If Age is Just a Number – Is it Fair to Cut Off Youth-in-Care at 19?

I just returned from spending Thanksgiving weekend with my large extended family. We span multiple generations from 10 months to 85 years and everything in between. It was interesting talking with my cousins and nieces in their early twenties. Some of them have found good job prospects and interesting careers, while others are still finding their way in a less certain future. What they all have in common is strong family support- that is social, emotional and financial support.

Unfortunately not all young adults have that kind of support. So, I was heartened to read that the majority of British Columbians agree that resources should be provided to youth-in-care past the age of 19.  This came out of a Vancouver Foundation survey released earlier this week.

But what did surprise me was the disconnect between the supports that parents provide to their own children and those that they felt should be available to youth-in-care.  According to the survey most parents do help their own adult children with things like housing, food costs and tuition but don’t necessarily think that youth-in-care should have government support for those same things.

Think about the difficulty that Canadian youth with all the supports necessary may have in finding their way (look at youth unemployment rates right now!) Then, imagine how much more difficult that would be for those youth who have lived through foster care, family upheaval and in some cases severe trauma. Those kids require our support to find a way through to adulthood. 19 is very young to be set adrift without any supports.

And the statistics say the same – 40% of homeless youth were formerly part of the foster care system or group homes. Homelessness is expensive and avoidable, prevention is the key.

Kevin McCort, President and CEO of Vancouver Foundation, describes the situation:

“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 adulthood.”

This week is Homelessness Action Week. For those of us lucky enough to be in a post-turkey haze after too much food and family, we should take a look at those in our communities who don’t have that luxury. Wouldn’t it be great if all British Columbians, young and old, had more to be thankful for.

Samantha-Hartley Folz
Manager, Policy & Programs

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