Investigation update: Even 12 years after the publication of this report, our Office continues to receive complaints from parents of children with severe special needs who are told that the only way they can obtain residential care for them is to surrender custody to children’s aid societies. We received 2 such complaints in 2016-2017. One was resolved, and we continue to follow up on the second.
The first case involved an 11-year-old boy with complex special needs who was under a temporary care agreement with a children’s aid society when his mother was told she would have to surrender custody permanently to continue to access special services for him. After our intervention, the Ministry confirmed that the proper procedure was not followed, and it initiated a review of all similar temporary care agreements in the region. It also expedited the mother’s application for complex special needs funding for the boy.
In the second case, the family of a 16-year-old boy with an intellectual disability and bipolar disorder also had a temporary care agreement with a children’s aid society. The agreement had ended in 2015, but the boy’s family stated they were in crisis and were not receiving sufficient supports. Our office flagged the case to Ministry staff who confirmed children’s aid society officials had investigated but identified no child protection issues. They have since been approved for Special Services at Home funding and for out-of-home supports. We continue to follow up with the Ministry on this case.
The Ontario Ombudsman has stated unequivocally that 'no parent should be forced to give up custody of a child'. 
But there are families in every community worldwide raising children who have complex needs. One thing is for sure - they cannot do it alone.

Some excellent clinicians know this and together with families, have become innovators.  Ironically, the best program to support children with developmental disabilities and mental health originated in Nova Scotia.  It's called Strongest Families. Trained telephone coaches are available on flexible hours to teach and support parents who struggle to stabilize their child's behaviour. It's a perfect example of evidence-based help that is proven to keep families strong and together.

Families need to be supported in partnership with governments and with communities to raise their children. Policies and programs should reflect a network approach with parents as the anchor of love and family. There's no excuse for children going missing from youth residential treatment facilities. If they do run away, families should be made aware immediately. The bottom line is that families should never be forced to trade guardianship for care.