Children and Youth in Care Day is an annual event to raise awareness about children and youth in the care across the province of Ontario. This year, Tikinagan Child and Family Services wants to remind the public that the day will be taking place on May 14th.

"We recognize the importance of this day and honour the strength, bravery and resilience shown by children and youth in the face of difficult times,” said Amy Hardy, Director of Services at Tikinagan Child and Family Services.

“Children and Youth in Care Day is important to help destigmatize views about children and youth in and from care. By increasing public awareness and understanding, I think it's important that we celebrate the amazing success of children and using care who have connections to our 30 First Nation communities,” added Hardy.

As feelings of isolation and loneliness are among the main challenges for young people during the pandemic, it is particularly true for youth in care. This year, Tikinagan wants to use this day to remind the community that they are supported and not alone.

A purple lion is used to symbolize the day, chosen to represent the bravery and courage these children need to overcome the challenges of being an individual in care. Youth involved with the child welfare system are at greater risk for mental health issues, and youth from marginalized groups in care are more likely to be impacted by COVID-19 than non-marginalized.

“There are approximately 12,000 children in use in care in Ontario each year there is approximately 800 to 1000 individuals who age out and leave the care of Ontario Child Welfare System,” says Hardy.

This year, due to COVID-19, celebrations will be taking place virtually. Tikinagan encourages anyone interested in participating to post on social media using the hashtag #CARE4CARE to raise awareness about the child welfare sector, its partners, and the importance of caring for youth in care. The day acts as a reminder that children and youth in care face adversities and require allies, advocacy, and collaboration to help them reach their full potential.

However, Tikinagan believes that answers lie within the community, as Children and Youth in Care Day is an opportunity to recognize the contributions of current and former youth in care from their 30 First Nations. This year, in support of Children and Youth in Care Day, the Ontario Association of Children's Aid Services (OACAS) will be launching a new mental health initiative called Take5, launching on May 14th.

Take5 and is an interactive, online space focused on reducing mental health risk and isolation for children and youth in care during the pandemic and beyond. It has funded thanks to the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services (MCCSS). The name, Take5, was chosen to prioritize the message of mental well-being by taking a moment to breathe. OACAS worked alongside a Youth Advisory Committee, and over 20 community organizations, experts, and advocates to create the resources, content, workshops, and events for Take5.

To further support the new initiative, use the hashtag #Take5ON to encourage access to the Take5 website, while highlighting the importance of supporting the mental health and well-being of youth in and from care.

Tikinagan Child and Family Services is an Indigenous child well-being agency serving 30 First Nation communities in northwestern Ontario. These communities are mandated by Chiefs operating under the Mamow Obiki-ahwahsoowin service model, which means: "everyone working together to raise our children" in the Ojibway/Oji-Cree language. The organization's driving goal is to build a stronger, healthier community, while respecting the authority of the First Nation.