Enhancements to a youth-driven website, more funding for post-secondary education and more funding for programs that help with life skills/employability – these are in the spotlight during B.C. Child and Youth in Care Week as government focuses on giving young people from care a leg up in their transition to adulthood and independence.
AgedOut.com was launched in 2015 as an online warehouse of information, resources and services for young adults and a learning tool to help them feel empowered as they leave care. More than 4,800 users have accessed resources and information on the site since its launch in 2015. To keep that momentum going, government is investing an additional $200,000 to expand connections to more community agencies and services providers and enhance the range of resources available through the website.
Findings based on user data and feedback collected over the course of AgedOut.com’s first year of operation include:
- There is a high use and interest in everyday life skills tools and interactive quests related to time management, healthy communication and problem solving.
- Usership has expanded beyond current and former youth in care to include other young people entering adulthood.
- The majority of users have returned to the website two or more times.
- Youth feel empowered to improve the website based on their direct input and experiences.
- Pages related to housing and education were the most frequently visited.
Of the youth in British Columbia who are transitioning out of government care and into adulthood, more than half are located in the Lower Mainland. Thanks to a unique partnership between government and the YWCA of Metro Vancouver, underemployed former youth in care who live in Greater Vancouver are also able to access the Strive program, a 14-week program that complements the resources available on AgedOut.com by offering young people hands-on guidance in life skills like financial literacy, time management, decision-making and problem solving that are key to living independently.
Government has provided $797,000 over the last three years to support the Strive program, which has expanded to a second location on the North Shore and was adjusted to increase the focus on job placements, mentorship services and building long-term connections for program participants. More than 80% of Strive participants accomplished one or more of their self-identified goals – whether full-time employment, paid job placements, stable housing or enrolment at a post-secondary institution.
For those youth from care who are looking to pursue training and education beyond high school, there are a number of supports available. The Youth Education Assistance Fund (YEAF) provides grants of up to $5,500 per program year to post-secondary students who are former B.C. youth in care. To date, more than 1,310 former youth in care have benefitted from the fund.
Twelve B.C. post-secondary institutions now offer tuition waivers or bursaries to former youth in care. Bursary or waiver recipients may also be eligible for the Youth Futures Education Fund, which helps cover expenses beyond tuition. Government has provided $500,000 over the past two years to support the fund.
And for those young British Columbians who will go on to have significant involvement with the child protection system, there is the Learning Fund for Young Adults. Government has invested $2.5 million in the fund over the past two years – and will transfer a further $1,200 from the BC Training and Education Saving Grant program’s special account for every child or youth in care after they reach the age of six. Young people born Jan. 1, 2007 or later, and who have been in government care for at least a year, will be able to access the fund to support their vocational training and post-secondary pursuits after they reach the age of 17. The first disbursements from the fund will begin in 2024.
This week (June 6-12, 2016) is Child and Youth in Care Week throughout British Columbia, an opportunity to celebrate the resiliency and contributions of current and former children and youth in government care. It is also a perfect time to reinvest in proven programs and supports that young people need to create a successful and thriving future.
Minister of Children and Family Development Stephanie Cadieux –
“As we celebrate the courage, drive and unique talents of our B.C. children and youth in care, we need to ensure we are providing a wide range of supports – and the right supports – to help them realize their long-term goals. We continue to make those investments and we continue to work with our partners to create opportunities, foster lasting relationships and better prepare young people from care for success in adulthood.”
Emily, former youth in care and YEAF beneficiary –
“In just three short years – with a lot of hard work and dedication – I was able to graduate from university twice. One diploma is in 3-D character art and design, and the other is in 3-D animation. Art is something that I’ve always been interested in and something I wanted to pursue for a long time.”
Read about Emily’s journey: ow.ly/sRd5300Z599
Shaikh Hussein, former youth in care and STRIVE participant –
“I wish I could be a part of that program forever. Everyone needs support in life and friends to talk about how you’re feeling. Strive provided that for me and I am incredibly grateful.”
Read about Shaikh’s journey: http://ow.ly/aMNg3016rba
- AgedOut.com is a partnership between the Province, the Adoptive Families Association of BC, Agentic Digital Media, Content Strategy Inc., and the Federation of BC Youth in Care Networks, with input from former youth in care throughout the province and from several other key stakeholder groups.
- There are a number of additional resources available to assist youth and young adults transiting out of care, including:
- Youth Agreements – for youth (aged 16-18 years) to help gain independence, return to school or gain work experience;
- Agreements with Young Adults, which provides financial assistance to upgrade education or take part in a rehabilitation program.
- In May 2015, government provided $315,000 to help establish a youth and young adult mentorship program, available through Covenant House in Vancouver. The program matches young people with mentors and advisors who have experienced a level of success in their own lives and can help link to contacts in the employment and educational sectors.
- Current and former youth in care between the ages of 17 and 28 years have the opportunity to join the Youth Advisory Council, where they can champion the needs, ideas and vision of other young people who have had ministry involvement. The council works with, and provides recommendations to, the provincial director of Child Welfare to inform service improvements within the Ministry of Children and Family Development.
Youth Education Assistance Fund: www.mcf.gov.bc.ca/yeaf/index.htm
Youth Futures Education Fund: www.vancouverfoundation.ca/YouthFutures
B.C. Child and Youth in Care Week: www.bcchildandyouthincareweek.com
MCFD youth programs and services: www.mcf.gov.bc.ca/youth/index.htm
Covenant House Vancouver: www.covenanthousebc.org
Agreements with Young Adults: www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/family-social-supports/fostering/child-teens-in-care/agreements-with-young-adults
To learn more about the Youth Advisory Council or become involved, please visit: ow.ly/JmXF300TvoW