The report urges the federal government to focus on preventing youth homelessness — particularly among Indigenous youth — and provinces and territories to focus on “after care” by providing support as needed until age 25. (Black Press files)

Study sees link between foster care, youth homelessness in Canada

The study surveyed 1,103 youth who were experiencing homelessness in 42 different communities

A first-of-its-kind study in Canada is drawing a link between youth homelessness levels and a foster care system that researchers say could be playing a more active role in keeping young people off the streets.

The study, released Wednesday, found nearly three out of every five homeless youth were part of the child welfare system at some point in their lives, a rate almost 200 times greater than that of the general population.

Of those with a history in the child welfare system, almost two of every five respondents eventually “aged out” of provincial or territorial care, losing access to the sort of support that could have kept them from becoming homeless, the study found.

Canada is creating a group of young people who are at higher risk of becoming homeless because they lack resources when coming out of foster care, said Stephen Gaetz, the study’s co-author and director of the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness.

The report urges the federal government to focus on preventing youth homelessness — particularly among Indigenous youth — and provinces and territories to focus on “after care” by providing support as needed until age 25.

“We’re not calling out child protection services. We’re not pointing fingers going, ‘It’s horrible what you’re doing,’” Gaetz said.

“Rather, we’re saying this is an unintended consequence of a whole number of things, but it’s something that we can identify as leading to bad outcomes when young people leave care.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the Liberal government’s self-proclaimed minister for youth, may want to champion the issue himself to ensure system-wide changes, he added.

The study, based on a survey of 1,103 young people who were experiencing homelessness in 42 different communities in nine provinces and Nunavut, offers the first national portrait of Canada’s population of homeless youth.

Aged 13 to 24, homeless youth make up about one-fifth of Canada’s homeless population. In raw numbers, that means there are about 6,500 people in that age cohort experiencing homelessness on any given night.

New census data released last week reported some 43,880 youth in foster care in 2016, a decline of about 4,000 from the 47,890 young people Statistics Canada counted in 2011, the first time such data was collected for the census.

RELATED: Youth homelessness is an invisible problem

The problem is particularly acute for Indigenous youth, who in 2011 made up nearly half of the children in care nationally. Statistics Canada is set to release more census details about Canada’s Aboriginal population later this fall.

The study says that the problems with Indigenous child welfare, which governments have vowed to tackle, highlight the need for structural reforms to help marginalized populations in Canada, such as Aboriginals and new immigrants.

“None of these approaches can be a one-size-fits-all approach,” said study co-author David French, director of policy and planning with A Way Home, a national, anti-youth homelessness coalition.

“So when you speak about Indigenous young people or young people who identify as LGBTQ2S, or new immigrant young people, each of them does require a targeted response underneath a specific strategy.”

LGBTQ2S stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirit, the latter term referring specifically to members of the Indigenous community.

RELATED: Chilliwack finally gets federal funding to fight homelessness

Last week’s census figures also showed one in three Canadians aged 20-34 lived with at least one parent in 2016, an increase of five percentage points between 2001 and 2016.

The numbers were particularly acute in some of the country’s hottest housing markets, with one in two young people living with at least one parent in Toronto last year.

Child protection legislation hasn’t kept pace with these social and economic changes that have made it more difficult for young people to live independently, Gaetz said.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

Child welfare policy brief by Ashley Wadhwani on Scribd

Just Posted

Power play woes doom Chilliwack Chiefs in home-ice loss

The Chiefs struggled with the man advantage in a 4-1 loss to Alberni Valley Saturday night.

UPDATE: Poor ventilation likely cause of carbon monoxide incident at Delta farm

All 42 patients have been released from hospital, according to Delta Fire

Man found not guilty in rash of pellet-gun attacks

Incidents took place across Abbotsford in July 2015

High Chilliwack home prices, sales forecast to moderate

2018 sales should be lower than 2017 and 2016, which was the hottest year on record

VIDEO: IHIT identifies Langley murder victim

IHIT is now on scene investigating the death.

VIDEO: Christmas at Kilby feast kicks off holiday eating

Sold-out event driven by volunteer staff

Site C decision coming Monday

Premier John Horgan to announce fate of dam project at B.C. legislature

VIDEO: Man frustrated that Vancouver taxi driver won’t take him home to New Westminster

Kuldip Gill says that not being able to get a ride to the suburbs is a constant problem

Legacy of Amanda Todd lives on through B.C. foundation

Todd’s mother Carol stresses the importance of putting the phone down and talking with children

UPDATE: Train hits hydro pole, causes outage near Deltaport

No injuries reported but traffic in and out of Deltaport is blocked

VIDEO: Vancouver Whitecaps acquire star striker Kei Kamara

Kamara has 103 goals and 39 assists in 298 appearances over 11 Major League Soccer seasons

Smartphone pedometers underestimate steps, but valuable health tool: study

UBC researchers found the iPhone underestimated steps by 21.5 per cent

VIDEO: ‘Last Jedi’ premiere kicks off with droids, Daisy Ridley

Latests Star Wars film premiered in style ahead of Dec. 15 theatre debut

Most Read