Child Welfare and Youth Homelessness in Canada: A Proposal for Action

With the release of Without a Home: The National Youth Homelessness Survey (2016), we now have robust national data on youth homelessness for the first time in Canada. The research findings on the relationship between youth homelessness and child welfare involvement are unsettling:

  • 57.8% of youth experiencing homelessness reported some type of involvement with child protection services over their lifetime.
  • 63.1% of youth who are homeless report experiencing childhood trauma, abuse, and/or neglect - a key cause of involvement with child welfare.
  • 73.3% of youth who became homeless before the age of 16 reported involvement with child protection services.
  • Compared to the general public (Statistics Canada, 2011), youth experiencing homelessness are 193 times more likely to have been involved with the child welfare system than the general public.
  • 31.5% of youth who are homeless report their first contact with the welfare system at the age of 6, with 53% reporting continued involvement beyond the age of 16.
  • Indigenous youth make up 7% of the total population of young Canadians, yet make up half of individuals involved in child protection services (Statistics Canada, 2011).

Importantly, Without a Home also found that youth facing structural and systemic disadvantage (e.g., poverty, racism, homophobia) are more likely to experience both child welfare involvement and homelessness. For example, data indicates that LGBTQ2S, transgender, and gender nonbinary
youth are more likely to have had child welfare involvement than cisgender and straight homeless youth.

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