Quebec aims to tackle problem of teenage runaways with $11M investment

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Quebec aims to tackle problem of teenage runaways with $11M investment

The province is investing $11 million per year into its efforts to prevent and intervene in cases of teenage runaways.

One of the themes of the 24-point plan involves focusing on the issue of sexual exploitation and working with teens so they understand the kind of danger they could be in.

Lucie Charlebois, Quebec's minister for youth protection, said the number of runaways decreased last year compared to the previous year, but there's no specific target:

"What we want is to make sure they know where's the danger, where they can put their life at risk," she said.

The move comes two years after several girls ran away from a youth centre in Laval. In early 2016, five teenage girls left the youth protection home in the span of a week and a half.

Dozens of new hires

Part of the government's plan includes hiring 17 liaison workers who will share information with the different youth centres and police.

About 60 more professionals will also be hired to offer clinical support to staff working at those youth homes.

Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux said the announcement adds to measures implemented in 2016 — a $3-million, five-year project called Prévention Jeunesse

"We've created a special squad chasing those who are responsible for exploiting sexually our young people, and we're having results."

The union representing front-line workers says the money is good news, but it would like to see more staff hired to deal directly with runaways, something it says is urgently needed.

"We wonder if the youth are going to see the difference directly because, so far, we are not adding resources directly in the field with the clients," said APTS spokesperson Caroline Letarte-Simoneau.

"It's support for the interveners, but not more interveners to give more time for them to be in the field with the youths who go and runaway unfortunately."