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If you are experiencing a mental health crisis and need to confidentially speak to a counselor right away, call the Kids Help Phone (24 Hours):
What you will find in this guide
The Quality Standards Framework tells service providers what they can and must do to care for you while you are living in a:
- foster home
- group home
- staff-model home
- youth justice facility
- secure treatment facility
This guide was made so that you can understand:
- what is in the Quality Standards Framework
- what to expect while receiving licensed care
Once you know what to expect, you can ask for changes to the care you receive if you do not see and feel that you are getting what you need to feel safe, cared for and comfortable where you live.
There are 12 quality standards that are goals for what should happen in licensed care settings. They cover 12 different topic areas:
- Your rights
- Your placement
- Your needs
- Your voice
- Your safety
- Your identity
- Your relationships
- Staff and caregivers
- Your health and well-being
- Your education
- Your access to internet
- Your life changes and transitions
Some of the information below is based on laws that staff and caregivers must follow, and others are suggestions based on feedback from youth who have received licensed care.
This guide will help you understand what high-quality licensed care looks like so you know when and how to ask for different support or services, especially if the ones you are getting are not working for you.
If you need help
The information in the guide is not legal advice.
If you have questions or concerns about the care you are receiving, you can talk to:
- the staff and caregivers who care for you where you live
- your worker if you are in the care of a children’s aid society
- your probation officer if you have one
- your lawyer
Make a complaint
You have options for how to make a complaint.
If you have a question or concerns about services from a children’s aid society, you can talk to the worker who is helping you, the worker’s supervisor or someone else at the children’s aid society. If you do not want to speak to them first or if they don’t answer your questions, you have the right to start a formal process to complain at any time. You can make a complaint:
- directly to the society
- to the Child and Family Services Review Board
- to the Office of Ontario’s Ombudsman at Toll-free: 1-800-263-2841 or 416-325-5669 if you live in Toronto
If you live in a foster or group home, youth justice facility or secure treatment facility, and you need help or would like someone to look into something related to the services provided to you in that setting, you can call the Office of Ontario’s Ombudsman at
If you have concerns about access to, or the privacy of, your personal information you can make a complaint to the Information and Privacy Commissioner (IPC) at any time. You can ask your service provider to help with the complaints process. Visit the IPC website for more information about making a complaint.
Health and peer support
Get health and peer support from the following organizations:
- Mental health services for children and youth - Find mental health support and helplines for people under 18 years of age.
- First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line - Get immediate mental health counselling and crisis intervention. Help is available 24/7. Call
- ConnexOntario - Find addictions, mental health and problem gambling treatment services. Call
- Telehealth Ontario - Speak to a registered nurse and get free medical advice. Call
- YouthLine - Get confidential, non-judgmental and informed 2SLGBTQQIA+ peer support. Call
Toll-free: 1-800-268-9688or 647-694-4275.
The 12 quality standards
The language used in the following section is designed to help you talk about the quality standards when you are having conversations with your service provider. You can use these statements to talk about the quality of care that you should receive from your licensed service provider.
The care I get should make me feel safe, cared for and comfortable.
The place where I live should help me grow, reach my goals and have healthy relationships with others and with myself.
There are specific things that people can do to make sure I have high-quality care. These things are called the 12 quality standards. This list explains the 12 quality standards, including things I should expect to feel and see to know that I am getting quality care.
The way I receive services may look different if I live in a youth justice facility. There are specific examples to help me understand what I should expect if I live in a youth justice facility.
As a child or young person receiving licensed care, I have rights. I must be told what my rights are under the Child, Youth and Family Services Act, 2017 (CYFSA) in words that I understand. If I have concerns about my care, the staff or caregivers caring for me should respond to my concerns in a reasonable time frame.
What to expect
- The staff or caregivers must explain my rights using words or in other ways that I understand. They should use examples that make sense to me.
