On the tenth annual Children and Youth in Care Day, dozens of young people in the care of the province’s Children’s Aid Society agencies will be going to sleep in motels, hotels, and short-term rentals because there aren’t enough foster beds or treatment facilities. One of them, a young person with autism, has been living in an agency’s office for months.

The use of unlicensed homes is meant to be an absolute last resort. A new survey of 27 CUPE locals representing workers at CAS agencies across the province found that two-thirds of agencies have placed children as young as two in motels, hotels, short-term rentals, or offices in the last year. The majority have done so multiple times. Some children and youth stay for only a couple of nights while others languish for months.

“The young people who come into contact with the child protection system are some of the most vulnerable and most in need of support. Motels are no place to provide that care. Hotels cannot help traumatized children rebuild trust. And cots in offices will never replace a properly staffed home,” said Fred Hahn, president of CUPE Ontario. “We know what proper care looks like, and this isn’t it. The Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, Michael Parsa, says this is an option of last resort, but it’s happening every day because this government has taken every possible step to undermine the child protection system, slashing funding for agencies, privatizing care, and eliminating the office of Ontario’s Child Advocate. It’s a war on vulnerable children.”

Watch the entire press conference here.

That children and youth have been placed in motels filled with bed bugs and the threat of sex traffickers has made headlines in recent months. But frontline child protection workers say that even in the best case scenarios – in clean, safe hotels or short-term rentals – these facilities are failing to meet the considerable needs of young people while costing agencies upwards of $1 million a year per placement.

“When we bring a young person into care, our first priority is to make sure they are safe. Only then can we start to rebuild their trust, confidence, and sense of self. But none of that can happen in a motel, where it’s impossible to have privacy, a proper routine, or home cooked meals,” explained Lorrie Peppin, a frontline child protection worker with more than 20 years’ experience. “We’ve asked to meet with the Ministry to share what we’re seeing. Instead, this government has ignored us and the needs of young people. They have created this crisis and children are suffering.”

Concerned Ontarians are encouraged to send a message to the Ministry of Children, Community, and Social Services demanding an end to the practice of warehousing young people in unlicensed homes: www.cupe.on.ca/abetterCAS