Parents are left to feel the emotional toll of leaving their children alone in care.
With no recourse in the form of a court order, it’s the perfect scenario for families to leave their children with strangers who have no right to touch them.
“It’s a very scary situation, because you have no way to control what happens in the meantime, which means you have to decide where you want to go to find out what’s happening,” said Janet Williams, whose son is now five years old.
Williams said she left her two sons at a friend’s house in Victoria in November, when the child protection system was introduced to protect children from harm.
But she was unable to get a court injunction because of the number of children being left in care and the lack of legal recourse.
She has filed a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission and is calling on the province to adopt legislation that would ensure children are protected when in care, regardless of their age.
In Ontario, the Ministry of Children and Family Development said it can only investigate complaints where children are placed in care in their home province, which is why it does not track how many children are left in foster care.
A spokeswoman for the ministry said the ministry “receives many complaints regarding children in foster and adoptive care each year.”
She said it will look into the matter.
A recent study found there were 3,600 children in temporary foster care in Ontario, a number that has increased over the past decade.
That number includes 1,788 children who were in foster homes at the time of the study.
There are also approximately 2,200 children who are in temporary care in other parts of the country.
While the ministry says it receives more than 100 complaints a year from families who are concerned about their children’s safety in foster or adoptive care, there are many unanswered questions about how many of those are serious enough to be reported to the government.
For Williams, the decision to leave her two boys in care was an emotional and difficult one.
“I just felt I needed to step up and protect my kids, and that was all it took for me to do that,” she said.
She said she did not expect to be able to protect them, and it was a decision she regrets for the rest of her life.
The government has no official count of how many kids are left homeless.
The ministry did not respond to a request for comment.
But Williams said her sons were not in a position to go out on their own to find places to live.
“When they first got there, they had no food, no clothing.
They were not getting their education,” she explained.
Williams is now calling on parents across Canada to take a look at their own lives and make sure they know how to protect their children, not just when they are in foster home.
“They should be able protect their kids, not their own,” she added.
The story is part of a CBC News series on children in care across Canada, and features interviews with children in all kinds of situations, from the most vulnerable to the most experienced.