- The staff and caregivers should let me know about the rights resource and how I can find it on my own.
- The staff and caregivers must make sure my rights are being respected. They should also make me feel safe to speak up when I feel my rights are not being respected.
- I must be told about how to make a complaint if I feel my rights are not being respected. No one should discourage me from raising the issue I am facing or try to downplay it. I can call the Office of the Ontario Ombudsman for help at
Toll-free: Toll-free: 1-800-263-2841 (8655-3733: 1-800-263-2841)or 416-325-5669.
If I need to be moved into licensed care, the adults who make that decision should find out what my needs, preferences and goals are and move me to a place that will meet my needs, preferences and goals as best as possible.
What to expect
- There are certain adults that make decisions about where I live. Before they decide, they should know what my current needs are. All this information is important to make sure I am in the best possible place for me.
- If possible and appropriate, I should live in a place that is close to my parents, friends and community.
- I should have a say in where I want to live, who I want to live with and what kind of services I think would be helpful for me. The adults that decide where I live must speak with me before making that decision and allow me to share my views freely.
- If I am a First Nations, Inuk or Métis child and a children’s aid society is placing me in licensed care, my bands and First Nations, Inuit or Métis communities must also be contacted and given an opportunity to be included in the conversations about where I live.
- If I need to move to a different place to live, the adult making this decision should let me know why. I should be part of the conversation as much as possible. The reason for the move must be explained to me so that I understand why it is happening.
- I have a right to be informed of procedures available to have my placement decisions reviewed. If I disagree with my placement decision and I am a young person residing in youth justice facility I can connect with the Custody Review Board (
Toll-free: 1-888-728-8823) within 30 days to file a complaint.
- The Residential Placement Advisory Committee also conducts reviews of certain placements in specific circumstances. To find the correct Residential Placement Advisory Committee and if you are eligible to have your placement reviewed by such a committee, please connect with your local ministry regional office for contact details.
Every person has different needs to keep them healthy, safe and happy. It is important that I know and have a say in what my needs are and that I am getting the right services to meet my needs.
What to expect
- I should be a part of the conversation before the people in charge of my care make decisions about the services I get to meet my needs.
- There are different kinds of plans that the people in charge of my care have to make about me. It is important that I am part of any plan that is made about me. I should be asked about what I want and what I need. This includes plans about my care, safety, access to my culture, education, health services, transitions into licensed care, between placements, out of licensed care and to adult services where applicable.
- I should feel comfortable and safe talking about my needs with the people in charge of my care.
- Unless I am in a youth justice facility, I am able to do things with my friends, at my school and in my community. This includes participating in sports, music programs, pow wows, play dates, religious events, birthday parties and camp, either in-person or online.
- If I am in a youth justice facility, I am able to participate in school and activities. This may include participating in sports, art programs and religious events, either in-person or online.
- If I am a First Nations, Inuk or Métis child, my bands and First Nations, Inuit or Métis communities must be contacted and included in the conversations about some of the services I get. This includes when my staff and caregivers make my plan of care.
I must be able to participate in decisions about my care. My opinions and thoughts matter - they must be listened to and should be respected.
What to expect
- I am asked regularly about what I like and what I need, such as what I want or need to eat and what types of activities I would like to join. The staff and caregivers should listen to what I say and try their best to make sure it is part of my experience.
- I have a right to be listened to when decisions are made that affect me. Staff and caregivers should take my views seriously.
- I may have a lot of ideas about how to make my life better. I must be given the chance to share my thoughts with the staff and caregivers. The staff and caregivers should listen to what I say and try their best to make sure it is part of my experience.
- I should be given the chance to talk with other children or young persons in licensed care about important issues and to share ideas about how to make things better.
Feeling safe, accepted, able to express and be myself wherever I live is important. I should feel protected and welcome wherever I live.
What to expect
- I should feel safe in the place where I live. I should not live-in fear that someone or something will hurt me.
