The 2016 National Youth Homelessness Survey — which surveyed 1,103 young people who experience homelessness in 47 communities across Canada — found that 57.8 per cent of youth surveyed reported having some sort of involvement with the child welfare system. (Pixabay)

The 2016 National Youth Homelessness Survey — which surveyed 1,103 young people who experience homelessness in 47 communities across Canada — found that 57.8 per cent of youth surveyed reported having some sort of involvement with the child welfare system. (Pixabay)

B.C. extends emergency supports for youth ‘aging-out’ of foster care

Youth will either be able to stay in their placements or receive financial support, Ministry says

By Anna McKenzie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Discourse

British Columbia’s Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) says COVID-19 emergency supports for youth who are transitioning out of government care will be extended until March 31, 2022.

“We are supporting young adults to stay in their current living arrangements, so they don’t need to transition to independence during this tumultuous time,” says MCFD Minister Mitzi Dean in a Feb. 9 news release.

“This means youth who are currently living in foster care, contracted residential agencies or with relatives through an out-of-care arrangement, such as through the extended family program, will be able to stay in their placements, and youth on Independent Living Agreements and Youth Agreements will continue to receive financial support,” says the ministry.

Youth who choose to stay in their “placement” (e.g. foster home) and who are eligible for funding through the Agreements with Young Adults (AYA) program will also be able to access AYA support — up to $350 per month — while they remain in care.

“Being able to access both housing and AYA at the same time will help more young adults participate in life skills, mental health and educational programs, while remaining in their current home,” Dean says.

Youth who move out of care on their 19th birthday can still access up to $1,250 per month through AYA if they meet the eligibility criteria and are between the ages of 19 and 26. They can use the money for school, job training, rehabilitation or an “accepted life skills program,” according to the ministry.

B.C. has extended supports for youth posed to transition out of government care several times in response to COVID-19 — first in June 2020 and then again in September 2020.

In September, the ministry amended the AYA program to make it “easier” for youth to access life skills programs and rehabilitation supports by expanding program eligibility, decreasing the required hours for participation and including more culturally relevant programming. As it stands, these changes to the program will be in effect until September 2021.

The ministry’s recent announcement comes after mounting calls from community and advocacy groups.

In December 2020, the Representative for Children and Youth, B.C.’s child welfare watchdog, recommended that the ministry “implement changes that would allow for continuing foster home or staffed residential care on a voluntary basis, with the length of extension based on the young person’s readiness to transition out of care.”

As a campaign organizer with Fostering Change, Susan Russell-Csanyi has likewise been pushing for more transitional supports for youth who are “aging out” of care. She says she felt “extremely relieved” to hear emergency supports would be extended.

“I think that there’s a huge wave of relief throughout the community,” she says.

Launched by the Vancouver Foundation in 2013 and supported by First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition, Fostering Change is a youth-led campaign focused on changing public policy and practices to improve B.C.’s child welfare system.

Russell-Csanyi says the ministry’s decision to extend supports was “well informed by the community.” She estimates she participated in “close to 20 meetings with ministry staff” last year, along with youth and other front-line workers.

“This is a concrete step in creating a future where no youth ages out into homelessness,” says Russell-Csanyi.

The 2016 National Youth Homelessness Survey — which surveyed 1,103 young people who experience homelessness in 47 communities across Canada — found that 57.8 per cent of youth surveyed reported having some sort of involvement with the child welfare system.

Russell-Csanyi says Fostering Change is “still waiting” for B.C. to change the system so that all youth who transition out of government care are automatically enrolled into “universal and comprehensive” transition supports.

She sees universal basic income as a potential model, and this idea is echoed in a recent report by a panel of basic income experts. The report, commissioned by the province and released in January, recommends that B.C. implement a “new targeted basic income benefit for all youth formerly in care.”

The panel’s recommendation includes conditions, such as phasing out the proposed universal basic income by age 25.

Currently, when youth in government care turn 19 and “age out” of the system, they aren’t automatically enrolled into support programs.

