Young Single Mothers’ Interactions with Ontario’s Child Welfare System

Advocacy Report by Alexis Jacklin, CCYP Fellowship Program. Click to download.

An investigation into how young single mothers interact with Ontario’s child welfare system and how programs and employment training could better prevent child placement in foster care.

I chose young single mothers and their intersection with Ontario’s child welfare system as the topic

for this advocacy report because my own mother had me quite young and our family faced many

investigations and involvement from the child welfare system in Ontario between 2000 and 2015.


I recognized from a young age that this is a group that I believe deserves more attention from researchers, at least in recent years.


Research suggests that young single mothers are investigated by the child welfare system and have

their children apprehended from them at a higher rate than two-parent families, (Wieneck, et al,

1998, pg. 55).


When children from single-mother homes are placed in care, they have lower rates of being returned to their biological family. Single-parent families receive family preservation services at a lower rate than 2 parent families, (Wieneck, et al, 1998 pg 64).


Family preservation services include “any services that provide intensive assistance to at-risk families in an attempt to avoid removal of the children while maintaining a safe and nurturing environment for them in the home.”


Since there is a lack of Canadian research on this topic, looking at American jurisdictions has been helpful in understanding these issues. Studies from Michigan, USA have shown that these services are beneficial because they help improve families’ internal relationships, teach family conflict resolution and help provide families with basic necessities like food and shelter which can rectify the situation.



I would like to explore this issue for Ontario by answering the following question: ‘How can existing

wrap-around and social programs have employability or educational elements that can help

single-young mothers better prevent child placement in foster care?


Another connected question I raise is: What are adequate and effective solutions that could reduce single mothers and their children from being investigated by the child welfare system? My research is relevant to young single mothers themselves and various service providers, social policy actors, and children’s aid

societies.


This project advocates that young single mothers in Ontario get all the support that they need so that

they can keep their children, as research proves that children do better when they remain in their

biological home. Existing studies show that employment training is not as prominent in wraparound

services as it could be.


My work addresses this issue by seeking to understand the role of employment support programs in

the general provision of assistance to young single mothers.


I found that existing supports can have employment and education training elements but there are

many challenges and barriers that prevent that from providing long-term benefits for young single

mothers.


...young single mothers feel insecure around the child welfare system...

From my discussions, I found that young single mothers feel insecure around the child welfare system and due to more immediate needs taking priority over employment and education

training.


This report is organized as follows. The next section discusses the findings from the literature review

that was conducted early on in this project, followed by a section that shares my research findings.


My final section provides recommendations on how the problems and issues I discovered in my

research may be addressed. The last section in this report contains my concluding statements and

articulation of my advocacy platform.


The reader can find the organizations I spoke to concerning this project as well as the questions from the anonymous survey listed in the appendix.



 
ABOUT CCYP's FELLOWSHIP PROGRAM

Through CCYP's Fellowship Program, Fellows are exposed to policy, research, leadership, academic writing, evaluation, systems thinking, public speaking, and more. It also provides youth with access to the workforce development industry, while at the same time serving as a means of adding more youth perspectives to the advocacy work at the Canadian Council for Youth Prosperity.