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Lack of services means at-risk youth in the north sleeping in hotels, Airbnbs

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Dozens of young people in the care of the Children’s Aid Society (CAS) will be going to sleep tonight in motels, hotels, and short-term rentals because there aren’t enough foster beds or treatment facilities.

Dozens of young people in the care of the Children’s Aid Society will be going to sleep tonight in motels, hotels, and short-term rentals because there aren’t enough foster beds or treatment facilities. (Photo from video)

A survey of 27 CUPE locals representing CAS staff across the province found two-thirds of the agencies have placed children as young as two in unlicensed homes in the last year.

“It's not just only happening in those agencies -- it's literally happening in every child protection agency across the province,” said CUPE president Fred Hahn.

“Young people every day are being placed in motels and hotels. In fact, in southwestern Ontario, there's a young person with autism who has been staying on a cot in the office where people work. Because there's simply no other place for these young people to go.”

Elaina Groves, CEO of CAS Sudbury-Manitoulin, said a lack of foster families and group home beds are the reasons for the use of unlicensed homes.

Groves said that often, these spaces aren’t suitable due to a child’s specialized needs.

“Their needs might be based on disabilities, but is oftentimes based on trauma … coupled sometimes with other disabilities,” she said.

“And we don't have the appropriate placements for them. So, you know, we bring a child in, we find a situation. Parents are having difficulty coping and providing the services, and these youth cannot be placed in a foster home. Their needs far exceed what a foster home can provide, and there's certainly not suitable to be placed in a group home.”

In some cases, Groves said youth end up being hospitalized when really all they need is a stable bed. She said there are currently two youths living in a hotel while one is at an Airbnb.

“It may sound like small numbers, but imagine the pressure you've got,” she said.

“First of all, a child or youth sitting in a hotel. Not appropriate, right? That's not a place to meet their needs, but they need to be supported. And so there's no staffing pool available and so we end up asking our staff to do double duty. They're doing their own job as well as providing extra hours, going in to supervise a youth in a hotel or an Airbnb and that we cannot sustain.”

In a statement to CTV News, Ontario’s Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services said the province doesn’t tell CAS where to place youth in their care.

“What we do require is for Children's Aid Societies to make placements that are safe, appropriate and meet the child's needs. That's not an option: it's the law.”

“The government invests more than $1.5 billion in 50 child welfare societies (societies) across Ontario, including 13 Indigenous societies to support children and youth.”

Further, we have increased funding this year by approximately $14 million for child protection services, in addition to last year’s $76.3 million increase, and $109 million for children and youth services, in addition to last year’s $92.4 million increase.”

“We expect every CAS to make safe and appropriate placements that meet the individual needs of a child,” the statement concluded.

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