5. Nobody “Signs Out of Care.” Exploring Institutional Links Between Child Protection Services Homelessness

This chapter begins with an overview of current research, which points to a relationship between child protection services and youth homelessness. I describe how child protection services in Canada are organized structurally, focusing on institutional practices and policy that influence a young person’s ability to maintain safe, adequate, and stable housing after leaving “care.” I use ethnographic data from community-based institutional ethnographic research, conducted with a youth emergency shelter in Ontario, Canada to explain how young people who have been involved with child protection services end up discharging or aging out of “care” into homelessness or precarious housing. I coordinate my analysis around the euphemism, “I signed out of care” – an expression commonly employed by young people to describe their efforts to terminate a relationship with the child protection system. In attempting to learn how a young person “signs out of care,” I discovered young people and their families navigating complex institutional processes that are not fully visible from where they are actively negotiating them. Using Ontario’s child protection system (the Children’s Aid Society or CAS) as a case study, this chapter sheds light on the relationship between child protection and youth homelessness.

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Gaetz, Stephen
O’Grady, Bill
Buccieri, Kristy
Karabanow, Jeff
Marsolais, Allyson
Publication Date: 
Canadian Observatory On Homelessness