When Jenny was 13 years old, she was removed from her parents’ home, where she was experiencing physical abuse. Her teacher had noticed that she had been coming to school bruised and depressed. Her teacher had a legal duty to report the issue to the Children’s Aid Society (CAS), and after investigating, CAS apprehended Jenny. An “apprehension” happens when CAS believes that a child is being harmed or is at risk of harm and so the child is removed from his or her home.
Jenny has been in the care of Children’s Aid ever since because it was decided in court that it was not safe for her to return to her parents. At the end of the court case, the Judge decided that Jenny would be a Crown ward. Being a Crown ward means that Jenny’s parents are no longer legally responsible for Jenny and that she is not allowed to live with them. Instead, the “Crown” (this means the government) is legally responsible for Jenny, and CAS is responsible for her care. If someone becomes a Crown ward, there is the potential for that person to be adopted.
Jenny is now 16 years old and she is wondering when she will be able to leave CAS and move out on her own. She loves her foster family very much; however, she feels as though she is old enough to live on her own and become an independent young adult.
Jenny has two different options for moving out.
First, she can apply to terminate the court order that makes her a Crown ward. With this option, Jenny would no longer have a relationship with CAS at all. She’d be completely independent. This is challenging because since Jenny is under 18, she will need to be in school full-time. There are many life skills required for independent living, like cooking, cleaning, budgeting, and finding a place to live. If Jenny wanted to move out on her own, she would have do consider whether she was ready to do these things on her own.
Second, Jenny’s other option is to ask CAS to change her placement from her foster home to “independent living”, allowing her to receive a living allowance to live on hew own, but still continue to have a relationship with CAS and get support from them. She would have to talk to her CAS worker about whether this is a possibility available for her.
When Jenny is 18, her legal relationship with CAS mayend and she will have the opportunity to be completely independent. However, since Jenny is a Crown ward and has continuously been in care since she was 13, she will probably be able to enter into an Extended Care and Maintenance agreement with CAS. Under this agreement, Jenny will be able to continue to receive care until she is 21 as she transitions into independent living. For example, Jenny will receive emotional support from her CAS worker, and she will also receive financial support from CAS to help her live independently and continue her education. If she does not want to or is unable to stay with her foster family, Jenny may be able to use this support to move out and find her own place to live.
Jenny has thought about her options a lot and has decided that she is probably going to wait a couple more years until she is ready to take that huge step and actually move out of her foster parents’ home. Jenny, her foster parents, and her CAS worker have already discussed possible new living arrangements, education, as well as money for her to live on when she does eventually move out. When the times comes for Jenny to move out, her foster parents are going to help her throughout her transition. Jenny has never lived by herself before and she knows that it may be stressful and hard at times, but she feels as though it will definitely be a great new experience for her.
Leaving child protection services, or receiving services from child protection agencies again once you’ve left voluntarily, can be a very complicated and challenging issue. Factors like how old you are now, how old you were when you entered care, and how long you were in care for or whether you were out of care at certain points all matter in determining what services you may be eligible for once you are 16 or older. It is a good idea to contact a lawyer if you have specific questions about your situation and your rights.
For more general information about involvement with child protection services and leaving home, see these JFCY pamphlets:
Thanks to JFCY volunteer and PLE Team Member Deqa Abdi for writing the scenario set out in this blog post. Legal information is by JFCY.