How you can help young people aging out of care

On March 18th, 2016 The Vancouver Sun published the following opinion piece by Trilby Smith, Lead Evaluator, Grants and Community Initiatives at Vancouver Foundation.

We appreciate the work of journalists and editors at The Vancouver Sun, and other publishers to raise awareness of these issues among their readers.

The recent death of Patricia Lee “Indigo” Evoy is nothing short of devastating. On behalf of everyone connected to Fostering Change, I offer our deepest condolences to her family, friends and community. But in the wake of another tragedy, we simply cannot go a day longer without asking ourselves some important questions. How can we do a better job of supporting young people as they make the transition out of government care and make their first steps into adulthood? What is our role as individuals, as a community, and as a province?

Research tells us over and over again that stable, caring relationships with adults make a huge difference. We already know that 92 per cent of families in British Columbia support their children aged 19-28 with financial, social, and emotional support. But recently we discovered that British Columbians rank long-term relationships with dependable caring adults as the most important factor for young people leaving care to live on their own successfully.

The vast majority of young adults in B.C. get support from family and friends as they make their way in life. We do it without even thinking about it. But when it comes to kids aging out of foster care, we, as a province, have dropped the ball. We don’t cut off financial support and relationships for own children, so why do we do it for young people aging out of care?

At Fostering Change, we know that there is a demand for political and community leadership in our province to provide better support and opportunities for young people aging out of foster care. We know through our conversations with young people, social workers, community agencies and partners. And we know because the public told us. Over 70 per cent of British Columbians favour the provincial government supporting young people who have aged out care at age 19 with their living expenses through a stipend or supplement until they turn 25.

We believe that young people leaving foster care should be confident they have at least three things to count on until age 25.

  1. A financial stipend to support living costs
  2. Long-term relationships with dependable adults for advice, references, experience
  3. Opportunities to connect with and contribute to the community they live in

If you agree, here are a couple of things you can do right now. Visit the Fostering Change website to find out more about local charities doing great work in this space, and pledge your support to show young people leaving care that you stand with them —

Lastly, if you meet a young person in or from care, try to make a meaningful connection with them. Because its strong relationships that help us through our hardest days.

Trilby Smith leads Learning, Evaluation and Research for Fostering Change at Vancouver Foundation.

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