Aging out of the foster care system

For an estimated 85-thousand children and youth across Canada home is an elusive concept and parents come in the form of children's aid or state guardians. And when those kids hit adulthood they are on their own: Youth forced by their age to leave care are over-represented in the justice system, mental health and in shelters. Today, we hear from young people trying to change the odds for the kids coming up after them.

Part Two of The Current

Aging out of the foster care system

Thaila walked away from her last group home two years ago. And like a lot of people who grew up in state care, she has struggled leaving the system that raised her.

There are about 85,000 young people in Canada who fall under the authority of children's aid societies. As they grow up, they hit a point where they become too old for foster care or group homes. It happens sometime between 16 and 21, depending on the province and on their circumstances. It's a process people in the field refer to as "aging out" and when it happens, the young people involved often find themselves facing poverty, homelessness and even jail time.

Statistics show that nationwide, young people leaving care are more likely to end up in the youth justice, mental health and shelter systems. Thaila is 18 now. She lives in Toronto. The Current's Josh Bloch went on a walk with her to the Children's Aid society office in Toronto.. We're withholding her full name to protect her privacy.

Shanna is in state care now. She's about to age out. And along with three others, she is working with Ontario's Child and Youth Advocate to try to improve the lives of young people as they leave crown care. Together, they helped organize something called the Youth Leaving Care Hearings at the Ontario Legislature last fall. And Shanna is helping to draft a report that will be tabled in that legislature in March. We're withholding Shanna's full name to protect her privacy. She was in Toronto. And Irwin Elman is Ontario's first Advocate for Children and Youth. He - along with Shanna - was instrumental in organizing the November hearings. He was in Toronto.

We requested an interview with Eric Hoskins, Ontario's Minister of Child and Youth Services, but he was unavailable. But he did send a statement saying the province has already done a lot on which to build:

We've made important changes to help crown wards find permanent homes; we ensure that crown wards have access to financial and emotional support until they're 21; we make post-secondary education more accessible to crown wards through tuition grants and assistance with their applications; and we help provide them with greater opportunity through the Ontario Child Benefit Equivalent.

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