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Their number more than tripled between 2020 and 2023 to reach 479 runaways. A decline is anticipated in 2024.

Noticeable increase in the number of runaways from youth centers in Chaudière-Appalaches

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The Center Chaudière-Appalaches rehabilitation center has 14 units, including 12 in Lévis.

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After falling during the pandemic, the number of runaways at the Chaudière-Appalaches Youth Center has more than tripled since 2020 to reach 479 in 2023. On the other hand, a drop is anticipated for 2024.

It is not easy for Michel Gendron, from the CISSS de Chaudière-Appalaches, to pinpoint the problem of running away from youth centers or rehabilitation centers in the region. “It’s difficult to explain fugue very clearly; running away is a symptom. »

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Total number of runaways between 2017 and 2023 in a youth center in Chaudière-Appalaches.

The reasons for running away vary. Just the simple fact of not wanting to be here… […] Young people sometimes have difficulty managing their emotions, a call that went wrong with parents, bad news, lists the coordinator at the rehabilitation center and partnership with the community.

Certain periods are more conducive to running away, before the holidays and at the end of classes, for example.

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Michel Gendron is coordinator at the rehabilitation center and partnership with the community of the CISSS de Chaudière-Appalaches.

We know that there has been an increase [in the number] of reports. The situation is changing, [particularly since] the pandemic, [which] means that our rehabilitation units have been at full capacity for several years. We are even overflowing for small clients.

A quote from Michel Gendron, coordinator at the rehabilitation center and partnership with the community, CISSS de Chaudière-Appalaches

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134 young people aged 5 to 17 are at the Chaudière-Appalaches Rehabilitation Center in 14 rehabilitation units. Of this number, 12 are in Lévis, the other two being in Sainte-Marie.

Besides, The CISSS de Chaudière-Appalaches is launching an appeal to the population to recruit host families. Sometimes, [young people] can end up at the Rehabilitation Center [because of the] lack of host families, explains Michel Gendron.

A runaway occurs when a child leaves voluntarily, and without authorization from the person in authority, an intermediate resource or a facility maintained by a youth center. This includes non-returns from authorized outings where the child, deliberately and without justification, does not respect the scheduled return time. In this sense, [during] any situation where we cannot, within a period of at most one hour, decide on the situation of the child, the latter is presumed to have run away.

Source: Department of Health and Human Services

Sitting in an armchair in unit 3 “L'Oasis” of the CISSS Rehabilitation Center in Lévis, manager Marie-Pier Vézina chats with a young girl. Her unit is made up entirely of girls between the ages of 12 and 17.

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Marie-Pier Vézina is a special education teacher, a job she has been doing for 14 years.

Over the past year, the proportion of runaways committed by girls has increased. The total has been slightly higher than that of boys for two years

However, even when running away, she emphasizes that the speakers are never far away.

We'll text, we'll write to them on Messenger to get news. The goal is to make sure they are safe […]. Does he have access to a roof, to food? […] The goal is security, she explains, adding that a young person running away can take a few hours or a few minutes before giving news. The workers are always in communication with the parents.

We don't necessarily send the police right away. […] Once they are back here, we will make sure that they are safe, that they have slept, eaten, that they can wash themselves, we will do a health check, both psychological and physical.

What made you run away? How can we do differently to meet your needs? How can we accompany you in this without putting you in danger?

A quote from Marie-Pier Vézina, head of the living unit at the “L'Oasis” unit of the CISSS de Chaudière-Appalaches

The number of young people with several runaways has also increased. 83 young people are responsible for all runaways in 2023, 26 more than in 2022.

In addition, 40% of runaways last less than two hours and 90% of runaways last less than 24 hours.

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Rear view of the Chaudière-Appalaches Youth Center in Lévis.

Our biggest pool of runaways is really at the level of the 15-17 year old age group […]. There has been an improvement in recent years in our longer runaways: we have gone from around ten percent to one percent, notes Julie Boucher, liaison officer for the prevention and intervention program in matters of running away from the CISSS de Chaudière-Appalaches.

The on-site workers are there to support the young people and help them move forward despite their difficulties.

Most of the interventions take place when we have all our young people with us: we will be three or four speakers, we will work on social skills on a daily basis through meals, activities, explains Marie-Pier Vézina.

The duration of placement in a youth center in Chaudière-Appalaches is between three and six months on average, according to the CISSS.

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Stakeholders play Skip-Bo with a young girl staying at the Chaudière-Appalaches Youth Center.

According to Michel Gendron, community organizations have also been called upon more in recent years by the Chaudière-Appalaches Youth Center. We try to bring our community actors into our communities to weave this safety net that we want with our children, he says.

The latter mentions that since the pandemic, there are certain elements that we see more. Anxiety is one. We also see many more elements in terms of eating disorders.

I want our young person from Thetford, if he returns to his community, to be able to easily identify his street worker.

A quote from Michel Gendron, coordinator at the Rehabilitation Center and community partnership, CISSS de Chaudière-Appalaches

Julie Boucher gives the example of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Appalaches, a running away prevention program.

We carry out a pairing, we choose adults who have common interests with the young people and they can go on an activity with them […], an additional significant adult from whom the young person can draw inspiration.

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The Chaudière-Appalaches Youth Center has its own school on its Lévis site, where young people housed in units can continue their studies.

The problems are numerous, but preliminary data from the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MSSS) suggest a drop in the number of runaways this year.

246 runaways were recorded at the CISSS de Chaudière-Appalaches between April 1 and October 31, 2023.

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The wall which is used for the “little departure ritual” for young people who leave the center. Everyone stamps their hand with paint.

Clearly visible in a corridor in the center of Lévis, this sentence is written on a wall: Every day is a new chance to get there. The hands of young people who have left the Center are clearly visible, stamped on the wall with different colors and the exit date of each one.

So their time here is over, their learning will continue elsewhere, says Marie-Pier Vézina, touched by the journey of all these young people she has worked with over the years.

These successes are also those of the speakers. This is also why I am still doing my job after 14 years. It's seeing their success in their eyes.

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Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116