Today is Children and Youth in Care Day in Ontario, which came out of a recommendation from the My REAL Lifebook report. The report addresses what young people in the child protection system go through. It shows how young people in care face a lot of vulnerability, isolation, and unpredictability in their lives.

The Without a Home report shows how child welfare systems have been involved in the lives of almost half of homeless youth in Canada. Improving these young peoples’ experiences and preventing their housing instability as they transition out of the system could reduce youth homelessness by as much as 50%.

Young people come into child protection services through no fault of their own.

Child protection services get involved in families when a child is in need of protection from neglect or abuse. But it’s complicated. Many parents and guardians affected by child protection systems are pressured by poverty. It costs a lot to raise a child and if you don’t have much money, child protection systems are more likely to come into your life. The situation can be worsened by additional concerns such as mental health and addictions.

It’s also clear that the system does not impact all communities equally. Child protection systems have also come under question for harsher treatment of and more apprehensions within Black and Indigenous communities.

When young people are taken out of their homes, it can be a very scary experience. Imagine being suddenly moved into a stranger’s home or group care setting, separated from family and even other siblings you came with. Imagine how that would uproot your life and sense of self.

Depending on a young person’s needs and where they’re placed, they may have positive or negative experiences in government care. They may have a mix of both. At the same time, they may find it difficult to heal from the negative experiences, and research shows that childhood trauma negatively impacts brain development.

After all this, most young people in care are expected to leave care and be able to live independently at 18. That’s a higher standard than their peers living at home. In fact, many young people are getting support from their parents/guardians up to age 30 and waiting longer for common life milestones such as getting married, having children, and buying property.

Can you imagine dropping your kid off at a homeless shelter if they hadn’t found an apartment by their 18th birthday?

When the government takes young people into care and becomes their legal guardian, they do it with the intention of giving them a better life. But when many youth in care face negative experiences and come to facilities like Eva’s when they turn 18 because they have nowhere else to go, it’s clear that something is wrong with the way the system works.

Big changes to the system need to be made to stop young people transitioning out of care into homelessness. Some recent changes have been made to Ontario’s laws on child protection, but much more needs to be done.

3 Things You Can do for Children and Youth in Care Day
  1. Read and share the My REAL Lifebook
  2. Vote. Looking forward to the provincial election, ask how the candidates you’re considering will improve the system for youth transitioning out of care and reduce their risk of homelessness. Here are key points related to youth homelessness that Eva’s thinks are important to consider in coming elections.
  3. Donate to Eva’s. Our Family Reconnect Program helps strengthen family relationships to reduce youth homelessness. It’s takes a prevention approach to help young people and their families stay together, where possible. Where families can’t stay together, we still help build healthy family relationships to reduce young people’s isolation and increase their sense of belonging.