In its 2020 Child Poverty Report Card, First Call B.C. recommended that the provincial government “automatically enroll all young people transitioning out of care in an income support program that meets their basic living costs.”

In a joint response to the report card, Minister Dean and Minister of State for Child Care Katrina Chen wrote on Feb. 1: “MCFD does not currently have a mandate to support young adults after they leave care unless they participate in the Agreements with Young Adults program.”

The basic income expert panel also says that “for those who are unable or unwilling to engage in post-secondary programs, .125AYA.375 benefits are considerably less adequate.”

While Russell-Csanyi says she applauds the government’s interim emergency measures, she says they still aren’t enough.

“This .125emergency support.375 models how a parent would support their child or youth,” she says. She’d like to see supports like these available to “all youth” who’ve been through care “at all times.”

“We encourage them to keep making youth a priority.”

Foster careProvincial Government

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Nanaimo Clippers in action at Frank Crane Arena in early 2020. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo Clippers for sale as owner says hockey won’t be back to normal any time soon

Wes Mussio says he’s had numerous inquiries about the junior A club already

The current boat used by Rugged Coast Research Society for remote shoreline cleanup operations will be replaced by a landing craft that will allow society members to haul four times as much marine garbage per trip from Vancouver Island’s remote shorelines. (Agathe Bernard photo/Rugged Coast Research Society)
Nanaimo-based research group needs bigger boat for coastal cleanups

Rugged Coast Research Society raising cash for landing craft to pull trash from remote shorelines

Pet owners are leaving more dog waste than ever before on Nanaimo’s paths and trails, says letter writer. (Stock photo)
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Dog owners need to pick up after their pets

Letter writer says he’s ‘disgusted’ by dog walkers not picking up their dog waste

The Nanaimo African Heritage Society is capping its month of Black History Month celebrations with a virtual gala on Sunday, Feb. 28. (News Bulletin photo)
Nanaimo African Heritage Society presents virtual Black History Month gala

Event to feature a variety of speakers and performers

(Black Press file)
Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools reports COVID-19 exposure at Cedar Elementary

School district says Island Health has completed contact tracing

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. The federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, start with the vaccination of police officers in internal police vaccination centers. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
B.C. officials to unveil new details of COVID vaccination plan Monday

Seniors and health-care workers who haven’t gotten their shot are next on the list

A boat caught fire in Ladysmith Harbour on Saturday morning. (Photo submitted)
Search underway for missing woman after boat catches fire in Ladysmith harbour

A large boat caught fire on the morning of Saturday, Feb. 27

Lone orca from a pod that made its way north from Georgia Strait and into Discovery Passage on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. Photo by Ella Smiley/<a href="https://www.facebook.com/Comoxvalleywildlifesightings/?ref=page_internal" target="_blank">Comox Valley Wildlife Sightings </a>
Island wildlife viewers thrilled by close view of passing Orca pod

Group gives wildlife photographers a classic opportunity to view them off Campbell River shoreline

An investigation is underway after a man was shot and killed by Tofino RCMP in Opitsaht. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man shot and killed by RCMP near Tofino, police watchdog investigating

Investigation underway by Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia.

Snuneymuxw artist Eliot White-Hill, Kwulasultun is among the artists participating in the Nanaimo Art Gallery’s Rain Shadow exhibit. His piece, ‘We Fell from the Sky/Together and Apart,’ depicts a Snuneymuxw creation story. (Josef Jacobson/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo Art Gallery exhibit explores the ways people think about place

‘Rain Shadow’ features work mostly by Vancouver Island and Gulf Island artists

Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

Wayne Allen's graduation photo from Chemainus Secondary School. (Photo submitted)
Brother charged with murder in Vancouver Island teenager’s Ontario death

Jesse James Allen stands accused in the death of Wayne Allen, a 2020 Chemainus Secondary grad

Baldy Mountain Resort was shut down on Saturday after a fatal workplace accident. (Baldy Mountain picture)

Most Read