- The staff and caregivers should have the information about my past and my current experiences that they need to care for me and I should feel comfortable to share information about those experiences with them. This will help them make sure I am safe and feel supported, now and in the future.
- When I am first placed into licensed care, the staff and caregivers should tell me when a physical or mechanical restraint can be used on me, what types of restraints can be used on me, and the reasons why this might happen.
- If a physical restraint is used on me, the staff and caregivers must talk to me after about how I feel and what supports I might need.
- When needed, the staff and caregivers should make a safety plan with me that includes my safety needs and how to meet them. This includes things that might make me feel upset and actions that help make me feel better.
Everyone is different. I should feel supported to explore and find out who I am and how I think about myself. I should be accepted for who I am and how I think about myself. This includes my identity, and the culture and beliefs I feel most connected to.
What to expect
- The staff and caregivers must respect my identity and consider my identity when making decisions that affect my interests. My identity includes my gender identity, sexual orientation, race, creed (including my religion), disability, and cultural or linguistic needs.
- I should be allowed to do things that are connected to my identity. I should be allowed to eat foods from my culture, go to religious, cultural and spiritual services, ceremonies, and/or celebrate festivals and holidays.
- I should not be required to attend religious services that are not part of my faith.
- I must be given the chance to choose a “resource person” who is someone that helps the staff and caregivers to better understand my identity, culture, language and needs.
- As much as possible, some of my staff or caregivers should share similar parts of my identity or culture and make me feel safe and accepted.
- If I am a First Nations, Inuk or Métis child, I must feel that the staff and caregivers who care for me respect and take into account my culture, language, heritage, traditions, connection to my communities and the concept of the extended family. I should have a say in how my identity and culture are included in planning for my care.
It is important to have healthy relationships in my life. The staff and caregivers who care for me should help me build relationships with myself and with other people around me. Healthy relationships will help me feel safe, respected and heard.
What to expect
- I should feel that the staff and caregivers are trying to build a good relationship with me. These relationships should help me feel trusted, safe and respected.
- The staff and caregivers should help me to understand what a healthy relationship means and what that looks like. The staff and caregivers should also explain the difference between a healthy relationship and an unhealthy relationship to me, and how I can tell the difference between the two.
- The staff and caregivers should help me learn how to build a healthy relationship with myself. The staff and caregivers should talk to me about how I feel about myself and help me build my self-esteem.
- Unless there are safety or other concerns or restrictions, I should be allowed to spend time with my family, friends and/or other people who are important to me. This includes family and community visits, play dates, birthday parties and trips to cottages or camp.
Staff and caregivers
I should feel that the staff and caregivers have the right skills to care for me. They should be able to meet my needs.
What to expect
- I should feel like the staff and caregivers understand what I need. They should know how to help me, even if my needs change over time.
- I should feel like the staff and caregivers are open and welcoming towards me. They should make me feel accepted and safe.
- I should feel that the staff and caregivers are making a positive difference in my life.
- If I am a First Nations, Inuk or Métis child, I should feel like the staff and caregivers respect and take into account my culture, language, heritage, traditions, connection to my communities and my extended family.
My health and well-being
The services I get should help me to be healthy. This includes my physical body, my emotions, my spirit, my culture and my mental health.
What to expect
- I should have regular access to health care. This includes seeing a doctor, Elder or Knowledge Keeper, dentist, counsellor, and/or other medical professionals as I need them. These types of services help to keep me physically, emotionally and mentally healthy.
- When I go for check-ups, I can and should be able to ask questions to understand what is going on with my health. I can ask my doctor questions about the medicine I take, or I can ask my counsellor questions about the type of counselling I get. My wishes and feelings should be taken seriously.
- Unless there are concerns or restrictions, the staff and caregivers should ask me if and how I want my family, community, and/or friends involved in my health care.
- As I get older, the staff and caregivers should help me understand how to stay healthy.
