Community development, what it is and why it’s important in the work of the Ontario Child Advocate’s office.
As part of community development, we partner with young people, communities and organizations to host outreach events with the goal of educating the public about children’s rights and the mandates of our office. This outreach seeks to provide information and knowledge in all mandate areas in order to empower youth to know their rights and use their voice to address concerns and be heard. As we work with young people and communities across the province, we begin to see linkages between their issues and needs. Our office is then able to create space where young people can come together to talk, share their experiences and work together to map out possible solutions to the issues and gaps that need to be addressed.
Community development activities help support young people to add their individual and collective voices to making change real.
In this process, they become powerful self-advocates for improving services and resources in their communities – whether they are First Nations, a young person connected to the special needs community, involved in child welfare or struggling with mental health. As an Office, our goal is to ensure young people have access to the tools, skills and resources they need to mobilize change for themselves.
Community development plays an important role in increasing awareness and access to the Advocate’s Office. It also plays an essential role on a larger systemic scale that can be seen through the growth of the initiatives, projects, forums and panels that the Advocate’s Office is involved with.
Feathers of Hope illustrates how a vision can soon turn into a powerful youth movement drawing thousands of First Nations young people from across Ontario together. Since its launch in 2013, the Advocate’s Office has worked with provincial, federal and First Nations leadership at the territorial and federal level; and met with young people from across the Ontario to talk about the role First Nations youth can play in creating change. Since 2013 Feather of Hope has hosted forums on Child Welfare and Culture, Identity, and Belonging, and as well as a special edition forum on Justice and Juries at the request of former Supreme Court of Canada Justice Frank Iacobucci.
Some other examples of current community development projects with our office are:
- We Have Something to Say – Children and Youth with special needs
- HairStory – Black youth in Ontario’s systems of care
- You are Not Alone – LGBQTTQQ2SIA youth in Ontario’s systems of care
- Ongoing education and awareness through presentations to schools and community organizations
All of these initiatives have supported youth with lived experiences in creating recommendations on how Ontario systems can change to create better outcomes for anyone in their communities.