B.C. Youth in Care extends age out limit to 21

B.C. Youth in government care can now stay in their homes until the age of 21, instead of being forced to move out at 19. Kier Junos speaks to former youth-in-care who say this change gives young people in the system the time they need to figure out their next steps.

For many B.C. youth in government care, a 19th birthday is a dreaded day knowing they are now on their own. In an effort to allow youth more time to get on their feet, the province has extended the age out to 21.

“These have the potential to be monumental for those as they approach their 19th birthday, which is a birthday that most of us dread. It’s a birthday that makes us hate all birthdays,” said Cammy Lawson from the Youth Advisory Council.

Former youth in care say this is a huge change for young people in the foster care system as it gives them the time they need to figure things out.

“I think I could’ve had a lot more support with my mental health, and financially,” said Dayna Chapman a peer navigator with A Way Home Kamloops

Chapman lived in 11 different foster homes since she and her sister entered the system in 2004. After living in what she called “abusive and uncaring situations,” Chapman said she finally found a home with her last set of foster parents, Jackie and Dan.

“For the first time in my life, I just had turned 17, I finally felt like I had a family, like I had a sense of belonging. Then my social worker coming to me a couple months before my nineteenth birthday and letting me know you’ll have to find your own place, and you’ll either have to choose if you want to go to school, or you’re gonna find a job and work full time,” said Chapman.

Darien Johnson entered the government care system relatively late, when she was 16-years-old. And it wasn’t until she was expelled from school because of drug use and sent to detox – that she was able to access a youth care worker – someone she says was the best thing that ever happened to her.

“Honestly, reflecting on it, I just can’t believe that type of support isn’t offered to all youth in care right away. Foster children especially,” said Johnson.

The Ministry of Children and Family Development says 80 more transition workers are being added to the system as part of the 2022 B.C. Budget. Unconditional income supports of up to $1,250 a month for a whole year will be available for young people aging out of care.

More assistance with housing costs, accessing youth transition workers, better medical benefits and life skills programs will be available until age 27.

Johnson says the extension on aging out of care is great – but having life guidance is crucial to the success of young people.

“It doesn’t matter what age you’re let out of care – you’re still going to be floundering and figuring these things out on your own. I’m glad there’s going to be some supports for youth as well,” Johnson added.

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