- If I need to move to a different place to live, when possible, I should be able to keep seeing the same doctor, dentist and/or counsellor. If I cannot, I should have a say in choosing a new one.
- If I am a First Nations, Inuk or Métis child, I should be able to access traditional forms of holistic health. I should also be able to use traditional medicines and ceremonies and talk to Elders and Knowledge Keepers about my spirituality and beliefs when receiving health care.
Getting an education is important - that is why I need to go to school. The staff and caregivers who care for me should help me go to whichever school program is good for me. The staff and caregivers who care for me should help me understand why school and education are important.
What to expect
- I have a right to an education. I should be supported to go to school and do well, in a way that corresponds to my abilities. I should also be encouraged to develop my educational talents and abilities. If I attend school in the community, I should get help for school-related things like registration, taking the bus, or getting a tutor to help me with my homework.
- I have a comfortable and safe place to do homework that provides me access to computers and/or the internet when needed for school-related and educational activities. If I am in a youth justice facility, there may be limits to my computer and/or internet access due to safety or other concerns.
- However, if I am in a youth justice facility, unless there are safety or other concerns limiting my access, I may be able to access a computer and/or the internet for school-related and educational activities.
- My staff, caregivers and teachers should work with me to decide how to best support my short-term and long-term school goals. These goals might include joining a sports team or other school activities or planning to go to college or university.
- The staff and caregivers should ask me how I want my teachers to be involved in my care. If I want, I can ask that my teachers be involved in my plan of care. Also, if I am First Nations, Inuk or Métis, I can ask that my bands or First Nations, Inuit or Métis communities be included in conversations about my education.
- If I need to move to a different place to live, when possible, I should be able to keep going to the same school. If I need to move schools, this should happen when I am finished the semester or during a natural break in the school year wherever possible.
- Finishing school is very important for my future. It can help get me ready for life as an adult. The staff and caregivers who care for me should help me understand the importance of school and help me reach my goals.
My access to internet
Depending on my age and how safe it is, I should be able to use a cellphone, a computer and the internet. I should be taught to use these things safely.
What to expect
- I should be supported by the staff and caregivers as much as possible to use electronic devices and the internet only if it is safe for me to use those devices.
- Unless I am in a youth justice facility, I should be able to use a cellphone, computers and/or the internet when I need it for school-related activities and building relationships when it is possible. I might need a computer to do my homework or to study for a test. Or, I might need a phone or the internet to talk to my family and friends.
- If I am in a youth justice facility, unless there are safety or other concerns limiting my access, I may be able to use computers and/or the internet for school-related activities and use a phone or other calling device to talk to my family and friends.
- If I am living in a place that does not have a computer or the internet and I am not living in a youth justice facility, I should be able to visit a library or a community centre, if there is one, so I can use a computer and access the internet.
- Cellphones, computers and the internet can be dangerous. I should be taught how to use them safely.
- I should be told which websites are not safe and how to know when someone online is trying to hurt me, physically, emotionally or sexually.
- I should be taught by the staff and caregivers the advantages and disadvantages of talking to someone online and in-person.
My life changes and transitions
I should be taught skills to help me go through changes in my life. Changes include moving to a new place to live, changing schools or, when I am old enough to leave licensed care, to live on my own.
What to expect
If I am changing schools, either because I moved or for any other reason
- If I am changing schools, I should be able to stay at my current school until I am able to start at my new school so I do not have to miss any of my classes.
- Before I start at the new school, the staff and caregivers should talk to me about why I am changing schools, including any possible options I have to choose my new school or classes at my new school. My views and wishes should be taken seriously, based on my age and maturity. My options for staying in my current school should also be discussed with me and I should be supported to transition to the new school at a natural transition point, if possible.
- I should feel supported during this change. I should have the opportunity to ask questions, tour or visit the new school.
- If I want to, I should have the opportunity to say good-bye to my classmates, teachers and helpers at my old school.
