Research shows that older youth who have experienced abuse or neglect are more likely to experience homelessness, mental health issues, substance use, human trafficking, and decreased employment prospects. And it’s no secret that many homeless youths have had some kind of involvement with child protection services. Previously, as of a young person’s 16th birthday, they were no longer able to access child welfare supports they may have needed to leave unsafe situations.

As of January 1st, Ontario’s legal ‘age of protection’ has been increased to 18. This means that youth ages 16 and 17 are able to access services from child welfare agencies. Although the public’s duty to report abuse and neglect still only applies to youth under age 16, Children’s Aid Societies will be able to provide services to a young person 18 and under if concerns are reported.

What does this mean? It means that youth who are trying to flee unsafe situations can get help from child protection agencies with:

  • finding out-of-home living arrangements with family or other suitable caregivers
  • independent living
  • medical and dental expenses
  • finishing high school and/or pursuing post-secondary education or trade work

While this is a great move for 16- and 17-year olds, there is still a long way to go. From our work with young people, we know that youth are rarely equipped to live independently at age 18, let alone youth who have been traumatized by abuse and neglect. Eva’s provides essential supports for youth aged 16-24 every day, over 50% of whom have been involved in child protection.

If you have questions about this legal change, please refer to Ontario’s Ministry of Children and Youth Services’ website.

Want to contribute to our blog?

Thanks for getting involved! Check out our submission guidelines before you get started.

Find out more