The B.C. government should support foster children into their early adult years rather than showing them the door once they turn 19, a new report says.
Representative for Children and Youth Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond said youth in care experience a range of problems if they lose all supports once they become adults.
They are more likely to drop out of school, suffer mental health problems, struggle to find work and end up homeless and on social assistance. They are also prone to substance abuse and conflicts with the criminal justice system.
“The costs of our society not helping them are far higher than the cost of providing adequate support at a time when they need it most,” Turpel-Lafond states in her 56-page report, On Their Own.
She recommends the province create a youth secretariat to ensure better transitions for the 700 young people “aging out” of the child welfare system every year. The secretariat would lead efforts to establish a minimum income support level until they reach age 25 as well as better access to health, dental and vision care.
In addition, she wants the education officials to prepare a career plan for every youth in care.
Turpel-Lafond also recommends legislation to permit the government to extend foster care up to age 25 on a case-by-case basis for youth in college, university or other training programs.
“When any child or youth comes into the care of the B.C. government, the province becomes the parent and assumes responsibility for the nurturing and development of that child,” Turpel-Lafond writes. “This report calls for government to do what any prudent parent would do – provide the necessary planning, support, advice and resources to give that child the best possible chance of success.”