British Columbia

Foster kids turning 19 need range of supports

For many young adults in provincial care, their 19th birthday looms large.

Youth aging out of foster care need social supports that in many cases aren't there, advocate says

Kris Archie, manager of the Vancouver Foundation's Fostering Change initiative, is a former foster child herself and says that when she aged out of the system, she needed a wide range of support to make the transition to adulthood. (CBC)

For many young adults in provincial care, their 19th birthday looms large. It's the date when they leave the system and must become immediately independent.

Kris Archie was in foster care in B.C. and remembers needing lots of support when she "aged out" of the system.

"As a young person I was provided with a range of support from my family and the community," she said. "Those are the things that hold up young people when times are tough."

"I don't think there's enough [support]. It's not quite the same care and support we provide to our own children as they're aging out of our own homes."

As manager of the Fostering Change Initiative at the Vancouver Foundation, Archie now works to support young people transitioning out of care.

She says that while there are some supports to get children aging out of ministry care into post-secondary programs, those programs can be hard to navigate for young people and many are not approved for them.

Archie says that 40 per cent of all homeless youth in Vancouver have been in the system for at least some time, and it's often up to community groups to help young adults make the transition.

'The kids our children go to school with'

The issue of children aging out of B.C.'s foster care system is again in the headlines due to the death of Alex Gervias, an 18-year-old who was living in a hotel — against Ministry policy — after moving between 16 foster homes during his life.

When asked by The Early Edition's Rick Cluff how someone like Gervais can successfully transition from a life of instability into adulthood, Archie said a variety of supports are needed — and some are in short supply.

Metis teen Alex Gervais died after he jumped from the open window of a hotel in Abbotsford while in xyolhemeylh's care. (Dylan Pelley/Facebook)

"The only way someone who's had that experience in  life can make a solid transition to adulthood has everything to do about what sort of community they're in and how they're supported and surrounded," she said.

"I think anyone with tragic life circumstances is going to need adults to support them, employers who are going to take a chance on them, affordable and safe places to live and a community that really embraces them as valuable and being important."

She says that when she talks to youth leaving the system, the thing they say most often say is that they want the chance to form genuine connections to their community when they turn 19, beyond a job or a home.

"I think there are a lot of people who believe that foster kids are someone else's job," she said. "And really, we need to recognize that foster kids are the kids our children go to school with. They're in our neighbourhoods. They're in our communities."

"We've given them the promise that their parents couldn't take care of them and so our government would. We have to acknowledge that we have a role in who that government is and how they're cared for."

To hear the full story, click on the audio labelled: Aging out of foster care


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