Adoption Awareness Month
November is Adoption Awareness Month. This is an important month for my ministry and for many Ontarians.
Adoption Awareness Month gives us the opportunity to increase outreach and education efforts about adoption, the children and youth who need a permanent home, the benefits of adopting and the financial and other resources available to adoptive families. Children and youth in the care of our child welfare system come to us from a variety of circumstances. While they're in our care, dedicated staff and professionals nurture, guide and serve these vulnerable young people. Our goal is to increase the number of kids in care who are adopted – giving them the same loving families and opportunities as children in permanent families.
That's why, in September, I announced a number of improvements to our provincial adoption system. We're expanding the age eligibility for adoptive parents to receive targeted subsidies. We're also investing in a province-wide, post-adoption family support program to help new families settle in with each other. And we're partnering with Wendy's Wonderful Kids to find adoptive families for historically harder to place children. These initiatives will help us find permanent homes with loving families for these young people.
We know that growing up in a stable family significantly improves outcomes for children – it supports their health, their education, and their participation in the workforce long-term. We've made a great deal of progress in supporting adoptive families already. We provide financial subsidies for eligible parents who adopt or take legal custody of Crown wards who are eight years or older, or sibling groups. These subsidies make a real difference in supporting families to meet the child's needs without undue financial hardship. We also removed legal barriers so that more children in care can be adopted through the Building Families and Supporting Youth to be Successful Act. We fund the Adoption Council of Ontario to manage the Adopt Ontario program - a website to help children's aid societies match children with families in Ontario who are prepared to adopt. And with partners in the child welfare sector, we expanded the Adoption Resource Exchange events from twice each year at least six times every year across the province. These events help match prospective parents with children in need of a forever home.
In Ontario, approximately 1,000 adoptions are completed each year through children's aid societies. I'm very pleased to say that, with the improvements I announced in September, we expect that number to grow. As I mentioned, to help more children and youth find a permanent, nurturing family, we are funding 15 adoption recruiters in partnership with Wendy's Wonderful Kids. The Wendy's Wonderful Kids program focuses on finding homes for historically harder to place children – primarily those who are older or have special needs. And it works. With our addition of 15 adoption recruiters, and Wendy's Wonderful Kids' commitment to hire four more recruiters in Ontario, we will increase the capacity to match families with children more than five-fold in the next year.
There's more. We are requiring children's aid societies to profile children in their care who are available for adoption on the AdoptOntario website. We're also developing service standards to improve the adoption experience for prospective families and children and youth. And we are working with the Adoption Council of Ontario and Adopt4Life to establish a post adoption support program to support families long after the adoption has been finalized. We're also further helping adoptive families to care for their children by extending the age range for eligibility for targeted subsidies to ages 8 to 21 and increasing the income threshold and monthly subsidy amount.
Finally, we will be requiring greater use of culturally-appropriate placement options for First Nations children and youth. Mr. Speaker, each year we're doing more for children and youth in care, and we will continue to achieve more for these children. We all share the same goal – to help these children and youth reach their full potential in a safe, loving family.