Youth protection centres across Quebec are trying to keep up with demand as caseloads increase.
There were 12.5 per cent more cases reported across the province in 2021-22 compared with the year prior, according to a report issued by the CIUSSS du Centre-Sud-de-l’Île-de-Montréal.
In the West Island, it was even higher, as caseloads increased by 16 per cent during the same time period, according to Linda See, the youth protection director of the CIUSSS de L’Ouest-de-L’île-de-Montréal.
“There are a lot of people needing help. And they’re not really sure where to go,” See told Global News.
Increases in cases were registered in almost every category and among the highest included psychological abuse, physical abuse and neglect.
See says a lot of it was due to COVID-19 and the stresses the pandemic put on Quebec families.
“If they come knocking at our door we’re going to respond and we’re going to open the door and give them services,” she said.
Staff at the new Batshaw facilities are trying to cope with the increase in demand. The centre opened in early May and it’s already full to capacity.
“The issue for us is that we don’t have enough beds to service a lot of these kids who are coming into care,” Valerie Duncan, the residential readaptation co-ordinator, told Global News.
Compounding the problem is a severe staff shortage. Only 12 social workers out of 39 positions are currently filled, leaving a shortfall of 27 employees.
“It is alarming. We really, really have to do something right now and find solutions,” Josée Asselin, the employees’ union leader of the CIUSSS de L’Ouest-de-L’île-de-Montréal, told Global News.
The West Island regional health authority works with other organizations to lift some of the demands, such as working with the Action Jeunesse de l’Ouest-de-l’île (AJOI), which handles a lot of non-emergency services. But even at AJOI, workers are pushed to their limits.
”We’re there the weekends, we’re there at night, we’re there in the families, in the house, in the apartments, on the streets,” Tania Charron, the director-general, told Global News.
The CIUSSS de L’Ouest-de-L’île-de-Montréal is now looking to hire outside of Quebec to try and find employees and serve the youth who need the most help.