MONTREAL - Children who grow up in the government system aren't equipped to live on their own at age 18, social workers told the Laurent commission on Wednesday.

Kids who were institutionalized or experienced trauma lose government resources when they become adults, said Destiny Gregoire, a former youth-in-care. They aren't equipped to make their own decisions because they never had the freedom to do so, she added.

"Unlike youth their same age, they do not get the same type of support when they live in a system that makes all their choices for them," she told the commission. "As an agency, we always tell them that we make choices in their best interest, but we never ask what they want, and we don't consult the youth and the families themselves. They are the experts of their own lives and are aware of their own needs."

Provincial standards are needed for 18 to 25-year-olds who leave care, the commission heard. That demographic needs regular mentoring and support and a monthly income to help them while they try to get an education. Even something as simple as waiving CEGEP application fees could help a young adult who's struggling to make ends meet, social workers told the commission.

Marjorie Villefranche, from the Maison d'Haiti, told the commission the Haitian community is over-represented in the youth-care system. She said racial profiling and discrimination doesn't only exist in policing; it exists in the youth protection system too.

The Laurent commission was established in the aftermath of the death of a young girl in Granby. The 7-year-old was allegedly abused and neglected before she died. Her stepmother has been charged with second-degree murder and her father with criminal negligence causing death.

Her death highlighted systemic problems in Quebec's youth protection system. The Laurent commission's mandate is to examine those systems, identify issues and make recommendations.  

With files from Cindy Sherwin