The Cross-Over Youth Project: Keeping Youth in Care Out of the Criminal Justice System

girl holding hand up

girl holding hand upRyerson University has launched the Cross-Over Youth Project, a federally and provincially funded partnership to help prevent youth in care from “crossing over” into the youth justice system. The Cross-Over Youth Project is a partnership between Ryerson University and the Ontario Court of Justice, and has received funding from both the provincial and federal governments. The Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies (OACAS), Children’s Aid Society of Toronto, and Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Toronto are advisory members of the Cross-Over Youth Committee, which created the report and funding proposal and will oversee the 4-year project.

“This project is taking place because many young people in care have a trajectory that takes them into the criminal justice system,” says Sharon Evans, the OACAS senior policy analyst who is a member of the Cross-Over Youth Project committee. “The project is trying to understand why these youth, who are already vulnerable, are ending up in the criminal justice system. As a field it is important to reduce the number of youth in care being charged and to assist these youth in having better outcomes.”

The project seeks to improve outcomes for youth in care by coordinating sustainable, system-wide responses with child welfare, youth justice, and community partners. The project will coordinate efforts, including education, across all service sectors with a focus on improving the services available to and lives of cross-over youth.

The project is being launched at four pilot sites in Ontario, beginning with Toronto and continuing on to Thunder Bay, Belleville, and Chatham. The services delivered to youth will include youth mentorship, case management, and coordinated problem solving across sectors. The goal is to develop and implement each local project according to the unique needs and culture of the individual sites and communities, including those of local First Nation and African Canadian communities. A youth advisory group will provide consultation and ongoing feedback on the project.

OACAS will continue its involvement in the Cross-Over Youth Committee during the next phase of the project. “We want to see what the learnings are from this project so we can share them with all Children’s Aid Societies,” says Sharon Evans.

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