The cost of inaction for ‘aging’ foster youth in Ontario is estimated at $ 2 billion


Last spring, the Government of Ontario determined to rethink the child protection system better prepare young people leaving the supervision of the State. As we head towards a provincial election in June 2022, few details on the proposed overhaul are available. We urge voters to pay attention to action or inaction on this issue – not only for ethical reasons, but also for monetary reasons.

We undertook cost analysis and interview research to help guide the policy debate. In one new report, we estimate the costs of inaction on this issue and provide informed recommendations by young people.

For young people under state supervision, the state assumes the role of parent. But state parenthood failed the way most people would treat their children. This includes the removal of support when young people reach the age of 18.

To get old

There are approximately 11,700 children and youth in government care in Ontario. Black and Indigenous children are strongly represented, with Indigenous children including 30 percent children under Ontario guardianship only.

Each year, approximately 1,000 “aging” young people of the system. For many, the transition is difficult, resulting in negative lifelong consequences, including low education and income, unstable housing and homelessness, deteriorating physical and mental health and criminalization.

Building on the work of Melanie Doucet, researcher in social work and former youth under state supervision, we use the term “to get oldTo designate young people who turn 18 and who will lose access to certain services and supports. We use quotes to denormalize the term.

The young people we interviewed all described a deep isolation, loneliness and few caring relationships underlying the challenges they face.

Sector overhaul

In March 2021, the province committed to rethinking child protection, publishing its plan in July 2020. In February 2021, a a moratorium has been put on the “aging” of the supervision until September 30, 2022, so that young people can continue to receive supports and services past the age of 18 during the pandemic.

No other changes for “aging” youth have been made. Young people who “get old” by the end of September will face significant challenges.

In the Cheyanne Ratnam lyrics, the co-founder and executive director of the Coalition for the Advancement of the Children of Ontario, and a former youth in state care, “Child welfare is the greatest pipeline to other violent systems, such as homelessness, prison and poverty. “

Report findings

Our report, launched during a session owned by Ontario Office of the Children’s Lawyer on December 8, 2021, explains the situation in Ontario.

He applies the approach of economist Marvin Shaffer and his colleagues, who have estimated the costs of ‘aging’ young people by British Columbia. We estimate that in Ontario the cost of inaction totals over $ 2 billion.

The numbers we present are based on the limited data available, and we believe the numbers are likely much higher. We rely on data from Statistics Canada, peer-reviewed academic research and data published by not-for-profit organizations to produce these numbers. Much of this report has been shaped by the voices and experiences of young people who have “aged” and young people in transition.

A youngster, Jesse, says:

“From the age of 17 to 21, this is the most fragile period when you should get involved with young people … I can bet you $ 10 million if my life was a little more helped from 17 to 21 years old, I can guarantee you that I probably would. being in college right now, I probably wouldn’t have a (criminal) record.… ”

Five hundred and sixty young people who “get older” each year don’t finish high school, experience loss of income during their lifetime and find themselves trapped in precarious work options.

We have found that every young person who “goes beyond” state guardianship risks losing between $ 705,000 and $ 1,880,000 in income over their lifetime. Based on the combined total of lost taxable earnings of young people leaving the state over their lifetimes, the province stands to lose about $ 118 million to $ 315.8 million in tax revenue.

A person holds an empty wallet open, it is a close up of the hands and the wallet.
Many young people experience loss of income during their lifetime.

The majority of young people “age” in poverty. Five hundred and seventy young people “aging” each year rely on income supports – the lifetime cost for the province is approximately $ 235 million.

Five hundred and eighty young people “aging” each year experience roaming. Over their lifetime, they could cost the province about $ 629.8 million in emergency shelters.

When the report was launched, we heard from frontline workers who can offer little more than a tent to some young people leaving the system amid the housing crisis.

About 460 young people under state supervision experience criminalization. The provincial imprisonment of these young people costs the province approximately $ 19.6 million to $ 36 million per year; and in their lifetime, that number could grow to nearly $ 1 billion.

These are just a few of the areas in which the province may incur costs, the total estimated costs based on the negative outcomes that young people leaving the state’s guardianship face in their lifetime is greater than 2 billions of dollars.


Our report presents 18 recommendations provided by “older” young people, workers in transition, those in government care and those working in the sector. Future youth-led data collection is needed to inform policy change, as there is little in Canada.

A key recommendation is to rethink the independence standard at 18. From interviews with young people, all describe a deep isolation, loneliness and lack of caring relationships that underlie the challenges they face. We have to move on to a interdependence model – promote non-professional care relationships for young people under state supervision which last well after the age of 18.

A young man, Riyadh, says:

“Half the time I felt like no one liked me, you know?” I think people just tell me that they love me and care about me, but I don’t think they do, you know, because if they did, why am I – I in an emergency shelter? “

In addition, young people need ongoing financial support and services, and increased monthly funding adjusted for the cost of living. The young people we heard about are unable to keep their homes and get a post-secondary education due to financial hardship, lack of interpersonal support and trauma.

Change is needed sooner for families, reinvesting part of the $ 2 billion spent by Ontario could keep more families together. It will cost less to reinvest early on, and it will help disrupt this trend of poverty for generations of young people to come.


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