Jennifer Charlesworth, British Columbia’s representative for children and youth, is seen in Victoria on December 10, 2018. In its latest report, Charlesworth’s office is once again calling on the province to improve its support system for youth transitioning out of government care after they turn 19 years old. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dirk Meissner

Jennifer Charlesworth, British Columbia’s representative for children and youth, is seen in Victoria on December 10, 2018. In its latest report, Charlesworth’s office is once again calling on the province to improve its support system for youth transitioning out of government care after they turn 19 years old. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dirk Meissner

B.C. must improve supports for youth ‘aging out’ of government care: watchdog report

About 850 young people transition out of care every year in B.C.

B.C.’s representative for children and youth is calling on the province to improve its support system for youth transitioning out of government care after they turn 19.

The report from Jennifer Charlesworth’s office says the current system “virtually shapes a life of poverty” for vulnerable youth in the province.

About 850 young people transition out of care every year and her report says supports for them are “notoriously scarce, inequitable, rigid and a poor fit.”

It says the provincial government’s temporary measures in response to the pandemic demonstrate that it can act quickly to make the kind of changes advocates have long been calling for.

The report points to numerous problems with the program that provides aged-out youth with up to $15,000 a year for four years, as long as they’re going to school or participating in a life skills or rehabilitation program.

The representative’s report makes recommendations including the automatic enrolment into the young adults program up to age 27 for youth from all types of government care in B.C.

The report says less than 10 per cent of eligible young adults were receiving money under the young adults program as of March and there are significant disparities in access based on gender, race, region and education level.

The government says it has expanded the eligibility criteria to include a wider range of options for life skills and rehabilitation programs until September 2021.

Charlesworth’s office is calling for lasting changes, recommending the creation of a provincewide system of dedicated transition workers through community agencies to provide support for these young people up to age 27.

In response to the pandemic, B.C.’s Ministry of Children and Family Development is allowing youth turning 19 to stay in their current living arrangements until next March, the report says, while youth who are receiving funding after transitioning out of care may continue to get the money until next September, even if their eligibility status changes.

Mitzi Dean, minister of children and family development, responded to the report in a statement, saying services for youth in care who were transitioning into adulthood were non-existent or inadequate for many years and while the province has come a long way, there’s more to do.

“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.”

The Canadian Press

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