OUR VIEW: It’s time to give foster youth a safety net as they transition

In B.C., kids in government care are abruptly cut off support at 19. The province must change this – before we lose any more young lives.

A 19-year-old First Nations woman

Leaders of the First Nations Summit are once again calling on the province to bring in changes to better support children aging out of government care after a 19-year-old aboriginal woman was found dead in a rain soaked Surrey tent last week.

The woman, who has not been identified, was found dead in a tent near King George Boulevard and 132nd St. on Nov. 30.

There have been several high-profile deaths of young people in B.C. who have aged out or who were approaching their 19th birthdays, including Paige Gauchier and Alex Gervais. Gervais died while he was living (against child welfare rules) in a hotel, after his group home was shut down.

The FNS Chiefs in Assembly passed a resolution in February 2015 calling on the provincial government to raise the age of 19 to 25 to address the “distressing issue” and to “help avert similar deaths from taking place in the future.”

It’s too bad nobody listened at the time – the young woman might still be alive.

FNS wants to see an “Aging Out Plan” be required for each youth as they near their 19th birthday as well as a “youth transition team” under the umbrella of the Ministry of Children and Family Development to offer supports.

The FNS notes that youth aging out of care have an increased risk of homelessness, school incompletion, unemployment, poverty and dependence on income assistance.

It’s hard to argue with the fact that youth lack a safety net after losing their social workers and financial support on their 19th birthday.

In B.C., at 19, kids in government care are abruptly cut off government support.

The province must change this – and now – before we lose any more young lives.

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