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Dec. 15, 2020
VICTORIA – In a new report released today, B.C.’s Representative for Children and Youth Jennifer Charlesworth is recommending long-overdue changes to supports for youth transitioning out of government care to provide them with the same kind of sustained support that young people who aren’t in care typically receive from their families.
The report, A Parent’s Duty: Government’s Obligation to Youth Transitioning into Adulthood, pulls together decades of research findings – along with findings from nine previous B.C. reports done on this same subject in the last six years – to argue for urgently needed change for youth transitioning out of care.
“Those of us who have parented youth in the transition to adulthood know that young people need ongoing and flexible supports that let them develop their independence gradually, and safely work through the challenges that life throws at all of us in those years,” says Charlesworth. “That same approach is all the more important for young people transitioning out of government care.”
Turning 19 is a frightening precipice for the more than 800 youth a year who experience that birthday while in government care. Young people coming out of care are disproportionately at risk of homelessness, lower education levels, reduced earning potential and poorer mental health.
They are also disproportionately First Nations, Métis, Urban Indigenous and Inuit. These groups make up six per cent of the population in B.C. but account for almost two-thirds of children and youth in care.
The pandemic has demonstrated that government can act quickly to make the kind of changes that advocates have long been asking for to strengthen support for young people in government care, notes the Representative. Since March 2020, B.C. youth have been able to stay put in their current living arrangements past their 19th birthdays, and agreements with young people living independently have been extended.
“These past few months have demonstrated that it’s possible to do things differently,” says Charlesworth. “And it’s certainly essential to do things differently. Knowing all that we know, we cannot continue to abandon these young people.”
The report includes the following recommendations, to be implemented for the most part by
“Issues of cost have often been raised in response to recommendations to expand support for these young people,” says Charlesworth. “But this report cites research that clearly demonstrates that the status quo is by far the most expensive option and that investing in these young people would ultimately result in substantial savings for government.
“Not only is supporting youth transitioning to adulthood a moral obligation, but it’s also financially prudent, which is imperative in these difficult economic times.”