Abrupt Endings: The Child Welfare System

cake with letter shaped candles that spell happy birthday
Birthday Cake with Candles (Unsplash M20ylqCzSZw) photo by Annie Spratt is licensed under the public domain
Happy 18th birthday. You're outta here!

Instant adulthood. That’s what’s expected of youth in Ontario’s child welfare system. The idea behind the child welfare system is to provide stability for young people as they grow up. So why the ‘out you go’ farewell on your 18th birthday?

As part of the response to COVID-19, the government temporarily suspended the ‘out you go’ provision until the end of 2020. Two organizations have seen this as an opportunity to rethink the system and are recommending a process to ensure that system changes meet the needs of youth in care. See: Support Our Proposal To Fundamentally Change The Trajectory Of Youth Leaving “Care”1

The recommendations are endorsed by many organizations and individuals, including the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness. Through its own work, the Alliance has documented that instant adulthood is often a precursor to multiple experiences of homelessness. Taking the time to review and reform the system presents an opportunity to consider upstream initiatives, including preventing children from entering the care system altogether. 2

The process also offers the opportunity to create a system that works better for indigenous youth. The National Inquiry of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women contains many accounts from people who were in care. The Inquiry’s recommendations for system changes are based on those experiences. See this post for more about indigenous experience in the child welfare system: Canada’s National Inquiry Of Missing And Murdered Indigenous Women


  1. The Toronto Star covered this opportunity in this article, which is paywalled: Their lives have been defined by trauma. Why kick kids out of foster care and group homes when they turn 18?
  2. For more on pilot projects to prevent youth homelessness try: Making The Prevention Of Homelessness A Priority: The Role Of Social Innovation