Expanding supports for youth aging out of care.
Changes to the Agreements with Young Adults program means an additional 500 former youth in care will qualify for extended supports. Eligibility will change from 24 to 26 years old – increasing the length of time a young person can receive benefits (from 2 to 4 years). AgedOut.com (facebook.com)
More youth in care will benefit from extended supports, including life skills programs that focus on financial planning, healthy living and employability, thanks to changes to the Agreements with Young Adults (AYA) program.
Previously, AYA was available for former youth in care from their 19th birthday to their 24th. The changes boost eligibility to the age of 26 and increase the length of time a young person can receive benefits, from two years to four, helping ensure more young people from government care have the opportunity to achieve their goals and succeed in life.
The AYA program covers costs like living expenses, child care, tuition and health care, while a former youth in care is attending school or a rehabilitation program. AYA is now also being expanded to include life skills programs, which help give young adults the tools and knowledge that they need to make positive decisions that can enrich their future.
Former youth in care can apply for an AYA as early as Nov. 30, 2016, with life skills courses starting in the new year. An application process for interested service providers will be posted on the BC Bid website on Oct. 18, 2016, and the full list of approved life skills programming service providers will be available online by Nov. 30, 2016.
Enhancements to the AYA program help solidify B.C.’s place as a leader in Canada, exceeding many of the supports and services provided by other jurisdictions. No other province in the country provides this extensive degree of support – and for as long – to young adults who have been in government care.
Stephanie Cadieux, Minister of Children and Family Development –
"Like any other young person, youth from care are eager to exercise their independence, but recognize they also need the financial support and guidance to chart their own future. With these changes, they are supported as many other young people their age would be as they move towards adulthood. There are some who will say that these changes don’t go far enough; that the only way to help the young adults who are aging out is to keep them in foster care until they are 26. To be clear, these enhancements are based on what our youth have told us that they need."
Ashley Frerichs, Youth Advisory Council and former youth in care –
"The Agreements with Young Adults program saved me. And now, with the AYA expansion, I’m able to complete my degree in child and youth care, with a child protection specialization, without having to manage a full-time job on top of a full course load. Now I can focus on getting the most out of my education and plan for my future, without additional stress."
- More than 2,000 young adults have benefited from AYA since the program was established in 2008.
- On average, a young adult on an AYA receives approximately $1,000 per month, with additional support available for MSP, as well as extended health benefits including dental and optical.
- Last year, the Ministry of Children and Family Development, the Adoptive Families Association of BC and the Federation of BC Youth in Care Networks launched AgedOut.com, to help youth in care with their transition to adulthood.
- Now, more than 10,000 users have accessed the site and, in June 2016, government invested an additional $200,000 to expand its reach.
- Government supports the YWCA’s Strive program, which offers under-employed former youth in care between the ages of 17 and 24 hands-on guidance in life skills like financial literacy, time management, decision-making and problem solving.
- The Youth Educational Assistance Fund (YEAF) supports post-secondary education and training for former youth in care through bursaries of $5,500 per educational year, up to a maximum of four times, to assist with tuition, books and fees.
- The Province supported the establishment of a youth and young adult mentorship program to be delivered through Covenant House Vancouver.
- Eleven 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 Vancouver Foundation’s Youth Futures Education Fund, which helps cover expenses beyond tuition.
- The Education Achievement Bursary – offered through the Federation of BC Youth in Care Networks – also can help with tuition and registration fees for youth in care.
To find out more about supports for current and former youth in care in B.C. see: https://news.gov.bc.ca/ministries/children-and-family-development/factsheets
Agreements with Young Adults: www.gov.bc.ca/agreementswithyoungadults
MCFD youth programs and services: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/family-social-supports/fostering/child-teens-in-care
Covenant House Vancouver: www.covenanthousebc.org
Youth Futures Education Fund: www.vancouverfoundation.ca/YouthFutures
A backgrounder follows.
Government Communications and Public EngagementMinistry of Children and Family Development
“I wouldn’t be who I am today if it weren’t for the people who cheered me on in the right direction — I owe them my life,” says Sam, a former youth in care.
Now in her mid-30s, Sam looks back and acknowledges the people and support systems from her past that helped put her on the path to a brighter future.
After moving between provinces and guardians, Sam came into formal care at age 14. “Being in care changed me, but it also saved me. If I had remained with my biological family, I would’ve gone through trauma that lasts beyond childhood. When I was in care, I had counsellors and mentors who saw my potential.”
Sam’s life was upheaved when she aged out of government care at 19 and didn’t have the support or mentorship that many young adults have. “I felt empty and alone. I made choices that I’m not proud of, was at times homeless and lost 40 pounds because I ate only once every couple of days. I was lost.”
Sam eventually got a job through the Federation of BC Youth in Care Networks, and persistently applied for Youth Education Assistance Funding to pursue college — but many kids who aged out of care before 2001 were left with nothing. Supports for youth were scarce and this needed to change.
“I remember when the Agreements with Young Adults program was introduced. I was beyond excited, and immediately began daydreaming about how the extra support could help me. I could work a little less and take an extra class! I could reduce my student loan debt and complete my degree faster! But my heart plummeted when I learned that the AYA program was only available for youth up to 24 years old — I had just narrowly missed the window,” she said. “I am so glad that the new changes to AYA extend the age limit and length of time, I only wish I could have benefitted from it when I was ready for post-secondary school.”
Sam translated her disappointment into determination, and with the support of her former foster mother and the mentors she had made along the way, she took steps towards a brighter future. And, like most young people, she needed some additional support and soon found it: a staff worker at Covenant House’s Rights of Passage Program in downtown Vancouver where Sam found affordable housing, healthy meals and peer support, as well as the continued guidance of a former foster parent.
“When I left government care I was lonely and unsure of what my future held— but there was a foster parent who I connected with. She was supportive and encouraged me to recognize my own worth. When I left the home, we stayed in touch. She let me come back for holidays when I was feeling alone. I guess you could say that she was meant to be in my life — we even spent Thanksgiving together this year.”
Today, Sam’s journey has come full circle. She has been an invaluable part of management teams on programs and services that support former youth in care, including the AgedOut.com website and has consulted on numerous projects at the Ministry of Children and Family Development, including the new expansion to the Agreements with Young Adults Program. Ten years after graduating from the Rights of Passage program at Covenant House, Sam finds herself back there, but this time working directly with the young people in hopes of giving back to them what she received from the staff so many years ago. She said she thrives off the daily reminders of the impact that one person can have on another’s life.
“I think if anyone can understand the needs of these youth, it’s me. I’ve been through it all and thanks to the help of good people, I came out ok. Now, I want to be that person for them as they go through a similar journey.”
Youth who are aging out of formal care can access a wide range of services to support their transition into adulthood, including tuition waivers, the Youth Education Assistance Fund and much more.
To learn about what supports and services are available, check out AgedOut.com: a website created by youth in care, for youth in care. The interactive site covers important topics including housing options, financial literacy and health and wellness. With over 10,000 users to date, it’s a popular resource for young people who are taking the next steps in their journey to adulthood: https://agedout.com/
To learn more about Covenant House Vancouver, see: http://www.covenanthousebc.org