July 7, 2021
Honourable John Horgan
Premier of British Columbia
Via E-mail: [email protected]
Dear Premier Horgan,
We are the Fostering Change Community Organizers. We are a group of over 130 active youth advocates, made up of current and former youth in care. We are supported by 79% of British Columbians who are in favour of expanding the post majority support for youth aging out of
government care (2019 polling data). We are focused on changing public policy rooted in our lived expertise of the child welfare system in British Columbia.
Data from the Ministry of Children and Family Development indicates 66% of the children in care in BC are Indigenous, whereas less than 10% of children and youth in British Columbia identify as Indigenous. We know this is directly related to the colonial power hierarchy that exists in Canada, perpetuated and enforced by government policy and a reflection of the systemic racism that exists nationally. We appreciate your stated priorities, including “putting people first,” working toward “lasting and meaningful reconciliation” through a lens of “equity and anti-racism”, and implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples Act passed in November 2019. We hope that as we work on increasing equity and fairness in BC, that our most vulnerable communities are put first, including all children, youth and marginalized peoples.
The Ministry of Children and Family Development is mandated to work with Indigenous partners, including building on expanded support for youth transitions to adulthood, ensuring supports reach all youth, not just some. We remain hopeful that decolonization efforts are being taken seriously and supportive policy will be implemented to reflect those commitments.
We applaud the current interim pandemic measures as a better way forward for youth in/from care and believe this will help to rewrite the future for many of them. However, the eligibility barriers in the current support programs, Agreements with Young Adults (AYA) and Tuition Waivers, and the claw backs of support, are not serving youth well and are excluding many from any support.
We stand rooted in action and hope that, based on your commitments, you stand with us to end youth homelessness by ensuring no youth transitions from government care into homelessness. The 2018 report of the BC Coroners Service Death Review Panel: MCFD-Involved Youth Transitioning to Independence, noted that from 2011 to 2016 youth leaving government care died at a rate five times greater than the general population of young British Columbians. Due to a lack of a social safety net, our 2 outcomes as youth in/from care are distressingly worse in comparison to our peers who are privileged to have family supports.
As detailed in Dr. Melanie Doucet’s report, A Long Road Paved with Solutions, which included 440 concrete recommendations, and the Representative for Children and Youth’s most recent report, A Parents Duty: Government’s Obligation to Youth Transitioning into Adulthood, as youth in care, allies and community we are united in the call to increase transition supports by removing restrictive eligibility criteria in AYA, Tuition Waivers and expanding the age of support so that no youth becomes homeless after leaving ministry care. Our team of youth, stakeholders, front-line workers, and youth-serving organizations knows that the adverse outcomes youth are experiencing leaving care are avoidable with the implementation of supportive policy and programming.
Our shared priority is to ensure all youth from care receive wraparound services in a timely manner that do not discriminate based on time spent in care or care status. Youth are falling through system cracks created by artificial eligibility barriers. As a consequence, youth feel unworthy, unloved, and forgotten after leaving care.
Additionally, we call on your government to implement the following, to ensure no youth ages out of support until they have secured safe, stable housing and cost-indexed financial supports.
• An automatic enrollment into support upon aging out of government care, regardless of care status or time spent in care. Financial support should be flexible and cover housing, nutrition, and mental wellness supports. Youth who choose not to enroll when they first transition out of care should also have the option to opt-in at a later date.
• Provide for and financially support an enhanced range of trauma-informed and culturally appropriate mental health and substance use services for young people transitioning from care into adulthood, consistent with recommendation #6 from A Parent’s Duty.
• Extend the access to cultural programs, cultural healing, and wellness programs, currently supported through the AYA Program, indefinitely.
• Permanently implement the expanded program eligibility and the decreased hours of participation required per week, which were implemented as pandemic measures within the AYA Program. This aligns with MCFD’s objective to increase uptake of the post-majority support offered through the AYA Program.
• Specific units in housing dedicated to youth transitions from all statuses of government care.
We urge government to implement these recommendations and continue to work towards meaningful and intentional reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples as the foundation for a stronger, more resilient, and fair post-pandemic BC. We know the pandemic has highlighted the adversities and gaps many marginalized communities face, including the community of youth transitioning from government care, and especially, Indigenous Peoples, children, and youth. There is no time to wait.
We agree with your government that our restart into a post-pandemic BC should be more inclusive and fair. We agree with your vision shared on May 25th, 2021, that “all young people want to return to pursuing their dreams,” and recognize that the children who did not return home from Indian Residential Schools across Canada never got that chance. We also recognize that thousands of youth in/from care have been denied post majority support due to eligibility barriers, and therefore will not get to pursue their dreams either. Children and youth should never have to choose between surviving and thriving but, unfortunately, that choice is often made for them by colonial programming and policies.
In your government’s restart plan, a clear commitment to equity for Indigenous Peoples, and implementation of these supports, will create a stronger BC where all young people, including youth in/from care, are supported to pursue their dreams, so that all youth look forward to their 19th birthday.
On behalf of the Fostering Change Community Organizers
Hon. David Eby, Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Housing
Hon. Mitzi Dean, Minister of Children and Family Development
Hon. Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions
Hon. Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Education
Hon. Anne Kang, Minister of Advanced Skills and Training
Hon. Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation
Hon. Adrian Dix, Minister of Health
Jennifer Charlesworth, Representative for Children and Youth
Allison Bond, Deputy Minister, MCFD
Catherine Talbott, Executive Director, Strategic Initiatives Branch