March Deadline - Extended Supports Policy Note

We know that since the cabinet shuffle after the election, there might be some new faces in government who are not yet aware of how they can support our community. So, we reminded the decision makers this holiday season that our community continues to face isolation and in relation to the pandemic, uncertainty and fear. On December 19th, we mailed all Member's of the Legislative Assembly a holiday card, and themed policy note to continue to push for equitable support.




             
Forward:


This holiday season, as you get creative
and find new ways to connect with loved ones
know that over 1000 youth who will leave care in March 2021
will miss out on connection, and feel forgotten 


Together, with supportive transitions
We can change that.

 

Who We Are

We’re a youth team, community organizers, who are dedicated to challenging the systemic injustice for youth in and from care. We’re all former youth in care and passionate about building community, and engaging in advocacy. We are supported by the Fostering Change Campaign, hosted by First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition.

Our Goal

➣ Adequate and reliable support:
An automatic enrollment into supports for all youth in and from care regardless of time spent in care, or care status.
Guaranteed and equitable access to financial assistance - including start up costs for independent living, tuition waivers, and safe, dignified housing.

Policy Solutions that are:

➣ Comprehensive: support that lifts us into equity with our peers. This financial support must be based on actual living costs in our communities, and include access to mental health resources, life skills resources and opportunities to connect with supportive people in our lives.

➣ Universal: All youth who age out of government care at 19 should be automatically enrolled, regardless of legal status or readiness to attend post-secondary education. Additionally, this support must be available to any youth who has spent time in care and does not have access to support at 19.

Background
When Premier Horgan responded to the First Call and Fostering Change policy memorandum of October 2017 he stated, “MCFD is re-imagining the AYA program with the goal of offering support to all youth aging out of care who need it, not just a few.”

We believe that every youth who ages out of care deserves the opportunity to receive the equitable financial support that our peers not from care often receive.

We believe that every youth should look forward to their 19th birthday, reflected in Premier John Horgan’s letter on April 12th 2018 to Adrienne Montani, Provincial Coordinator to First Call,  where he states he shares “the goal of making life better for youth aging out of care, by improving the services they count on and making life more affordable to ensure youth from care have the opportunities they need and deserve to succeed.” 


Currently, we await the re-imagining of the AYA program, and supports that bring equity to our community, because we believe every youth deserves to look forward to their 19th birthday.

The Problem
Youth are aging out of care without necessary skills and support!

When youth age out of care at 19, the government support services they rely on in place of a family are simultaneously cut-off. Research shows:

  • 29% of youth aging out of care in Vancouver experience homelessness for the first time before the age 19, and 43% before age 25 for the first time. 
  • 32% had  previously or at the time of the homeless count been in foster care, in a youth group home, or on an Independent Living Agreement. (BC Non-Profit Housing Association (2020). 2020 Homeless Count in Metro Vancouver. Prepared for the Greater Vancouver Reaching Home Community Entity. Vancouver, BC: Metro Vancouver.)
  • 45% of youth from care aged out without any high school credential (2016/2017)
  • 65% of BC youth in care are Indigenous, yet they make up only 10% of the under 19 year olds in the general population.
  • Educational, economic, social, and holistic wellness outcomes for many youth aging out of care are drastically lower when compared to their peers not in care. 

What We Know

Youth from care need individually-tailored programs and services that will provide multiple opportunities to thrive. 

  • All current changes to programs and policy still continue to primarily serve the most successful youth, and fail to account for the impact of trauma on the developing brain.
    When the extended pandemic supports are set to end on March 30th 2021, an estimated 1200 youth will age out of the child welfare system, and if unsupported, may experience homelessness.
    • The solution of providing comprehensive and universal supports is estimated to cost $57 million annually, compared to the expenditure of $237 million, a savings of $180 million annually!
  • Plus, this doesn’t even consider the priceless moral argument of preventing further adverse outcomes, such as homelessness, substance use, and mental/physical health disturbances. 

The Support 

  • The Vancouver Foundation launched Fostering Change in 2013 with the goal of addressing homelessness by providing opportunities and support for youth transitioning out of foster care. Their polling results showed that 92% of people across BC provide their own children with support post-19, and that 76% believe support should be extended for foster care youth.

The Agreements with Young Adults (AYA) Program:

The AYA program supports youth who have aged out of care from a Youth Agreement (YAG) or Continuing Custody Order (CCO) for attending education, training, a life skills program or a rehabilitation program. It provides a maximum of $1,250 per month and is a needs-based program, the program budget often falls short and leaves youth without basic necessities.

The good: Agreements with Young Adults (AYAs) support any youth who has aged out of care under two legal statuses, for up to 48 months. They can attend many different programs at the same time and still receive funding. AYAs are a clear step forward for the youth who are eligible for the program. However, this is only 15% of the population of youth transitioning from care.

The pandemic supports implemented on March 30th 2020 were meant to ensure youth don’t age out of shelter during the pandemic. These new measures, which include flexibility in AYA enrollment, life skills programming tailored to youths’ needs, and the addition of cultural learning to the Life Skills Program, were welcomed by our community. Cultural learning has had an instrumental impact on well-being, morale, and overall outcomes for youth who have partaken. We urge indefinite implementation of these supports, as they strongly provide a sense of dignity and equity to youth transitions. 

The bad: the pandemic supports that allow for more program flexibility and support the decolonization of the child welfare system are set to end March 31st 2021. The expiration date on the tailored supports will leave youth facing multiple unnecessary barriers as they leave the child welfare system.