Government Supported British Columbia Youth To Obtain Cell Phones

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All youth in care in British Columbia, ages 13-18, will receive their phones within the next two months.

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Nearly 4,000 young people in government care in British Columbia will receive iPhones to make sure they are better connected with their peers and counselors, but youth advocates say calls to improve support for young people older people in care remain unanswered.

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Over the next two months, all youth in care in British Columbia, ages 13 to 18, will receive phones with data plans. Children’s Minister Mitzi Dean said the program is an example of fairness for children in government care.

“Our government is committed to providing the youth we serve with resources that their peers with more traditional family supports often take for granted,” Dean said.

But a long-standing call for fairness from young people who are no longer in care has not been fully responded to by the ministry. Right now, young people in British Columbia are forced out of government care when they turn 19. As a result, they no longer have access to supports, including housing and counseling, as well as resources like the cell phones that were just announced.

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“Parents don’t deny their children when they come of age or push them out the door,” said Melanie Doucet, senior researcher and project manager for the Child Welfare League of Canada .

The league released a report last week calling on governments to adopt policies and change legislation to allow young people to continue to be supported past the age of 19.

The report noted “an overwhelming amount of research that shows that young people leaving the child welfare system in Canada are at a much higher risk of homelessness, undereducation, unemployment, poverty, child welfare issues. mental health, post-traumatic stress and substance abuse ”.

Youth advocacy group Fostering Change said at a provincial budget consultation meeting last month that many older youth fall through the cracks.

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“Young people fear their 19th birthday because they have seen the impact leaving unsupported care on their lives. They describe aging outside of unsupported government care like falling off a cliff, ”spokeswoman Susan Russell-Csanyi said.

An average of 900 youth leave care in British Columbia each year. Although the ministry is proposing a deal with a young adult program or AYA, Russell-Csanyi says many do not qualify for this extended support.

The program is aimed at young people aged 19 to 26. It helps cover the costs of housing, child care, schooling, and health care while attending ministry-approved education programs for a period of up to four years.

“About 225 young people per year are on their own by the age of 19 due to ineligibility for support and the barriers created by existing policies,” said Russell-Csanyi.

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Fostering Change has called on the province to budget $ 30 million per year to provide automatic enrollment in support as they age out of government care, regardless of care status or time spent in care and for base financial support on the needs of young people and their individual development. He wants this support to include housing options, nutritional support and mental well-being support.

BC’s representative for children and youth made similar recommendations in a 2020 report titled “A Parent’s Duty: Government’s Obligation to Youth Transitioning into Adulthood”.

Jennifer Charlesworth said the pandemic prompted the Department for Children and Family Development to change some criteria so more young people could receive support.

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“There are all kinds of conditions before you can even get a deal and even those who are eligible, they had a really hard time getting there. There are many insurmountable obstacles for young people, ”said Charlesworth, but added that some of those obstacles have fallen.

“Now a young person can be in AYA and go through a rehabilitation program or a life skills program, which is great,” she said. “Now they won’t be kicked out of the program if they have to drop out of classes due to traumatic life events. “

Charlesworth said she sees “some small signs of hope,” including announcements made over the past year by BC Housing to provide nearly 100 youth housing units in Kamloops, Maple Ridge and the Fraser Valley. .

The ministry also imposed a moratorium on its 19-year-old out-of-care aging rule until March 2022, in response to the pandemic.

“The pandemic allowed them to learn more about how to increase accessibility and reduce barriers to ensure more young people receive support,” Charlesworth said. Hopefully this will continue after the pandemic, as the ministry realizes that it is in fact meeting the needs of a population it has never been able to meet before. “

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