In Lean Times, Nimble Non-Profits Give Foster Kids a Needed Lift

This article by Katie Hyslop, Tyee Solutions Society, originally appeared in The Tyee on 14 Jan 2016, and was supported by Fostering Change to help increase awareness and engagement in issues facing young people in transition from care to adulthood.

 

British Columbia's Ministry of Children and Family Development is the parent to over 7,000 kids in care right now.

It's a time and cash-strapped parent, however. And one that, try as it might, hasn't been able to ensure that every one of its kids gets a high school diploma, a drivers' license, or a resume listing more than occasional babysitting gigs.

Most B.C. youth leave home when they feel ready, though these days more than four in 10 are still under the family roof in their twenties. The Crown's kids, on the other hand, are cut off -- "exit care" -- abruptly at 19, seldom as well equipped as their parented peers.

Barely one-quarter has a high school diploma when they age out, just 27 per cent in 2013/14. Unsurprisingly, many fail to launch into a productive life. Of Canada's estimated 8,000 homeless youth, almost half have had some experience with provincial care.

For a fortunate few in B.C.'s Lower Mainland, however, there are better options. Community service agencies and non-profits in the region raise public and private funding to help young people in care make one of the most difficult transitions of their lives.

Stepping in when youth are preparing to leave government care -- or have already left and are floundering -- they help kids focus on achieving goals in housing, education, and employment. Most continue to welcome youth back for help until they're in their mid-twenties, just as a family might.