Earlier this year, Hezekiah Wesley of Cat Lake First Nation was found dead in a boxcar in Kenora's railyard. He had just passed his 16th birthday.
Genevieve Oger from the ministry says Ontario raised the age of protection from 16 to 18 in January. Unfortunately, Wesley had already aged out of the system, before the legislation came into effect.
A local report prepared for the province says teens aging out of care are left without homes or supports. In the report, local staff with the Ministry of Children and Youth say youth in Kenora are displaying more complicated mental health needs, as well as more difficulties with addictions and they lack housing.
According to family services in the Kenora area, this would add up to about 75 youth in care. The numbers include 40 youth in care turned 16 between April 1, 2016 and March 31 of 2017. Another 35 children in care in the Kenora area turned 16 between April 1, 2017 and the end of December.
In an email sent last week, Oger noted youth aged 16 and 17 now have access to all child protection services. She adds eligible youth aging out of care may also receive assistance through a Continued Care and Support for Youth agreement until they turn 21.Youth aging out of care may also be eligible to receive extended health care benefits through the Aftercare Benefits Initiative, until they turn 25-years-old.
Last fall, the ministry said it was implementing a blueprint for a new system of residential services. The ministry added it was also revisiting restrictions on child detention.
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