More than 70 B.C. young people who were in government care have applied for extended supports since the expansion of the Agreements with Young Adults (AYA) program mid-October.
Youth leave ministry care at the age of 19 and are eligible for a range of support programs to help them transition into adulthood, including AYA. As of the end of November, 71 former youth in care applied for AYA supports under the expanded program, 16 of whom are 24 or 25 years old and would not have qualified for benefits in the past. A total of 686 young people received AYA payments for the 12-month period ending Nov. 30, 2016.
As part of the expansion, young people are now eligible for AYA from the age of 19 to 26. In the past, AYA support ended at the age of 24. As well, the length of time a young person can receive benefits has been boosted from two years to four, matching the average time it takes to complete a post-secondary degree.
The recent expansion of AYA now includes life skills programs. Nineteen service providers have recently been added to a ministry-approved list and a young adult is eligible for AYA if he or she is attending any of the approved 12-week programs listed online: http://ow.ly/QF2d307abpW
The programs will focus on financial planning, employability, healthy living and other skills that are key to making positive decisions and living independently.
“It’s encouraging to see such great interest and uptake in just six weeks – and we want to see that continue,” said Children and Family Development Minister Stephanie Cadieux. “Every year, roughly 1,000 kids in ministry care turn 19. Our goal is to ensure each and every one of them knows about and is able to access the advice, training and financial support that AYA can provide. Whether it’s right at 19 or five years later, we are there to help them follow their dreams and achieve independence and success as adults.”
A young person receiving AYA is eligible for about $1,000 per month, with extra support for MSP and extended health benefits like dental and optical. AYA may cover living expenses, child care, health care and tuition while a former youth in care is attending school, vocational training, rehabilitation or life skills programming. No other province in Canada provides this extensive support – and for as long – to young adults who have been in government care.
“I wouldn’t have been able to take a full program load of five courses without the support of AYA,” said Jo-Mary, a former youth in care and full-time student. “I can be successful at school without the stress of worrying about rent and other expenses.”
- More than 2,000 young adults have benefited from AYA since the program was established in 2008.
- More than 10,000 users have accessed AgedOut.com to help youth in care with their transition to adulthood since the site was introduced last year by the Ministry of Children and Family Development in partnership with the Adoptive Families Association of BC and the Federation of B.C. Youth in Care Networks.
- The Youth Educational Assistance Fund (YEAF) supports post-secondary education and training for former youth in care through bursaries of up to $5,500 per education year to assist with tuition, books and fees.
- Eleven B.C. post-secondary institutions now offer tuition waivers or bursaries to former youth in care.
To find out more about supports for current and former youth in care in B.C. see: www.gov.bc.ca/agedout