VANCOUVER, Oct. 9, 2013 /CNW/ - The majority of British Columbians want
to extend the age of government support to youth in foster care from 19
to at least age 21, a new province-wide survey conducted by Vancouver
Foundation has found.
There's a strong link between being in foster care and becoming
homeless. Former youth in government care are grossly overrepresented
within the ranks of the homeless. Approximately 40 per cent of homeless
youth have at one time been in foster care or group homes.
In BC, when a youth in foster care turns 19, they are abruptly cut-off
from all financial, educational, and "family-like" supports funded by
government, and set adrift to navigate adulthood on their own.
At 19, even well-adjusted young people, with the support of a loving
family, can have a tough time. For youth who have been in foster care,
who have faced significant trauma in the family home, and been taken
into custody by the government, it can be a chaotic, scary and
de-stabilizing time. All too often, for these youth, an unsupported
transition to adulthood has a negative impact on almost every aspect of
their life — housing, career and school schedules, adult relationships,
economic security, safety and even mental health.
"Across British Columbia, too many youth age out of foster care without
family support, connection to community or other basic needs such as
housing or employment," said Kevin McCort, President and CEO of
Vancouver Foundation. "As a result, they are more likely than their
peers to drop out of school, become parents before they are ready,
experience homelessness or end up in trouble with the law — costly
consequences that affect us all; consequences we believe can be
Preventing youth homelessness is a major priority for Vancouver
Foundation. The release of Fostering Change: Vancouver Foundation's Transitions Survey in advance of Homelessness Action Week (October 13 to 19) is part of the
Foundation's Youth Homelessness Initiative (YHI), a four-pronged
program designed to address the challenges facing youth aging out of
government care. To gain a better understanding of public attitudes,
values and perceptions of youth aging out of government care Vancouver
Foundation surveyed 1,820 adult British Columbians in early 2013.
Among the findings of Fostering Change: Vancouver Foundation's Transitions Survey:
The majority of British Columbians (71 per cent) underestimate the
number of youth who are currently in foster care or a group home. And
they have no idea how the system is structured. Only 28 per cent are
aware that government support is cut off when young people turn 19.
Even with low levels of understanding, the survey found 68 per cent of
British Columbians think that support should be available to young
people transitioning from government care to adulthood at least until
the age of 21. Among those respondents who had a clearer understanding
of the problem (and the number of youth in care) there was even greater
willingness to extend support to 23 or 24 years-old.
The Transitions Survey shed light on the importance of family
connections that most young adults aged 19-28 in the province enjoy.
The survey found:
70 per cent of British Columbians believe that the 19-year-olds living
in their city or town do not have the necessary skills and resources to
live away from home and support themselves independently.
90 per cent of parents of 19- to 28-year-olds said they would worry
about their children in the event they couldn't provide them with any
Most parents who have 19- to 28-year-old children living at home provide
support to their children in six areas: shopping and groceries (69 per
cent), free rent (69 per cent), post-secondary education funding (60
per cent), living supplies (56 per cent), transportation (55 per cent)
and job advice (53 per cent).
While 19- to 28-year-olds living away from home receive less support
than their counterparts living at home, their parents are helping them
in a variety of ways. In fact, 80 per cent of parents who have 19- to
28-years-olds living away from home provide their children with some
form of support.
BC residents view the transition of a youth from government care quite
differently than they view the transition of their own child from home,
according to the survey. When presented with various policy and
investment recommendations that would help prevent youth homelessness,
survey respondents' support of these initiatives were inconsistent with
the kinds of support most young people receive from their own families.
Only 29 per cent of respondents listed support finding safe, affordable
housing as a way to prevent homelessness among youth aging out of
government care. In contrast, 36 per cent of youth ages 19-28 in BC
live at home, and the majority of parents surveyed provide housing
assistance to their own children.
While 70 per cent of BC residents identified access to employment and
training programs as a way to prevent youth homelessness, only 43 per
cent chose providing financial support for education as among the most
effective ways to prevent homelessness.
When informed that only 20 per cent of youth in government care graduate
from high school, only 30 per cent of BC residents were troubled by
Even though the majority of BC residents (62 per cent) selected the high
rate of mental health diagnosis among youth in care as "the fact that
they find most troubling about this population," only 26 per cent of residents selected "access to mental health
services" as among the most effective solutions to prevent youth
transitioning out of care from becoming homeless.
"The lack of public support to help youth successfully transition out of
government care to adulthood suggests that we have a higher expectation
of young people who have been bounced around the foster care system and
forced to make it on their own when they turn 19, than we do for our
own children," said McCort.
"Young people belong in homes in their community with opportunities to
learn, grow and contribute. As a civil society, we have a collective
responsibility to support our young people in their journey to
Every British Columbian has a role to play in addressing youth
homelessness, he said. When it comes to renting, hiring, training and
mentoring options, people should be able to find resources in their
community that help them look out for youth from foster care, and
celebrate their strengths and potential.
Fostering Change: Vancouver Foundation's Transition Survey report is available online at vancouverfoundation.ca/fosteringchange. We encourage you to join the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag
Vancouver Foundation is starting the public discussion on how British
Columbians can support youth who have experienced foster care or
homelessness by co-hosting the "Unpacking Home Exhibit" at MAKE
Gallery, 257 East 7th Avenue in Vancouver from October 15 to 19. The exhibit will feature
artwork from youth across metro Vancouver that reflects their
experience with foster care or homelessness. The five-day exhibit will
conclude with a community conversation on Saturday, October 19 from 4
p.m. to 7 p.m. at the MAKE Gallery on ways to support vulnerable youth
as they transition to adulthood.
About Vancouver Foundation
With almost 1,500 funds and assets totaling $814 million, Vancouver
Foundation is Canada's largest community foundation. In 2012, Vancouver
Foundation and its donors made more than 4,000 grants, totaling
approximately $46 million to registered charities across Canada. Grant
recipients range from social services to medical research groups, to
organizations devoted to arts and culture, the environment, education,
children and families, disability supports for employment, youth issues
and animal welfare. To find out more visit: vancouverfoundation.ca or follow us on social media: Facebook.com/vancouverfdn and @VancouverFdn
To find out more visit: www.vancouverfoundation.ca or follow us on social media: Facebook.com/vancouverfdn and @VancouverFdn
SOURCE: Vancouver Foundation
For further information:
Vancouver Foundation Communications