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Leaving Home – Who, Where, Safety

Who Decides Where You Live?

If you are 15 and under, (or if you and your parents/caregivers live in another province where the age for leaving home is older), your parents/caregivers decide where you live. If you leave, they can contact the police to have you returned home if you are living in a place that is not safe; eg. you are at risk of physical, emotional or sexual abuse, or being neglected.

If you are 16 or 17, you have the right to leave home and “withdraw from parental/caregiver control” which means you take over responsibility of your own care and custody. You can leave home against the wishes of your parents/caregivers and live somewhere else; and you do not need a legal guardian. If you are living with another person, they will not be charged with a criminal offence as long as they do not assist you in leaving home.

You do not need to apply to a court to be “Emancipated” in Ontario

There are no laws on “emancipation” in Ontario.

In other jurisdictions (eg. Quebec and some USA states), there are emancipation laws that allow someone who is 16 years or older apply to a court to be free from the custody and control of their parents/caregivers. This is not required in Ontario.

What if my parents or caregivers live apart?

If your parents/caregivers live apart and cannot agree on what to do, then they may have to go to court. In court, the judge will make a parenting order based on your best interests. The judge can appoint the Office of the Children’s Lawyer (OCL) to represent your views and preferences.

If you are 16 and over, you can usually make the decision on where you live.

If you 15 and under, one of your parents/ caregivers can ask the judge to appoint the OCL to represent your views and wishes on where you want to live. You may be able to ask the court to appoint a lawyer for you if your parents/caregivers refuse to ask for the OCL appointment.

What if my parents/caregivers need some support? Or we just can’t get along?

You parents/caregivers can ask the Children’s Aid Society (CAS) for support caring for you. The kind of support offered depends on your family’s needs as well as your wishes. If the CAS and your parents/caregivers agree that home is not safe for you, they may be able to sign a Temporary Care Agreement for you to stay in a different place for a while and return home when things get better. If you are 12 or older, they cannot sign an agreement if you do not consent as well.

Option if you are First Nations, Inuk or Métis

Your parents/caregivers also have the option to enter into a Customary Care Arrangement with a First Nations Child and Family Services Agency. 

All decisions must support and maintain your culture, heritage, traditions, connection to community and concept of extended family.

What is a Customary Care Arrangement?

A Customary Care Arrangement is defined in the Child Youth Family Services Act as the “care and supervision of a First Nations, Inuk or Métis child by a person who is not the child’s parent, according to the custom of the child’s band or First Nations, Inuit or Métis community.”

The arrangement outlines how you will be cared for within your community. The role of each person involved will be described; and this may include your birth parents, caregivers, Band/community members, and other service providers. The person who cares for you on a day to day basis may get financial help to care for you.

This type of arrangement is voluntary. There is no time limit on a Customary Care Arrangement.

Where can I find more information?

The Association of Native Child and Family Service Agencies has a website with links to their member agencies: www.ancfsao.ca

As well, many Bands and communities have their own websites, including:

What if I am under 16 and can’t live at home?

If you feel unsafe, you can call, or ask an adult that you trust, to call a local Children’s Aid Society (CAS) or your First Nation Child and Family Service Agency (Agency). Feeling unsafe can be based on physical, emotional or sexual harm; or that your needs are being neglected.

Anyone who believes someone under 16 is being harmed or at risk of harm, must make a report to a local Children’s Aid Society (CAS) or your First Nation Child and Family Service Agency.

What happens after a report is made?

After a CAS or Agency receives a report, they will usually start an investigation by talking to you and the people who know you to decide if you are in need of protection.

If the CAS or Agency decides that you are in need of protection, they must take steps to make you safe. This can include offering support services to your parents/caregivers and asking them to follow rules and conditions in caring for you. If these steps are not enough to protect you, the CAS or Agency may place you in the home of a relative or other adult you trust (“kinship care”); or, if you are First Nations, Inuk or Métis, under a Customary Care Arrangement. If you have already left home and staying with a person who you are safe with, then you might be allowed to stay there. If none of these options are possible, you may be placed in a foster home or in a group home.

More information is available in our Going into Care and Being in Care sections.

What if I’m over 16 and can’t live at home?

Any person, including you, may call and make a report to a local Children’s Aid Society (CAS) or your First Nation Child and Family Services Agency (Agency), if there is a belief that someone 16 or 17 years old is at risk of harm or facing harm. Harm can be physical, emotional, sexual, or that your needs are being neglected.

After a report is received, the CAS or Agency will usually start an investigation by talking to people who know you to determine if you are in need of protection from harm. If you do not consent to the investigation, the CAS or Agency worker will have to decide how much risk you are in and consider other ways to determine safety concerns about you. You do not have to participate with the CAS or Agency if you do not want to.

If you are found to be in need of protection, the CAS or Agency may offer for you to enter into a Voluntary Youth Service Agreement (VYSA) with them. If this is not offered, you can also ask for one.

What is a Voluntary Youth Service Agreement (VYSA)?

A VYSA is a contract between you and the CAS to receive services. You have a right to consent or refuse to enter into a VYSA; and you can end a VYSA if you no longer want to be part of the agreement. Before signing a VYSA, you will be given a lawyer through the Office of the Children’s Lawyer for legal advice and representation.

If you enter into a VYSA with CAS, a Voluntary Youth Services Plan must be created within 30 days. This plan will include finding you a place to live and provide other supports, such as financial and social supports, planning for transitioning into adulthood, and assisting with developing and/or maintaining cultural connections.

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