The Honourable Mitzi Dean
Minister of Children and Family Development
Province of British Columbia
Last fall, the National Council of Youth in Care Advocates shared a summary of the recurring recommendations on ‘aging out’ of care that have been put forward by youth with lived experience, advocates, and researchers since the late 1980s (full report available here: https://bit.ly/2Hk4nFk). One of the key recommendations outlined in this report calls upon governments to eliminate age-based discrimination of child welfare services by implementing readiness based transitions to adulthood. Currently, youth are forced to ‘age out’ of the system at age of majority due to legislated cut offs, leaving them with little to no supports as they deal with yet another drastic life transition in their lives.
We were pleased to see in a February 9 News Release that the emergency supports for youth ‘aging out’ of care during the pandemic have been extended until March 2022.
However, this directive as well as the various post-care supports and services in place in British Columbia do not provide guaranteed financial or social services to all youth who exit the child welfare system due to restrictive eligibility criteria. In fact, it has been reported that only one third of youth exiting care in BC can access some form of extended government supports. This is inequity that is causing harm to youth and propels them into poverty, homelessness, increased involvement with the criminal justice system and ongoing mental health and addictions issues. First Nations, Inuit and Métis youth, Black and racialized youth, youth with disabilities and LGBTQ2+ youth ‘aging out’ of care in British Columbia are at an even higher risk of experiencing these negative outcomes, which are systemically produced.
Considering this reality, the British Columbia government should commit to the following:
- Immediately issue a public directive to allow all youth to remain in their placements until the end of the pandemic, in line with the moratoriums that have been issued in other jurisdictions. In Ontario for instance, the moratorium is in place until September 2022, to allow sufficient time for a proper post-pandemic plan to be in place. We also know that youth are still being told to ‘age out’ during the pandemic despite the moratorium being in place. A clear directive needs to be provided so it is uniformly implemented and not left open to interpretation. In addition, the interim measures need to be inclusive of all youth in care in all forms of placements and regardless of legal status and time spent in care, including those who are living on their own.
- Immediately implement post-care financial and social services for allyouth who were placed in out-of-home care, regardless of guardianship status. The timeline for the provision of these post-care supports should be based on a young person’s sense of readiness for the transition to adulthood rather than age, as extending the ‘aging out’ process to a later age simply creates a later sudden cut-off date and does not guarantee that young people will leave care fully supported for success.
The British Columbia government should also play a leadership role and collaborate with the National Council of Youth in Care Advocates to implement equitable standards for transitions to adulthood for youth in care. These standards are currently being finalized by the Council and will be publicly released this fall. This role is key to reducing the inflow of youth from the child welfare system into homelessness; promoting equity for youth who face the greatest inequalities; and reducing poverty for youth and young families. This leadership role is also in line with the BC Government Poverty Reduction Strategy, the BC Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (DRIPA), the updated Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations, and the Premier’s commitment to create lasting and meaningful reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in BC. The recommendations outlined in several recent BC Representative for Children and Youth reports, From Marginalized to Magnified and A Parent’s Duty, also call on the Ministry to better support youth in care in their transition to adulthood. The recommendations outlined in A Parent’s Duty have also not yet been ratified by the BC Government, and we fervently await the Ministry’s commitment to change for youth in care.
Our Council members from British Columbia, Fostering Change and the Vancouver Aboriginal Child & Family Services Society (VACFSS) Youth Advisory Committee (YAC), are organizations by and for youth in care in the province who are eager to guide the Ministry in these much needed changes and improvements in post-majority youth protection supports.
COVID-19 and the socio-economic upheaval associated with the pandemic are exacerbating the already precarious situation of youth in and from care. It’s time to act in a coordinated way on what we have known for decades to create a more inclusive, stronger and resilient BC. When we know better, we must do better.
(on behalf of the National Council of Youth in Care Advocates)
Dr. Melanie M. Doucet
BA, MIDST, PhD Social Work |BA, MIDST, Doctorat en travail social
Senior Researcher & Project Manager | Chef de recherche et projets
Child Welfare League of Canada| Ligue pour le bien-être des enfants du Canada
Child & Youth Engagement Worker
Vancouver Aboriginal Child & Family Services Society
Youth Advisory Committee