Rhayne Retieff signed A Comprehensive Action Plan 2018-07-17 16:52:06 -0700Hi Premier John Horgan,
It is my pleasure to write to you again. Thank you for what you have done so far, in response to when I challenged the next Premier-to-be,
to open a new division of the government, to specifically address issues and provide support for all Foster Youth who age out of care, and also for those who already have, by extending their support from 19 years of age, up until the age of 25, and longer for those with disabilities, as the situation for foster youth aging out of care, that they were currently in, was putting them in dire situations, even fatal, if urgent assistance was not immediately provided. My request was put forth during the election/televised debate, and as well, afterwards through our email correspondence. This was done with the help, support, and amazing championing and advocating of, Fostering Change and their petition, the Vancouver Foundation during that time, and all MLA’s, especially MLA Garry Begg.
You, John Horgan, who thankfully became our Premier, did in fact respond to our request and rose to the call to action, to help these foster youth/young adults. You became my champion when you responded to this request!
You also kindly asked me if there was anything else. I replied by requesting that crisis centres be opened in the Province to shorten ER wait times for those in need, which would also lessen having police officers waiting in ER’s, and thereby allow more officers on the streets. You responded to all these requests valiantly, and opened a new division of the government which you named, "Mental Health and Addictions, " as well you appointed a great new Minister for the Ministry of Children and Families and increased their budget, extended the aging out age to 25 for Foster Youth along with programs, and have began opening Urgent Health Care Centers throughout the province. Thank you so much!! Many people have noticed and are praising you for this, and in fact, some of your opponents have mentioned that they had wished they had listened to the public more during the election. So kudos to you! Not only do you listen, you follow through, which is impressive and admirable!
I have one more urgent request pertaining to Foster Youth, who need your help.
Fostering Change, (an initiative of First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition) has indicated to me, that of the approximately 1000 foster youths currently aging out of care each year, only 13.5% are currently accessing the financial support and great program that you have provided for them! Why? They state that this is unfortunately only due to an unrealistic prerequisite set before the foster youths to gain access to support that you have kindly set out for them, after they turn 19.
There is a prerequisite, that is in now written in the legislation, in order for them to gain access to the support you have provided. This prerequisite is impeding and hampering most of the foster youth, shown by the stats, in the ability to access this great program you have set up. I have every faith in you that can fix and remedy this legislation by removing that prerequisite and by providing more inclusive programs that fits their needs.
From my understanding from Fostering Change, this prerequisite is undermining the complete success of this program you so generously put together, as our intention if I may state, was to provide support up to 25 years of age, for All Foster youth to access this program. Without the ability for the majority to of foster youth/young adults, to access this program, the majority are still not receiving the help we intended to give them! That isn’t good, as if they do not have the funding, and access to programs that is tailored to their needs, they are still in harm’s way, and that is not what we intended. So there is an easy fix; could you please alter the wording in the legislation in the program – “Agreements with Young Adults,” by removing the schooling prerequisite in order for them to access support. Please allow me to explain.
I understand that this prerequisite states in the current legislation, that the foster youths at 19, must enroll in school, in order to access their funding after the age of 19. That prerequisite was also not my intention set forth, when asking for support for foster youth and young adults. Yes, schooling is great and beneficial for some, however, from the stats, and due to foster children sometimes having to grow up without parents or positive role models, and encountering many challenges already during their lives, with some suffering from physical and/or emotional abuse, and with all that, trying to study in school during upheaval in their formative years, which generally impacts any child from the ability to concentrate and focus on their schooling. This results in these youth sometimes feeling negative or overwhelmed by school, as due to some not achieving success at school due to these mitigating factors, or due to physical, emotional, or learning disabilities. Therefore, these youth require special consideration when putting school as a prerequisite before them, which is blocking them access and is a disastrous factor, if not re-legislated with wording changed in the current legislation, pertaining to the “Agreements with Young Adults.”
Everyone must take into consideration, the needs and circumstances of what these foster youth have already endured, as schooling does not fit all, or has been appealing or a positive experience, especially under these circumstances. That is not to say, that in future they won’t go to school, but it appears from the stats which are glaring, that they need a " Transition or bridge program" that allows ALL of them access firstly to enter after 19 years of age, so they all can partake in the support you have allotted and have already provided them, that most are not gaining access to yet.
