Evaluation of youth protection in Québec: future looks grim for an ailing system
June 13, 2023
Longueuil – The APTS (Alliance du personnel professionnel et technique de la santé et des services sociaux) has taken notice of the 2023 evaluation of Québec’s Director of Youth Protection, En équilibre vers l’avenir, which was released this morning. Going beyond the information in that report, the APTS wanted to comment on the overall state of the youth protection system.
“All across Québec, we see tireless efforts being made by youth protection directors and people working on the ground – people who are putting their heart and soul into helping our children,” said APTS president Robert Comeau. “Once again this year, youth workers have been using every last ounce of their strength to hold the system together. Day by day, the labour shortage is getting worse, and measures to attract and retain employees are few and far between. The report’s title speaks of going forward in a state of balance. But the system we’re looking at is not in balance – and the future is worrisome, to put it mildly.”
Over two years after the Laurent Commission (the special commission on children’s rights and youth protection) published its report, the APTS notes that despite the good faith evidenced in that initiative, its impact is not being felt on the ground.
“We’re facing critical issues that call for attention and immediate action,” said Comeau. “Resources in youth centres are insufficient, support for the transition to adulthood is full of gaps, and access to rehabilitation services is limited. Our young people’s well-being is threatened.”
The APTS insists on the need for concrete measures such as recruiting qualified professionals, increasing both financial and material resources, and ensuring collaboration between the various parties. To offer young people going through rehabilitation a promising future, society as a whole needs to get involved in solving problems and providing appropriate support.
“Everywhere in Québec, every day, youth workers are worrying about the amount of time they’re actually able to give young Quebecers, with all the cases they have to handle,” added Sébastien Pitre, APTS officer for youth centres. “Are youth centres in better shape than before the Laurent Commission? Unfortunately, the answer is no. Many of our members are both mentally and physically exhausted. The mental pressure associated with an ever-increasing caseload is added to the fear that because they’re so short of time, they’ll make a mistake that will lead to disaster.”
On May 5, the CAQ government made a unilateral decision to give a bonus to one group only – youth workers employed in the Director of Youth Protection’s assessment-referral sector – while excluding the majority of people working in youth protection. This is contrary to the basic principles of collective bargaining, which is why the APTS recently took legal action to protect the right to organize and freely engage in fair and equitable collective bargaining.
“I wish I could say the government is doing everything it can to support the youth protection sector, but its most recent move was to put forward the kind of offer that creates antagonism and drives people apart,” concluded the APTS president. “We didn’t fall into the trap, but it’s discouraging to see the government show so little understanding of that decision’s impact. They need to take the situation seriously, look beyond upcoming bargaining talks, and think about young Quebecers. With reduced staff numbers all over Québec, there’s an urgent need to reinforce teams and provide more resources. Hundreds of vacant positions and a lack of foster families lead to worrisome situations, with long waiting lists and not enough protection for our children and teenagers.”
The APTS (Alliance du personnel professionnel et technique de la santé et des services sociaux) represents more than 65,000 members who play a key role in ensuring that health and social services institutions run smoothly. Our members provide a wide range of services for all Quebecers, including diagnostic, rehabilitation, nutrition, psychosocial intervention, clinical support, and prevention services.