Our Written Submission to The Budget Consultation 2021

The Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services
Budget 2022 Consultation

September 29th 2021
Susan Russell-Csanyi
Community Organizer at Fostering Change

I’d like to start off by recognizing the diverse experiences of over 6,700 children and youth in care in BC, and 900 alumni of care, aging out of care this year, and every year in British Columbia. Youth are aging out of government care without support. 225 youth a year are left to
fend for themselves at the age of 19 due to ineligibility of support due to barriers created by existing policies.

At Fostering Change we seek to engage youth with lived expertise in the child welfare system, our current 130 youth advocates work together to change public policy so youth don't age out of government care into homelessness and other adverse outcomes. The Fostering Change
Community is made up of youth who all have lived expertise in the child welfare system, we are focused on changing outcomes because we believe that all should deserve support, not just a few.

We know that over 90% of British Columbians provide their own children with a host of financial and wellness supports over the age of 19 and 79% of British Columbians believe in extending the age for post majority support for youth from government care. With the loss of social safety net, and lack of financial support youth are in many cases forced to choose between affording food and sleeping without a mattress. Youth are also forced into other types of exploitation as a means of survival.

Youth and young adults with child welfare experience are at a higher risk of experiencing adverse outcomes, such as:
● 200 times more likely to become homelessness.
● 17 times more likely to be hospitalized for mental health challenges.
● 5 times more likely to die prematurely.

Youth fear their 19th birthdays because they’ve seen what the impact of leaving care without support will have on their life. They are describing aging out of government care unsupported as falling off of a cliff.

So in BC when we think of provincial crises such as homelessness and overdoses from substance engagement, we should also think of unsupported transitions from government care. Therefore, in identification of the root cause of youth homelessness, with consideration of public
support, our team of advocates has identified one of the solutions to youth homelessness as being:

No youth ages out of support until they have secured a social safety net of support.

In practice this looks like:
- An automatic enrollment into support upon aging out of government care, regardless of care status or time spent in care.
- Financial support provided is based on the needs of the youth and their individual development, not age-based, it is flexible and covers
market housing options, nutrition, and mental wellness support.

What we want will cost the government $30 million annually, that's an available $30,000 per youth for the 900 youth who age out each year and increases the base payment of AYA from $1250/month by $500 with $9000 available for cultural, wellness support and household items.

Detailed in Dr. Melanie Doucet’s report “A Long Road Paved with Solutions,” in 35 years 76 reports, including the Representative for Children and Youth’s most recent report A Parent’s Duty, have focused on increasing support for youth in and from care in Canada. Over 440 recommendations have yet to be answered by federal and provincial governments.

The local report, A Parent’s Duty - Government’s Obligation to Youth Transitioning into Adulthood made 7 concrete recommendations that focus on increasing transition support for all youth who are forced out of care and left to fend for themselves at 19.

The option not to invest in this population serves the status quo of millions of dollars in policing and health services, it fuels the cyclical nature of homelessness and reliance on government income support. It also advances the loss of premature loss of life, and morally, we know this is
an immeasurable cost to the youth and families in your communities.

All youth past 19 deserve and need support, not just a few. We call for support of these youth in the way other legal caregivers would support their own family members past 19. We will measure its success when no youth experiences homelessness aging out of government
care.

When our recommendation is implemented, there will be no stories of homelessness and no youth will experience premature death after leaving government care. When our community is supported in an equitable way, no youth will unroll a sleeping bag onto the sidewalk to celebrate turning 19.

As BC looks to bring people together again to work together post pandemic and create a more inclusive British Columbia, we urge the government to courageously step away from the status quo that is failing youth and fuel a forward-thinking future where youth are not abandoned upon transition from care.

We ask that when the budget is considered one of our most marginalized populations is not forgotten, so that together, we create a BC where all young people have the opportunity to pursue their dreams and ensure they receive the support to do so, regardless of time in care and care status so that all youth look forward to their 19th birthday.