Youth in care

Children and youth should regularly receive the care, protection, love and support they need in order to thrive. Unfortunately this is not always the case.

Children and youth can be placed in care for many different reasons like:

  • If a young person has a mental, physical or emotional illness
  • If a parent has a mental, physical or emotional illness
  • If a parent is dealing with a drug or alcohol addiction
  • If parents have died before their children are ready to care for themselves
  • If children are being abused or neglected

This page can help answer some of the questions you may have about being in care, including:

If you have questions or concerns that aren't addressed on this site, try talking to a trusted adult like a teacher, social worker or clergy member. And remember, you can call Kids Help Phone any time of the day or night at 1-800-668-6868 or chat with us when Live Chat is available.

What is "in care"?

Being placed in care means you are removed from your home for a period of time and placed in the care of someone else. This could mean living in a foster home, with other family members, in a group home or other similar care facility.

A foster home usually has 1 or 2 adults who live in the home and care for the children placed in the home.

A group home usually has staff that work at the home and take care of the children or youth that live there.

Who makes the decision to place a child into care?

There are government agencies whose job is to assist families and make sure that children and youth are safe and their needs and rights are met (i.e. they have a safe place to live/sleep, food to eat and adults to take care of them).

These agencies are "child protection agencies" and depending on where you live in Canada they could be called:

  • Child and Family Services
  • Child Welfare
  • Children's Aid Society
  • Social Services

Depending on the situation, social workers from these agencies make the decision for children to go into care, sometimes with the parents' consent. These workers often use information provided by the child and other people in the community (i.e. neighbours, and teachers) and sometimes parents, to assist them in making this decision.

Do I have to go into care?

Usually agencies try very hard to place children with someone they know (like friends or relatives), but if this isn't possible, children are placed in care. Often it's a temporary solution as they try to help parents resolve the reason the child came into care so that the child can return home as soon as possible. Sometimes, however, if there is no other alternative, children come into care permanently.

Who can I talk to?

When you go into care you are assigned a social worker. This person will try to help resolve problems with your parents so that you can go home. You can talk to your social worker about anything.

You can also talk to family members, foster parents, clergy, teachers, Kids Help Phone, and/or anyone else you trust. Often the social workers or foster parents have helped children and their families with similar problems to yours and they are there to help you in any way they can.

What if I don't get along with my worker or my worker doesn't listen to me or come see me?

There is a big difference between your worker not doing what you want and them not listening to you or not being there for you. You might not always agree with the decisions your worker makes, and there can be times when you have difficulties with your worker. However, you have the right to talk to someone else about your concerns if:

  • You feel that your worker is not listening to you
  • If they are not returning your calls
  • If you don't get along with your worker

You can talk to your foster parent or caregiver, or you can call your worker's office and talk to their supervisor.

How will the foster parents/workers treat me?

Moving into care, you may feel:

  • Frightened
  • Confused
  • Sad
  • Relieved
  • Ashamed
  • Guilty

You may also be blaming yourself for your family's problems. It is not unusual to have all or some of these feelings, but remember, the reasons that children come into care are not their fault.

It is important for you to know that you have a right:

  • To proper care
  • To live in a safe home
  • To be free from physical or sexual harm
  • To shelter and food
  • To attend school
  • To proper medical and dental care

All of these things should be provided for you when you are in care. If you are concerned about the way you are treated in care you need to tell your worker.

Living with a foster family, in a group home, or in a special care facility can be a difficult change. Being in unfamiliar surroundings with people you don't know can be scary and uncomfortable. You may have questions like:

  • Will these people like me and will I like them?
  • What if I don't get along with these people?
  • Will there be lots of rules?
  • Will I go to a new school?
  • Will I get to see my family and friends?
  • When can I go home?
  • Is my family mad at me?
  • Is it still ok to love my family?

Take some time to adjust to your new situation and hopefully you'll become more comfortable. It is important to remember that you are not alone. Try to reach out and talk with the people around you, foster parents, social workers, staff, and any other kids. Reaching out can help you to feel more comfortable where you are.

Things to keep in mind

Moving to a new situation is always an adjustment. Remember that you are in care to try to make things better and safer for you.

Here are some ideas to help you to feel more comfortable in care:

  • talk to friends
  • bring some of your belongings with you
  • try to continue to participate in activities you enjoy
  • find someone you can talk to about how you're feeling (foster parent, teacher, worker, friend or Kids Help Phone)
  • try starting a journal or finding another art form to express yourself 

These ideas may help you express what you are feeling and work through things that may be troubling you.

Last reviewed: September 2012 by the Kids Help Phone Counselling Team

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