Quebec's youth protection directorate sees 4% increase in reported cases

There were 10 more cases a day reported to youth protection agencies in Quebec last year compared to the previous 12-month period. But in Laval, which saw a spike in cases of runaways last year, new measures are having a positive effect.

Cases of runaways in Laval dropped by more than half in wake of measures put in place last year

Across Quebec, there were 91,191 reports processed by youth protection agencies in 2016-2017. That's a four per cent increase over the previous year. (Rafal Olechowski/Shutterstock)

There were 10 more cases a day reported to youth protection agencies in Quebec last year compared to the previous 12-month period — a four per cent increase.

The 2016-2017 report by the Direction de la protection de la jeunesse (DPJ), released Tuesday, focused on issues related to adolescence, including depression, drug use, behavioural disorders and abuse.

"Our adolescents are having difficulties. There's a significant amount of distress," said Sonia Mailloux, director of youth protection for Laval's regional health and social services agency, at a news conference Tuesday. 

Laval measures working to curb runaways

Youth protection services in Laval was the target of much criticism last year, after a series of teenage girls fled a Laval group home without permission, sparking the provincial government to launch a review of its Youth Protection Act.

Mailloux said measures put in place — including tighter security, changes in procedures for outings and increased parent and youth awareness — have all contributed to cutting in half the number of runaways among teens in protection.

Challenges faced by trans youth

Teens made up 24 per cent of the 36,002 cases reported to Batshaw Youth and Family Centres, the agency that serves English Montrealers across the island.

Assunta Gallo, director of youth protection for CIUSSS de l'Ouest-de-l'Île-de-Montréal, the regional agency that administers Batshaw, said the directorate has a better understanding of the difficulties adolescents can face, including the challenges that transgender youth are coping with. 

She said Batshaw has created a new program called Ally to sensitize its workers to the realities faced by trans youth. 

More reporting of psychological mistreatment

Across Quebec as a whole, there were 91,191 reports processed during the year. One third of those cases involved negligence or the risk of negligence and 30 per cent of cases involved physical abuse.

Seventeen per cent of the cases reported involved allegations of psychological mistreatment — a nine per cent increase over last year.  Youth protection officials attribute that to an increasing awareness of the issue.

That was the focus of the directorate's report last year, with officials asking adults to take action when they witness children enduring psychological abuse, including threats, isolation, excessive control, and exposure to violence and conflicts between parents.

With files from Elias Abboud and La Presse Canadienne