Right now, we have a chance to make a real difference to thousands of young people. The province is currently reviewing its laws that protect kids. We’re asking our supporters to raise their voices to let the provincial government know that the age of protection should be raised from 16 to 18.
The government is thoroughly reviewing the Child and Family Services Act. It has requested feedback from the public and expert opinion from organizations like ours. Currently, the act precludes youth 16 and 17 years old from entering the child welfare system to get the support they need.
At 16, youth who have not been involved with children’s aid are now too old to start getting help from the provincial system. They can’t get the financial support to live on their own and stay in school or the guidance they need – support that is available to their peers in care. This is unfair to these youth and puts them at a serious disadvantage.
We are recommending an amendment Section 37(1) of the Child and Family Services Act to raise the age of protection to 18. An estimated 30,000 Ontario kids 16 to 18 could be fleeing troubled homes right now with no access to help.
At Covenant House, the country’s largest homeless youth agency, we see many of these young people every year who lack the education, life skills or job experience to successfully live independently.
Ontario should act now to ensure kids 16 to 18 have the care and support they need so they don’t find themselves on the streets. This could include options that are customized to youth’s needs such as having a community worker to guide them and/or living allowances to help them transition to independence. These kinds of options are already available in some other provinces and have proven effective.
Ontario’s current age of protection at 16 is contrary to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child and with Ontario’s own age of majority law at 18. It’s also lower than all of the larger provinces, as well as in Manitoba and P.E.I.
Please join us to urge Children and Youth Services Minister Tracy MacCharles to take this critical step to help keep more kids off the street as she reviews the Child and Family Services Act in the coming weeks.
This amendment would fill the gap for those who have not previously been involved with child welfare and be more equitable. We believe it is time Ontario took this critical step to help keep more kids off the street.