Protection services for 16- and 17-year-olds
Children under 18 can receive protection services in Ontario. Learn about services for people who are 16 or 17 and need protection.
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You may need protection services if you are experiencing:
- physical abuse
- sexual abuse
- emotional abuse
You might also need protection services if you are at risk of any of these things.
If you have left home because of concerns about your safety or risk of harm, or if you are homeless, you might be eligible for services from a children’s aid society.
Contact a children’s aid society in your area if you feel like you need protection but aren’t sure if you are eligible.
Protection services for people who are 16 or 17
Children’s aid societies begin their work when they receive a request or referral for service. The request may come from someone in the community who is concerned about your safety. You may also make a request on your own behalf (you can remain anonymous).
If you are 16 or 17 the following services might be available to you:
- A children’s aid society, where appropriate, will work with you and your family to improve things at home, including referring you and/or your family to community services and programs.
- If you are not safe at home or have left home because you were unsafe, a member of your family or someone close to you might be willing to help. If you can be cared for by members of your family, community or friends, this is called kinship service.
- If you are a First Nation, Inuk or Métis youth who needs an out-of-home placement, it can be arranged according to the customs of your band, First Nation, Inuit or Métis community. This is called customary care.
- If you are in need of protection, and you cannot be adequately protected at home or in your current living situation, and there are no safe options with family or friends, you may enter into a voluntary youth services agreement (VYSA) agreement with a children’s aid society.
- If your parent or caregiver is temporarily unable to care adequately for you, you and your parent/caregiver may enter into a Temporary Care Agreement with a children’s aid society.
- If you are in need of protection, a children’s aid society can make an application to court for a court order admitting you to the care of the children’s aid society. A society cannot bring an application to the court unless they first offer you a VYSA and you refuse. If a court makes an order placing you in the care of a children’s aid society, your consent is needed before you can be brought to the placement.
What to expect
If you are 16 or 17 years old and you are in need of protection, a children’s aid society will support you to make decisions to help minimize risks to your safety and promote your best interests, protection and well-being. You should expect to be involved in all decisions that concern you. This includes:
- your safety plan
- your living arrangements
- your interests regarding education or employment
- your medical care
- any programs that will support you in your transition to adulthood
A children’s aid society will also help you identify and develop relationships that you feel are important, beneficial and that you want to last throughout your life.
Services will focus on helping you stay connected to your family, community and culture. You will have access to services and support that respect your culture, as well as access to programs that help you develop personally.
Voluntary youth services agreement
A voluntary youth services agreement is an agreement between a children’s aid society and an eligible 16 or 17 year-old for services and supports.
This agreement is voluntary and you can end the agreement at any time.
If you are a First Nation, Inuk or Métis youth, the society will provide notice to your band, First Nation, Inuit or Métis community that the society is entering into an agreement with you so that services are provided to you in a way that respects and helps preserve your cultural identity and supports you to remain connected to your community, heritage and traditions.
Before entering a voluntary youth services agreement, societies will:
- ensure you meet eligibility requirements
- inform you of the voluntary nature of the agreement in a manner you can understand
- make a referral to the Office of the Children’s Lawyer to provide you with an opportunity to receive legal advice about the options available to you
- provide you with an opportunity to consult with an advocate or trusted adult prior to signing the agreement and/or have these persons attend planning meetings with you
You will be eligible to enter into a voluntary youth services agreement with a society where:
- you are 16 or 17
- you are within the society’s service area
- the society has determined that you are or may be in need of protection
- you cannot be adequately protected at home and you have no other safe options with family, friends or other member of your community or extended family
- you want to enter into the agreement
Develop your voluntary youth service plan
If you enter a voluntary youth services agreement you will work with a society to develop a voluntary youth services plan within 30 calendar days. The plan is intended to ensure that you have a safe and appropriate housing option, financial and social supports and that you identify your goals and the supports that will to help you meet your needs.
Ready, Set, Go Program
If you have a voluntary youth services agreement in place with a society on your 18th birthday, you are eligible for the Ready, Set, Go (RSG) program, which provides eligible youth with financial and non-financial supports until their 23rd birthday.
Alternative dispute resolution
The children’s aid society is required to inform you about options to resolve any issue related to the plan for you, including access to alternative dispute resolution. Alternative dispute resolution is an approach to resolving issues related to you or the plan for your care which encourages the support of family and extended family, where appropriate, and your community, in decision-making for children and youth. It focuses on bringing the right people together to work out the best plan for you.
Indigenous approaches to alternative dispute resolution, established by Indigenous communities or organizations, are also available.
Submit a complaint about a children’s aid society
Children’s aid societies must inform you about options to resolve any issue related to the plan for your care, in a way that you can understand.
These options include contacting the:
- children’s aid society directly as all societies have an internal complaint review process
- Child and Family Services Review Board
- Office of the Ontario Ombudsman, which investigates individual complaints about children’s aid societies and complaints from children and youth in residential care
Report a suspicion that a youth may be in need of protection
A person, including a professional or a member of the public, who is concerned that a 16- or 17-year-old is or may be in need of protection may make a report to a society and the society is required to assess the reported information in accordance with the Ontario Child Welfare Eligibility Spectrum. It is no longer mandatory to report after the youth’s 16th birthday but if someone elects to make a report, they are able to do so even if the information is confidential and will be protected from liability.
Get a referral to the Office of the Children’s Lawyer
If a children’s aid society determines you need protection and an out-of-home placement is being considered, the society must make a referral to the Office of the Children’s Lawyer on your behalf.
You will be able to consult with a lawyer and there is no charge for this service.
The lawyer’s role is to independently represent your views and interests. The Office of the Children’s Lawyer can:
- give you information about the legal process
- give legal advice about your options
- advocate for you in court and other processes, such as alternative dispute resolution