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Centre for Urban and
Community Studies
University of Toronto
455 Spadina Ave.
Suite 400
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
M5S 2G8

(416) 978-2072
(416) 978-7162


Housing and Child Welfare

A collaborative research initiative of the

Children’s Aid Society of Toronto
and the
Centre for Urban and Community Studies

Housing problems and homelessness contribute to social workers’ decisions to admit children to care and to return children home, according to a joint study by the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto and the University of Toronto’s Centre for Urban and Community Studies.

One in Five . . . Housing as a Factor in the Admission of Children to Care: New Survey of Children’s Aid Society of Toronto Updates 1992 Study
click here for a copy of the report

Housing crisis in Toronto affects child welfare system:
Living conditions have direct impact upon children's health, safety and development

UofT / Children’s Aid Society joint press release, Nov. 26, 2001
The shortage of safe, affordable housing in Toronto is playing a bigger role than ever in child welfare cases, according to new research.

Social workers' decisions to place and keep children in the care of the Children's Aid Society (CAS) of Toronto were influenced by housing problems in 20 per cent of cases in 2000, says the joint study by CAS and U of T's Centre for Urban and Community Studies. The current study replicates a 1992 study that found housing problems were a factor, though not the only one, in about 18 per cent of CAS cases.

The housing problems experienced by the children's families ranged from difficulties paying rent and hazardous living conditions to a lack of permanent housing and homelessness. Homelessness, according to the study, includes those families who are visible on the streets and staying in hostels as well as the hidden homeless who live in illegal or temporary accommodation and families at imminent risk of becoming homeless.

"It is not surprising that single parents, low-income families and children are hit hard by the deteriorating housing situation in Toronto," says Professor David Hulchanski, a co-author of the study and director of the Centre for Community and Urban Studies. "Over the past 10 years vacancy rates have dried up, social assistance was cut, almost 20,000 social housing units were cancelled, no new social housing was built, rent controls were removed, evictions are up and we have lost affordable housing to luxury condos. We need government strategies and resources to solve this man-made problem."

Social workers reported that in more than 11 per cent of their cases in 2000, the children had their return home delayed by housing problems. This figure, which represents 250 of 2,250 children in the Children's Aid Society's care, is double the number of children who experienced this type of delay in 1992. Over the same time period, the length of delay in children returning to their families due to inadequate housing tripled. In addition to the human toll caused by these delays, the potential financial implications are huge, says Hulchanski. More than half of the social workers in the study who reported a delay estimated that it was six months or more, representing a cost of more than $2.9 million to keep the children in care.

"Housing is a children's issue," says Bruce Rivers, executive director of the Children's Aid Society of Toronto. "The conditions in which children live have clear consequences for their health, safety and development. For the second time in a decade we have evidence that Toronto's housing problems are creating havoc for families."

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Housing and Child Welfare

Participatory Research Resources