The mental health-care system for child­ren is “fractured” and needs better oversight, say critics after an investigation found a psychiatric centre was locking up kids who didn’t belong there.

“The role of oversight is not taken as seriously as I think it should be,” Irwin Elman, Ontario’s Children and Youth Advocate, said.

Elman’s comments came after the Toronto Star revealed the provincially-funded Youthdale Treatment Centre admitted children to its secure treatment unit even though they did not have a mental disorder.

 

Within the last two years, the Child and Family Services Review Board ordered released nearly half the children who appealed their placements in the centre’s secure unit.

Elman said unnecessarily intrusive treatments are happening across the province. “It could be physical restraints or chemical restraints or the locking or blocking of young people in rooms,” he said. “These are the kinds of things we hear about.”

The Ministry of Children and Youth Services licenses children’s mental health-care agencies such as Youthdale and provides them with the bulk of their funding. Occasionally, the ministry uses its oversight powers, Elman said, but “it’s not a real, day-to-day oversight body.”

Ministry spokesperson Paris Meilleur pointed out that doctors working in clinics like Youthdale are scrutinized by their professional college. “We trust our clinicians,” she said.