British Columbia’s youth advocate tells government to ‘be a good parent’

An illustrated cover for the report
The cover page from report by B.C. Representative for Children and Youth is an illustration by a former youth in care, Starr Martin. Photo courtesy of the B.C. government.
Lisa Cordasco - CHLY - NanaimoBC | 15-12-2020

A new report is urging the provincial government to help youth in care to successfully launch into adulthood, instead of cutting them off when they turn 19.

The recommendations in the report by British Columbia's Representative for Children and Youth, entitled "A Parent's Duty," focuses on creating an environment to help young people access education, housing, mental health services with the guidance of adults in the community services sector.

The representative, Jennifer Charlesworth, says it is "morally wrong" to force those turning 19 into the world with little to prepare or support them:

 

The report recommends transition planning begin at age 14 and continue with the creation of specialized youth transition workers. These mentors, from local community service agencies, would help a young person navigate programs and offer adult guidance up until the age of 27. Charlesworth says the government's "Agreements with Young Adults" program, which provides four years of financial support and health benefits to youth transitioning from government care, deserves praise but Charlesworth says the criteria is so stringent, fewer than 40 per cent qualify. Instead, she says youth in care should be automatically enrolled in the program at 19, with supports available until they turn 27.

Other ministries are being asked to create youth housing and mental health programs for ages 19 to 27. Charlesworth admits that the recommendations will be expensive, but far less costly than doing nothing:

 

A B.C. government report on foster care in 2016 estimated those costs add up to a quarter of a million dollars per year for each young person who does not successfully transition out of care. Charlesworth says her recommendations would cost a small fraction of that.

Meanwhile, B.C.'s Minister for Children and Family Development Mitzi Dean says she is grateful for the report. But Dean makes no promise to implement any of its recommendations. In a written statement, the minister says, "I agree with the representative that changes are needed to more fully support youth and young adults in and from care. We are working to make those changes happen, and we welcome the representative's insight and suggestions for how to further that work."

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