Mitzi Dean, Minister of Children and Family Development, has issued the following statement in response to the Dec. 15, 2020, report from the representative for children and youth (RCY):
“I am grateful to the representative for children and youth, as well as to the young people and youth advocates who added their voices to this report.
“In particular, I recognize the tragic passing of Katherine McParland, to whom this report has been posthumously dedicated. Katherine worked tirelessly to help children in foster care and other vulnerable youth realize their dreams and become who they were meant to be. She leaves a powerful legacy behind. It is one we must respect, learn from and build on.
“As the representative notes, the reality of approaching adulthood is very different for youth who are in government care. Most young people outside the child-welfare system continue to receive family support after they turn 19, even as they move out, attend school and earn their own income. Youth in government care deserve the same. Rather than feeling they are losing out on what they have when they leave government care, we need to help them feel empowered, supported and ready to move on to adulthood.
“For many years, services for youth in care who were transitioning to adulthood were not enough or simply non-existent. We have come a long way since then, and there is more work still to do. I agree with the representative that changes are needed to more fully support youth and young adults in and from care. We are working to make those changes happen, and we welcome the representative’s insight and suggestions for how to further that work.
“My ministry has been making improvements in all areas of the transition process for youth – from earlier and more comprehensive transition planning, to a more flexible, inclusive and supportive Agreements with Young Adults program.
“When the pandemic struck, this government recognized the increased vulnerability of teenagers nearing the end of their time in care. We brought in emergency measures to give them extra support and stability, along with the flexibility to prolong their home arrangements. To lessen the stress of aging out during this challenging time, we have extended those interim measures, allowing youth to stay where they are and continue to receive the ministry supports they count on through to March 2021.
“B.C.’s economic and academic landscapes have changed drastically in the wake of COVID-19. We saw that our services needed further flexibility so youth could continue to access and benefit fully from funding. That is why we extended and expanded the Agreements with Young Adults program to make it easier for youth from care to pursue life skills and mental health supports through to September 2021.
“Our community partners have told us about the positive impact these measures have had, and we will use that feedback — along with feedback about the system as a whole, input from youth and young adults, as well as the representative’s recommendations — as we move forward with improving these vital supports.
“To thrive and move successfully into adulthood, young people need steady, supportive relationships, and we can do better at facilitating those. We have services in place, but there are ways to strengthen and improve them, from giving young people better planning tools to improving access to social and financial supports.
“I am committed to this work and to joining forces with youth and our colleagues and partners throughout the social sector to create a system that does not just provide young people from care with the bare minimum to survive, but rather creates a better system that supports them to excel, pursue their goals and reach their full potential.”