Join us for the International Transitions from Child Protection Symposium in Richmond, BC October 12-13, 2023. Register here. Continue reading to learn more.

Child protection services play a key role in ensuring the safety and well-being of children. Canada does not have national standards for providing care for youth in or leaving care. Through their child welfare ministries, the provincial and territorial governments are responsible for assisting children in need of protection. Each jurisdiction has its own child protection legislation and regulations, each with its own unique policies and practices that are constantly evolving.  

When youth reach a certain age (usually between 16-19, depending on the jurisdiction), they "age out" of the child protection system and lose the supports they once received. This transition highlights the gaps and challenges within the systems meant to protect and support vulnerable youth. Youth can find themselves without appropriate housing, education, employment, or emotional support, making them susceptible to homelessness and other adverse outcomes. 

As we delve into the complexities of this transition, it becomes that much more clear that addressing the transition experience requires a comprehensive, multi-sector approach that spans across government at all levels, and various sectors, including social services, healthcare, policing, and justice.

The Interplay between Child Protection Services and Youth Homelessness

Child protection involvement and youth homelessness are closely linked. Our Without a Home study found that 57.8% of youth experiencing homelessness were involved with child protection services in the past. Compared to the general public, youth experiencing homelessness are 193 times more likely to have been involved with the child welfare system. 

Furthermore, Indigenous children make up a disproportionately large percentage of children in care, highlighting systemic disparities, historical injustices and racism that persist to this day. Indigenous youth experiencing homelessness were even more likely (70.5%) to report involvement with child protection services. Most recent compensation rulings, led by Dr. Cindy Blackstock, recognize the serious harms First Nations, children, youth, and families suffered including unnecessary family separations and the denial of life-saving and life wellness services. These are important steps forward.

Organizations like StepStones for Youth in Toronto, Ontario are working to prevent youth from transitioning from child protection services into youth homelessness. Through their Safe at Home program, youth who are currently or have previously been in foster care are reconnected with people from their past who agree to become part of the young person’s support network. This support network provides long-term housing solutions, unconditional care, and guidance for the youth and ultimately prevents homelessness, poverty, and intergenerational dependency on social systems. 

Internationally, Focus Ireland provides residential support and settlement services to young people leaving care, within a Housing First for Youth model, in Dublin and the surrounding area. In partnership with the state, their services work directly to support young people who leave care or are currently living in the most vulnerable situations in emergency homeless accommodation. 

About the International Transitions from Child Protection Symposium

We have much to learn about improving transitions from child protection from local, national, and international partners. This 2-day Symposium will bring together decision-makers, researchers, policymakers, service providers, and people with lived experience in child protection and youth homelessness. The goal is to identify promising practices and opportunities for action, ensuring successful transitions to adulthood, preventing youth homelessness, and fostering positive life outcomes.

The Symposium represents a first-of-its-kind opportunity for governments, communities and researchers to learn, grow and work together to co-design what partnerships, actions and shared responsibility can look like for youth in transition. We want to see YOU in October if you:

  • Are a community leader/practitioner engaged in youth transitions from child protection.
  • Are a policy maker leaning in on youth transitions from child protection.
  • Are a researcher focusing on youth transitions from child protection

View the 2-Day Agenda here.

Day 1: Learning Like a Movement     

By understanding the dynamics of work in Canada and globally, we can identify opportunities and challenges. Informed panels will discuss innovation, progress, and partnerships across the themes of Policy, Systems Change, Practice, Research, and National leadership.

Day 2: Strategizing Like a Movement

With the support of Tamarack Institute, we will discuss solutions and explore opportunities for national leadership to shift the trajectory of transitions work in Canada and internationally.

After the 2-day event, we will mobilize research and knowledge translation, build capacity for change in child protection systems and corresponding sectors, and formalize partnerships to create and sustain change. By continuing to learn from experiences, adapting strategies, and involving all stakeholders, we can improve outcomes for young people in the long run.

We hope to see you in October! Early bird registration has been extended to September 15th. Register here.

Questions? Contact David French,

This Symposium is co-hosted by A Way Home Canada and the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness and sponsored by the Home Depot Canada Foundation and COH & AWH’s Making the Shift Youth Homelessness Social Innovation Lab.