COVID-19 and the social safety net around children and youth at risk of abuse, and youth protection practices

Ano de publicação: 2020


This document and the findings it sets out were prepared in response to an inquiry from the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MSSS) in the context of the coronavirus (COVID-19) health emergency in Quebec. The aim was to conduct a summary review of the published data and to mobilize key knowledge in order to provide information to policy makers and to health and social service professionals. Since this response had to be provided rapidly, the resultant findings are not based on a comprehensive search of the published data and a systematic assessment of the response quality, or on a highly developed consultation process. During this public health emergency, INESSS is keeping a watchful eye for new data that might warrant an update of this response.


Literature Review: Selection criteria: Children and families, with no limits in terms of time or document type.

Literature review methods:

The scientific documentation and grey literature were briefly reviewed, and a narrative synthesis based on a comprehensive reading of the documents reviewed was produced. The quality assessment of the documents was not performed.

Literature search:

The Scientific Information Adviser developed a search strategy to identify all documents related to the youth-in-difficulty activity sector as well as to coronavirus and other situations that might raise similar issues (e.g., SARS, Ebola, pandemics, epidemics, health crises, disasters). The goal was to create a master data bank for this sector. The data bank was then searched for answers to the questions of interest discussed in this document.


1. Maintaining the community social safety net around children and youth at risk of abuse. 1.1 Impact of Covid-19 and associated control measures on children, youth and families. According to the literature consulted, the control measures implemented to curb the spread of Covid-19 (e.g., closure of schools, child care centres and daycare centres, travel restrictions) can have a significant negative impact on children, youth and families, weaken the social safety net around children and increase the risks of abuse. Of the negative consequences identified among children, youth and parents, those most often reported relate to the closure of schools, child care centres and daycare centres. 1.2 Conditions conducive to implementing a community social safety net for children and youth at risk of abuse. As noted above, the pandemic context is likely to negatively impact the social safety net for children and youth in Quebec. It therefore seems important to specify the conditions that would be conducive to maintaining or even strengthening this safety net.


The mission of ensuring the safety and development of children remains a core concern of child protection services. Given their essentiality, all youth services should be maintained during the current COVID-19 pandemic. Children and youth receiving child protection services are considered a vulnerable population because of the abuse they have suffered. Beyond this vulnerability, the pandemic context can significantly limit the ability of youth protection services to provide services to this population. It then becomes especially important for those services responsible for vulnerable children to ensure continuity of their services during this period. Various organizational and clinical practices identified in the literature review can be implemented by the institutions, managers and youth workers to ensure that children receiving youth protection services continue to do so. THESE PRACTICES ARE SUMMARIZED IN THE SECTIONS THAT FOLLOW.


Inform parents if their access rights have been suspended and suggest other means of communication to maintain contact.

Encourage and create opportunities to foster regular contact between children and family members from whom they are physically separated because of the pandemic:

If the use of video makes the conversation between the child and parent difficult, suggest a game that can be played at a distance to maintain the bond remotely. During supervised in-person visits: ask questions about the health of visitors prior to their visit and ensure compliance with sanitary hygiene measures (e.g., frequent cleaning of supervised visiting rooms). Answer the child’s questions and reassure him or her that the situation is temporary.

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