Links to news and current events related to youth in care, youth in transition, youth homelessness, advocacy and programs

Mental health program aims to help young people cope with life after children’s aid

After spending half her childhood in foster care, group homes and with relatives, Alisha Brooks ended up back with her mother at age 14, where she grew angry and troubled.

“There were no supports in place to help me transition out of care,” says Brooks, 28, who desperately wanted to go home and lied to children’s aid about her mother’s continuing struggles to avoid being taken into care again.

“I was not equipped for life in downtown Toronto and a neighbourhood with gangs and violence that I had never seen before,” she says.

The young woman’s anger soon boiled into resentment and a string of school suspensions for fighting, an unplanned pregnancy and teen motherhood.

At age 24, after losing a boyfriend to gun violence, a friend told her about the Pape Adolescent Resource Centre, or PARC, a haven for youth who have been involved with children’s aid, where Brooks was connected to some long overdue counselling.

“I was a hot mess,” she says in interview. “One minute I was crying and the next I was laughing. It was awful.”

A new $500,000 program being launched this month by the Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada in partnership with the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto, hopes to provide more mental health supports to young people like Brooks.

About 2,500 young people in Toronto between the ages of 18 and 29 are transitioning out of or have already left the care of children’s aid, according to the foundation, which is focused on easing that journey.

Read more here.

Fostering Healthy Futures: A model intervention program for youth in foster-care

In 2009, over 400,000 children in the United States were living in foster care. The average age of foster youth is 9.6 years old. Unfortunately, most of these children do not achieve placement stability or permanence (reunification, adoption, or guardianship). Children who live in out of home care  are at high risk for many adverse outcomes, and children who are unable to achieve timely permanence are at an even higher risk. Preventative intervention programs aimed at parent management training have shown improvements in placement stability and permanence. Very few programs, however, have taken a youth-centered approach to combat the difficulties with placement and permanence; thus, the current study demonstrates how mentoring and a skills group intervention can directly help preadolescent youth in foster care achieve better placement and permanency outcomes.

Results of the FHF intervention gave the following findings when comparing intervention youth to youth in the foster care system who did not receive the intervention:

  • intervention youth were 71% less likely to be placed in residential treatment
  • among children living in non-relative foster care:
    • intervention youth had 44% fewer placement changes and were 82% less likely to be placed in a residential treatment center
    • intervention youth were 5x more likely to have permanency 1 year post-intervention
    • after 1-year post-intervention, intervention youth had a greater rate of reunification and higher rates of adoption
    • there was an interaction between baseline behavior problems and intervention status such that the impact of the FHF program on placement changes was concentrated among those children with higher baseline behavior problems.

Read more here.

Why The Government Should Be Investing In Youth Mentorship Programs

The youth of any society constitute the promise of the future — and many of our youth are in trouble. They are growing up in a divided society with ethnic, gender and political tensions at seemingly combustible proportions — not just south of the border, but in Canada too.

Youth most affected by such tensions and disparities may shrug their shoulders and wonder, ‘why bother?’

But there’s one thing we can do to help Canadian at-risk youth forge a positive path forward: provide positive mentorship.

Read more here.

H.R.2952 - Foster Youth Mentoring Act of 2017

Representative Karen Bass (D-CA-37) introduced Bill HR2952 to provide all youth in foster care with a mentor.

See the text of the bill here, and a summary from The National Mentoring Partnership here.

Mentoring for Youth in Foster Care

This review examines research on mentoring youth in foster care. The review is organized around four questions:

  • What is the effectiveness of mentoring for youth in foster care?
  • What factors influence the effectiveness of mentoring for youth in foster care?
  • What pathways are most important in linking mentoring to outcomes for youth in foster care?
  • To what extent have mentoring initiatives for youth in foster care reached and engaged these youth, been implemented with high quality, and been adopted and sustained?

The existing evidence points toward several conclusions:

  • Both natural and program-based mentoring appear to be highly acceptable to youth in foster care, and mentees generally report high satisfaction with their mentoring experiences.
  • Available research suggests that mentoring for children in foster care (across a range of ages and mentoring formats) can have positive impacts on many, but not all, targeted outcomes, including mental health, educational functioning and attainment, peer relationships, placement outcomes, and life satisfaction.
  • Most formal mentoring programs that have been evaluated to date are multicomponent (that is, they include components other than one-to-one mentoring, such as skills groups) and utilize mentors who are agency staff members or university students.
  • The impact of mentoring may differ based on demographic, and placement characteristics and key processes, such as improvements in self-determination and prosocial skills, may be the mechanisms through which mentoring outcomes are realized for this population.
  • Finally, although there are many conceptual reasons why mentoring is an excellent fit for youth in foster care, there are pragmatic challenges that make widespread implementation difficult and no studies have examined program expansion or adaptation.

Find out more here.

Ontario’s most vulnerable children kept in the shadows


A Star investigation has found Ontario’s most vulnerable children in the care of an unaccountable and non-transparent protection system. It keeps them in the shadows, far beyond what is needed to protect their identities.

“When people are invisible, bad things happen,” says Irwin Elman, the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth.

Child protection through children’s aid societies costs taxpayers almost $1.5 billion a year — a 300-per-cent increase since 1999.

Two years ago, the government-appointed child welfare commission concluded the system doesn’t provide value for money. It described services for vulnerable children as “fragmented, confused and siloed.”

Find out more here.

The potential educational benefits of extending foster care to young adults

Courtney, M., & Hook, J. (2017). The potential educational benefits of extending foster care to young adults: Findings from a natural experiment. Child and Youth Services Review, 72, 124-132.


• Extending foster care to age 21 could support foster youths’ educational attainment
• Each additional year in care increases the estimated odds of moving to the next level of education by 46%
• Youths’ characteristics and experiences in care also predict educational attainment

Find out more here:

Former youth in care , Ashley Ash, talks about the negative impacts of losing the independent Child Advocate′s Office

Earlier this month the provincial government announced it was closing the Office of the Child Advocate. Irwin Elman who held the role called the move dangerous, and any other academics and advocacy groups feel the same. This morning they will be gathering at Queens Park to ask the province to reconsider its decision. Matt Galloway speaks to a young woman who grew up in care who will be there.

Find out more here:

Ontario Child Advocate′s Office

The Ontario government has announced that it is eliminating the Ontario Child Advocate’s office. The Advocate’s role was created in response to incidents of neglect and abuse of children in care. Since 2007, the Ontario Child Advocate has been critical in driving improvements to the outcomes faced by youth in care.  Some key accomplishments:

1)     Acting as a champion for youth in care and youth transitioning from care

2)     Putting the faces and voices of youth in care at the forefront of driving change in the child welfare system

3)     Secured the legal ability to review instances of death and serious injury of youth in care

4)     Published a number of landmark reports that have driven significant changes to the child welfare system in Ontario

We at StepStones for Youth strongly urge the Ontario government to reconsider this decision. Elimination of the Child Advocate could place our most vulnerable youth at increased risk of neglect, abuse, injury, homelessness, and death.  Securing Ontario’s economic future should not come at the expense of our most vulnerable youth.

Find out more here:

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

Seen or Unseen? The Role of Race in Police Contact among Homeless Youth

Toolkit for Intensive Case Management in Canada

Prosperous People - Survey Tool

Volunteer Recruitment

CLICK HERE! : volunteer_recruitment

Child Welfare Policy Brief

Canadian Child Welfare Research Portal

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

Child Welfare and Youth Homelessness in Canada: Who Is Responsible?

The Community Workspace on Homelessness