#minorsextrafficking | Children’s Aid placing youth in London hotels, raising sex-trafficking fears

A London child welfare agency has been placing youth in hotels in the city, sparking fears they will be exposed to sex traffickers, said officials with Children’s Aid Society London and Middlesex.

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Children as young as 13 are being placed in south London hotels by the Children’s Aid Society of London and Middlesex, raising fears they will be exposed to sex traffickers, the agency says.


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During the last year, CAS has placed about 10 youth under the age of 18 in hotels, but the pace is accelerating with four housed in hotels during the last month, said Chris Steven, executive director of the London and Middlesex CAS.

“These youth have particular needs and behaviour and how they manage it or don’t can be a challenge. We prefer to see them in proper treatment settings,” he said.

Most youth sent to hotels are between the ages of 13 and 15, Steven said.

The hotels the youth in CAS care are staying are open, making it a challenge to monitor them, CAS staff and administrators agree.

Hotels along the Highway 401 corridor are known to be frequented by sex traffickers.

“Our concern is not just that it is a hotel, but the people who make efforts to see them there,” Steven said. “We are concerned about the risk of being exposed to sex trafficking. They could be at risk from people involved in sex trafficking and highly criminal organizations.”


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Late last month, a youth worker suffered serious injuries when he was stabbed while trying to break up a party in a youth’s room at a hotel on Exeter Road.

The 51-year-old man works for Bartimaeus Inc., a private agency that works with the London and Middlesex CAS. A staff worker from the agency stays at the hotel and does drop-in visits to rooms to check on youth in the care of CAS who are staying there.

The youth worker found a gathering in room where two youths were staying at about 5:30 a.m. on Dec. 29. He tried to get visitors invited by the youths to leave and was stabbed several times. He was taken to hospital and has since been released and is recovering at home in St. Thomas.

Three London men and one woman, aged 18 to 23, face several charges, including aggravated assault.


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“He was able to fight off the attack, but he was seriously injured. He lost a lot of blood,” said Si Khounviseth, a service co-ordinator for Bartimaeus.

The injured worker is experienced in dealing with “challenging youth,” Khounviseth said.

“He is very good at what he does. We are horrified by this.”

Along with the violent incident, the agency shares fears about youth being exposed to human trafficking at the hotels, Khounviseth said.

“Human trafficking is an ongoing battle we are constantly concerned with.”

The union that represents front-line workers at the London and Middlesex CAS first raised the issue of placing youth in hotels and is calling for the practice to end.

“The Highway 401 corridor is not a safe location,” said Laurie Nancekivell, president of Local 116 of the Ontario Public Services Employee Union. “It is not good for youth to be looked after there. It is a location where there is sex trafficking, human trafficking.”


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The London and Middlesex CAS used to operate six group homes, but the last one closed in 2014. Hotels should be not be used to replace them, Nancekivell said.

“This not appropriate housing. Previously, we had group homes. When we had children who were harder to place, we had our own resources.”

London and Middlesex CAS would normally house some youth and also place them at centres such as Madame Vanier Children’s Services, the Child and Parent Resource Institute (CPRI), Craigwood Youth Services or Humana Community Services.

But COVID-19 restrictions have limited the space at those centres that now must have isolation areas, and capacity in some instances is reduced to 60 per cent, Steven said.

“Those resources now have limited space and there are limits set by the province,” for how many can be in care and how many beds are available, he said.


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Nancekivell called for the Ontario government to provide “adequate funding and better placement” for youth.

“These are our kids. We are the corporate parent and this is a disservice. The ministry has control over funding and has to assist agencies.”

In addition, the CAS has had to send about 30 youth to Barrie, Ottawa and Belleville to get treatment because little is available in London, Steven said.

“Some are sent elsewhere due to a lack of availability locally should they require intensive treatment. I would like to see more access to mental health services for youth,” he said.

The London and Middlesex CAS is not alone. Similar scenes are being played out across the province, Steven and Nancekivell said.

The four youth who were housed in hotels last month have been placed elsewhere, Steven said, but “we could see ourselves in this situation again next week.”



London and Middlesex CAS

  • 441 youth in care
  • 125 placed in foster homes
  • 350 staff



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