May I humbly suggest, to first change the legislation by removing the schooling prerequisite, and then perhaps provide the worker who is doing the “Agreement with Young Adults” with more options and incentive programs to offer the youth, that the youth might be interested in, that is NOT dependent on whether they receive funding after 19. As well, perhaps provide specially assigned workers, with specific training to deal just with this transitional agreement aspect of the youths’ lives, as this intake meeting could change their lives forever.
I believe the youth will feel more secure knowing that their basic needs are going to met first, such as housing, food, clothing, medical, and financial support etc. during this transition, so they are more relaxed and inspired to even think about their other needs, such as schooling, or other creative endeavors. Also, it would be less stressful for these youth to have many more program options that are inclusive for the staff to offer them, without the threat of their support not be offered if they don’t opt in to a program right away.
We need to inspire the youth to participate, without harsh rules or prerequisites, as currently most of the youth are not opting into this program. We need to address each youth’s needs as an individual, as every person is different.
All should have support after 19, and as well be assigned a mentor to provide guidance while they decide what they want to do with the rest of their lives. These are only suggestions. For example, some may want to study theatre, music, acting, sports, nursing, culinary arts, landscaping, learning to be a mentor to others themselves, some outdoors and recreational programs, some may need counselling, some may want labor or trades programs, and some may just want oversight to start off with, assigned to a mentor to walk with them through this transition. These programs are already offered in the community, so there is access to them, and a worker or mentor can help register them.
I feel that, with more inclusive programs offered, the youths will be more interested in participating, as that way it would suit more of their needs and would increase the 13.5% to perhaps 9o%, as most are not ready to jump into schooling or make that decision or commitment readily, without some time. The stats are glaringly obvious regarding this.
We have to meet them where they are at, then develop and tailor programs that they want to access that are already available in the community. In the past I have worked as a nurse with all ages, taught youth and adults recreation and fine arts in the community for many years, and have mentored a foster youth and witnessed the intense challenges they endured, without support after they turned 19. I have also witnessed and know from experience through teaching, that the creative arts such as music, art, theater, dance, acting, and singing, are great and positive ways for youths and young adults to channel their emotions and express themselves in a positive way, while working through trauma and/or stress.
I am aware that before the age of 25, some will need to prepare by having training in order to work, some may need life skills, schooling, or other programs to become independent. However, some with disabilities, may be only able to work part time, while others may need ongoing care, yet others may gradually flourish through these new programs that are more open and inclusive.
In closing, ALL foster youth need access to support without barriers, by having an “All Access Program” with time, options, and mentorship to help them decide their future. Please remove this schooling prerequisite, yet keep schooling offered, and please do not add any barriers that could prevent these youth from accessing what you have set out for them, with more program options as suggested.
Thank for your time, and for reading this long letter. However, our youth and young adults are definitely worth it! They are our future and fellow citizens of British Columbia. Thank you, John Horgan!
Rhayne Retieff861 signatures
On April 11, we heard official youth transition stats from Ministry of Children and Family Development representatives. They told us that 87% of eligible, post-19 youth from government care are not accessing MCFD Agreements with Young Adults (AYA) services. AYAs are the primary way MCFD supports the 1000 youth who age out of care every year. It tells us that the program intervention the government has relied on for years is not working.
Premier Horgan told us that the government is working on an action plan: let's ensure it's comprehensive.
Decision makers are listening and it's time for us to act. On Thursday, April 12, Premier John Horgan responded on behalf of six ministries to our policy asks made on October 24. He made a commitment to "expand and improve supports to youth transitioning from care through the development of an action plan to be created by the Cross-Ministry working group."
It's government-speak, but represents a milestone for the youth-in-care community. We successfully nudged the creation of a cross-ministry task force dedicated to achieving better outcomes.
We know that better outcomes come from comprehensive, evidence-based policy, and that youth must be included in planning. Youth from care are experts in understanding policy impacts. This expertise is essential to creating a successful action plan.
Please sign our call for a comprehensive action plan
"Premier Horgan, it's essential that bold changes are made for youth from care after 19. In your mandate letter to Minister of Children and Family Development Katrine Conroy, you said that you expect substantive progress in funding increases to Agreements with Young Adults "in order to offer supports to all youth aging out of care who need it, not just a few." Your Cross-Ministry action plan must ensure:
- Guaranteed, consistent, and adequate financial support until age 25 through the Agreements with Young Adults program, eliminating all eligibility criteria.
- Government and youth from care advocates come together before the fall legislature to hear youth input and explore universal AYA policy development."