Dozens of youth in care head to B.C Legislature to lobby government for more foster care support

More than 45 young people living in government care in Metro Vancouver are heading to Victoria on Wednesday to share their stories and lobby the provincial government for changes to the child welfare system.

‘The current system in its whole and its entirety is really failing so many youth’

'We have the federal government listening. We have the provincial government listening — especially to youth and indigenous voices — and we have youth ready to speak,' says activist and organizer Dylan Cohen. (Fostering Change )

More than 45 young people living in government care in Metro Vancouver are heading to Victoria on Wednesday to share their stories and lobby the provincial government for changes to the child welfare system.

Twenty-three-year-old Dylan Cohen, an Indigenous youth organizer for the advocacy group First Call, is one of the leaders of the lobby group.

He knows first hand the challenges youth in care face.

"The passion that youth have for organizing today is fuelled by the injustice that we face in the system and the reality that many of us have absolutely no support on our 19th birthday," Cohen said.  

Cohen grew up in government care in Manitoba from the age of 14 onwards.

He described his experience as "super typical" — separated from his siblings and community, bouncing between foster homes and experiencing homelessness and trauma as a teen.  

"That experience shouldn't be happening to anyone," he told Stephen Quinn, the host of CBC's The Early Edition.

"Especially, not some of our most vulnerable and marginalized population which are the youth that we take responsibility for by apprehending them and placing them in care."

More than 45 youth in care are lobbying the provincial government for changes to the child welfare system. (Justin McElroy/CBC)

Pushing for change

Cohen said he hopes sharing their experiences in care and meeting with MLAs will help drive home the reality of child welfare services and highlight the need for universal and comprehensive support.  

One of the key issues that needs to be addressed Cohen said, is aging out of care — which happens at 19 in B.C.

Support being dropped "because of an arbitrary age that was defined in legislation" needs to be changed, he emphasized.

"There has been some progress for youth aging out of care," he said.

"But we know that the current system in its whole and its entirety is really failing so many youth."

For Cohen, having a stable counsellor with consistent contact was "integral" to his experience in child care.  

He was also in the Jewish child and family services system which had more resources because of private donors.

"That's not something we can count on for a systemic solution," he said.

"We want to look at the youth that are failing and falling through the cracks, these huge sinkholes around us, and try to make sure that there are programs and policies in place that really support them."

More than 45 young people living in government care in Metro Vancouver are heading to Victoria on Wednesday to share their stories and lobby the provincial government for changes to the child welfare system. 7:02

With files from The Early Edition. 

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