If I am moving to a new place to live, or moving back to the home I lived in before I started receiving licensed care
- Before I move, the staff and caregivers should talk to me about where and why I am moving. My views and wishes should be taken seriously, based on my age and maturity. They should make sure I understand what is happening and answer any questions I have.
- I should feel supported during my move. The staff and caregivers should talk to me and find out how I am feeling, help me stay in touch with my friends, and help me find a suitcase to pack my clothes and belongings.
- If I am a First Nations, Inuk or Métis child, my bands or First Nations, Inuk or Métis communities are given the opportunity to be included in conversations about my move.
- A staff member or caregiver that I have a healthy relationship with should help me move.
- If I am moved far away from my parents, friends or community, the staff and caregivers should help to connect me with services that make me feel supported and at home. This includes services that connect me to my identity.
If I am leaving licensed care to live on my own
- Before I leave, the staff and caregivers should spend time supporting me to learn important life skills that will prepare me to be an adult and live on my own. They should teach me how to fill out application forms, file my taxes, go grocery shopping and clean up after myself, look for an apartment and help me get government ID, such as a driver’s license and passport.
- I should feel like I am prepared and ready to leave licensed care when the time comes. I should feel confident about living on my own.
- If appropriate, I should be supported to get the adult services I need before I leave licensed care. I might need ongoing support for things like housing, money, school or counselling.
Important words used in this guide
A child is someone younger than 18 years of age.
A young person is someone who has been charged with or found guilty of an offence under a law called the Youth Criminal Justice Act or the Provincial Offences Act while they were between 12 and 17 years old.
Residential, or licensed, care is a place for a child to live and be looked after away from the home of the child’s parent, which may include living in a foster home with a foster parent or with staff in a children’s residence (group home). It does not include placements in the legal care and custody of a relative or a member of the child’s extended family or community.
A foster parent is an adult who is not a child’s parent or adoptive parent and provides foster care, a type of residential care, for a child. A foster home is the place a foster parent lives and provides foster care to a child or children.
A group home, also known as a children’s residence under a law called the Child, Youth and Family Services Act, 2017, is a place where:
- five or more children live and receive residential care provided by one or two adults who live in the home and provide care for the children on a continuous basis, or
- three or more children live and receive residential care provided by staff who care for the children by working in shifts.
A staff-model home is a home where one or two children live and receive residential care from staff who work in shifts.
A youth justice facility is a place where young persons who are involved with the youth criminal justice system are told by a court to stay for a specific period of time. Youth justice facilities might be secure, which are separated from the community by security fencing and other security features, or open, which have fewer restrictions and conditions.
A secure treatment programis a program for the treatment of children with mental disorders. The program has restrictions on the freedom of children and admissions are made by the court except in emergencies. A secure treatment facility is a place where secure treatment programs are provided to a child.
A resource person is someone who helps service providers better understand your identity, including your race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, family diversity, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or cultural or linguistic needs. This information helps the service provider when making decisions that will affect your interests.
A First Nations, Inuit or Métis community is a specific community that is on the official list of First Nations, Inuit or Métis communities in Ontario. Find the list of First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities.
A physical restraint is when someone uses their physical strength to stop you from moving freely. No service provider or foster parent can use or permit someone to use their strength to stop you from moving freely except in very specific situations (e.g., when you are in danger of hurting yourself or someone else, or when you are in danger of being hurt by someone else).
A mechanical restraint is a device, material or piece of equipment that makes it harder for a person to move freely. This can include handcuffs, flex cuffs, leg irons, restraining belts, belly chains and linking chains. It can also include devices, materials or equipment that are needed to help someone with daily living (for example, washing, dressing, eating or going to the bathroom) or to help with health needs. These can only be used in very specific situations. Learn about your rights related to mechanical restraints.
If you have any questions about the Quality Standards Framework or feedback on this webpage, please email: email@example.com.