contact our office. Caseworkers also have the obligation to tell young people about their procedural rights. One of these rights is to know about and be assisted in calling the OCYA.
Mandatory Notifications, as set out in policy, must be sent to the OCYA on behalf of a young person receiving designated services under the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act or the Protection of Sexually Exploited Children Act in the following circumstances: the child disagrees with a significant decision that pertains to them; the needs of a child are not being met; significant persons in the child’s life have competing perspectives that are not focused on the child; or an allegation of abuse or neglect of a child in care is made.
An advocate might ask lots of questions. Feel free to ask them: What is the nature of their involvement? Have they determined there is an advocacy issue? Are they collecting information to determine if there is an advocacy issue? Are they taking direction from the young person or is the child not capable of directing the advocacy efforts?
Privileged Information: Any information provided by a child to an advocate in confidence is privileged and cannot be shared (section 20 of the Child and Youth Advocate Act). The only exceptions to this is if the young person consents to the information being shared, the information may indicate a child is in need of child intervention services or the information indicates an individual is at substantial risk of physical harm. This information must be reported to the police.
The Advocate has broad access to information with respect to every child, including youth over 18 years of age who are receiving intervention services.
Young people have the right to have their voice heard in legal proceedings affecting them. A lawyer ensures that a young person’s legal interests are considered by the court.
We provide access to independent legal representation for young people up to the age of 18 who have court matters under the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act, or the Protection of Sexually Exploited Children Act. It is important that all children, regardless of their age, have access to independent legal counsel – even infants. This is especially important when the matter is related to a Permanent Guardianship application or when the matter is contested.
Once a court date has been set, call our office and make a referral. We will appoint a lawyer who will meet with the young person in a place that’s comfortable for them – usually not the lawyer’s office. The lawyer will find out what the young person wants to happen, answer their questions, and represent their interests and viewpoints during the legal proceedings. If the child is pre-verbal, the lawyer will speak to others close to the child and gather information to understand the child’s interests. Young people of all ages can benefit from having a lawyer represent them when legal decisions are being made that impact them.
The OCYA conducts reviews regarding the serious injury or death of a young person under the age of 22 receiving services under the Child, Youth, and Family Enhancement Act or the Protection of Sexually Exploited Children Act, or who is being served in the youth justice system. We also review deaths of young people who received services under the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act within the two years prior to their death.
All deaths are reviewed, regardless of the manner or cause of death.
A serious injury is defined in the Child and Youth Advocate Act as a life-threatening injury or an injury that may cause significant impairment to the young person’s health.
If a young person on your caseload is seriously injured or dies, notify your Child and Family Services Regional Director / DFNA Director immediately. A Report of Serious Injury or Death will then be sent to the Statutory Director, and the Statutory Director will forward this report to the OCYA.
Based on the Report of Serious Injury or Death, information on the young person’s electronic record, and collateral contacts, the OCYA conducts an Examination to determine whether systemic issues might be present. If more information is required or there are indications that there are systemic issues that should be explored, further information gathering is done through an Assessment. If at the end of the Assessment it is determined that systemic issues are present, or are likely to be present, a full Investigative Review is conducted.
A full Investigative Review includes interviews with individuals familiar with the young person and their situation, as well as interviews with family members, caregivers and professionals. The information from these interviews is privileged, meaning that it is not shared or disclosed for any purpose and must be protected according to the Child and Youth Advocate Act. The records created by the OCYA are exempt from disclosure as per the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. This privileged communication helps ensure the integrity of Investigative Reviews.
Investigative Reviews also include research and reviews of any other relevant documentation. A draft report is prepared, which summarizes the young person’s circumstances and any relevant systemic issues. A committee of subject matter experts is then convened, who examine the draft report and provide input into the findings and recommendations. The composition of the committee is tailored to the identified issues and the areas of expertise required.
With the benefit of the committee’s input, a final Investigative Review report is completed and released to the public. Consistent with our legislative requirements, the report does not provide any identifying information about the young person or anyone else involved with them.
The intent of an Investigative Review is not to find fault with specific individuals, but to identify and advocate for system improvements that will help enhance the overall safety and well-being of children who are receiving designated services. Fundamentally, an Investigative Review is about learning lessons, rather than assigning blame.