What is the system challenge?

Across Canada, 75 to 85 percent of calls to police are in response to incidents for which no charges are laid, and many of these calls involve individuals with mental health and addictions concerns which are best handled by social services agencies. (Report by Russell & Taylor, 2014 - PDF)

Canada’s youth justice legislation, The Youth Criminal Justice Act, only applies to children and youth between the ages of 12 and 17. For police, there has typically been no clear and consistent approach for responding to incidents involving children under 12, nor is there a consistent approach for identifying the service needs of children and youth at their earliest contact with police. 

What are you doing about it?

The Champlain Youth Justice Service Collaborative with support from the Provincial System Support Program at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) developed Intersections – an evidence–informed early intervention program for children and youth who are at-risk of becoming involved with the justice system. The program was contextualized for the Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) region.

Intersections provides supports to young people and their families when the youth comes into contact with police due to problems with substance use, mental health issues, and childhood/youth developmental issues. The program helps these young people and their families to access appropriate community support services in order to reduce and prevent further interactions with police and the justice system.

Children and youth are eligible for Intersections in KFL&A if they are:

  • Between 8-17 years of age;
  • over 12 and involved in nuisance or troubling behaviour that is not criminal;
  • suspected of having mental health issues or illnesses, substance use issues and/or childhood and youth developmental issues; and
  • have had police contact. 

Here’s how Intersections works:

  • First Contact - The police respond to an incident involving a child/youth who they recognize is at-risk of becoming involved in the justice system. Police then complete an “Intersections Referral Form” with the consent of the child/youth and/or their parents/caregiver(s). The form is faxed by the police to the Intersection program with three business days of the incident.
  • Engagement and Screening – An Intersections Coordinator (responsible for engaging, screening, assessing and referring children, youth and their families to appropriate support services in the community) and host agency receive a police referral and then contacts the child/youth and their families to confirm eligibility. Together, the Intersections Coordinator and the young individual and/or their families determine the most appropriate services before a referral to that service is made. |
  • Interventions and Pathways – The Intersections Coordinator completes the referral(s) with each service agency based on the specific needs and strengths identified with the young person and/or their family. The Coordinator will provide support and follow-up during and after the referral is made, until the young person has successfully participated in three consecutive appointments with the new service agency. At this time, the Intersections Coordinator informs the young person and/or their family when their file is closed. On occasion, their Intersections file may be reopened if needs change or are unmet.

How do we know it works?

Intersections helped our boys to understand consequences. The most helpful part was the assessment – it helped me to see what kind of help my boys needed – I could see the anger in both boys, that really came out during the assessment. Then I knew we needed help.

— Participants' parent

It was wonderful having a police officer offering to help and not punishing. The officer was awesome and my son really opened up to him.

— Participants' parent

I am thankful for the Intersections worker as she made me feel like I wasn’t alone and I could count on someone if I needed help.

— Participants' parent

Sue Poldervaart, Executive Director of RNJ Youth Services, and Intersections Host in Brockville, influenced our stepping up to be Intersections Host in KFL&A by helping us understand how to position Intersections in our agency for maximum success for youth and families in need.

— Shawn Quigley, Youth Diversion, Host Agency for KFL&A Intersections

Next Steps

A scale-up of Intersections in KFL&A will continue to provide additional evidence on the importance of Intersections by evaluating:

  • barriers to services;
  • children/youth and family engagement in service planning;
  • understanding the needs of children/youth and their families/caregiver(s);
  • access to supports and services for children, youth and their families;
  • occurrence of problematic behaviours; and
  • use of existing services.

Who is involved?

This scale-up initiative brought together over 150 partners from diverse sectors across two counties, including:

  • community;
  • justice/police;
  • mental health and addictions;
  • developmental; and
  • child welfare.  


  • Download the intersections info sheet
  • Listen to the Interventions webinar
  • Intersections presentation

For more information, please contact:

Heather Lackner