Leaving Child Welfare

When families are in crisis, children may be taken into the child welfare system for their protection from abuse or neglect. Kids who are orphaned or abandoned by their families may also be taken into care.

Often kids find loving homes with foster parents. But many may move through a series of foster or group homes. They may continue to be plagued by the trauma of their experiences. They may also have difficulty adjusting to a new family situation and feel unwanted.

In Ontario, young people can be cared for by the child welfare system up to the age of 18, and then can to continue to receive support until the age of 21. But kids as young as 16 are currently allowed to opt out. Youth lacking in maturity and eager to leave a system they may feel did not adequately care for them, often do not choose the additional support, which can lead to homelessness.

A recent study conducted by the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth found that many youth leaving care are struggling to move successfully to independence. Many end up on the street. In fact, almost 60 percent of homeless youth reported some involvement with child welfare in the past.[1] Covenant House was part of a government task force to look at improving the outcome for youth who were formerly in care.

The Province recently raised the age of protection from 16 to 18, so 17- and 18-year-olds who have never been involved with the child welfare system before can access support. This long-awaited change was brought about with the advocacy and recommendations of Covenant House Toronto, along with many other organizations, but it is still in the implementation process.

The Ontario government has received recommendations to reform the child welfare system, including extending support for these youth up to the age of 25 to help increase their odds of success. The government’s own study found that the vast majority of Ontarians agree these youth should have more help to transition successfully to independence.[2]

[1] Gaetz, S., O’Grady, B., Kidd, S., & Schwan, K. (2016): Without A Home: The National Youth Homelessness Survey. Toronto: Canadian Observatory on Homelessness Press.

[2] Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth (2012): 25 is the New 21: The Costs and Benefits of Providing Extended Care and Maintenance to Ontario Youth in Care Until Age 25

Recent Media Releases

Covenant House Welcomes Help for Kids Leaving Care

January 24, 2013 - "The province’s commitment to extend financial and emotional support for youth leaving care could help reduce the high number of these young people who become homeless,” Bruce Rivers, Covenant House Executive Director said.
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Homeless Youth Shelter Supports Extended Benefits for Foster Youth

May 14, 2013 - More support for young people in foster care, particularly extending the age of eligibility from 21 to 25, is critical to reducing the alarming number of these youth who find themselves on the street, says Carol Howes, Covenant House Toronto program director.
Read more »

Success stories

Living up to his promise

Malcolm spent a grueling three months on the street, sleeping in Internet cafes and 24-hour restaurants.
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