New website for youth in and from government care

0
261

Victoria: A new website, AgedOut.com, will help current and former youth in government care navigate the many challenges that can arise as they transition to adulthood.

Thanks to a $500,000 investment from the Ministry of Children and Family Development, the Adoptive Families Association of B.C., Federation of BC Youth in Care Networks and the Ministry conducted nearly two years of research, planning and development.

AgedOut.com showcases services and supports for young people preparing to leave government care and those who have already made the transition, as well as highlighting common experiences through videos of former youth in care. There are also gaming ‘Quests,’ where youth can earn rewards for completing challenges related to:

  • Renting an apartment or finding subsidized housing.
  • How to get a bank account.
  • How to find a job or prepare for an interview.
  • How to apply for medical insurance or get a driver’s license.
  • How to get a phone.
  • Important life skills such as how to handle an abusive relationship or a tough conversation.

All of the tasks link directly to real world challenges identified by youth in and from care.

Because the site has been created with the input and involvement of former youth in care, it is designed in a way that speaks to the way in which young people search for – and find – the information they need. Even the domain name was chosen by youth and young adults from government care.

The site is being promoted through a series of launch events during B.C. Child and Youth in Care Week (June 1-7, 2015). At these events, youth and young adults from care will be able to explore the site, attend cooking demos and access elements of WorkBC’s Find Your Fit, which offers tools that help young people find their dream job and explore careers.

The idea for B.C. Child and Youth in Care Week was driven by youth in care and first proclaimed in 2011 to acknowledge and celebrate the individuality, accomplishments, resilience, talents and contributions of all B.C. children and youth in care. B.C. Child and Youth in Care Week serves to combat negative stereotypes and social stigmas that many children and youth in care face. The week is also a chance to recognize those children and youth who are engaged in out-of-care options, such as youth in Youth Agreements.

Stephanie Cadieux, Minister of Children and Family Development said, “‘how do I get a job?’ ‘Where am I going to live?’ These are the types of questions we all faced when we became adults. But for those in the care in the ministry, the transition can be much more challenging. We know young people go online to find answers to many of life’s questions and this website is intended to speak directly to them – it was truly designed by and for our youth in and from care.”

Karen Medeiros, executive director, Adoptive Families Association of BC said, “The Adoptive Families Association is thrilled to present this engaging and useful tool for helping youth in and from care navigate the complexities of adulthood. Through the use of step-by-step processes and interactive learning youth will find information and support no matter where they live, where they are in their transition, and whatever their learning preferences and needs.”

All youth aged 14-24, in and from ministry are encouraged to attend the AgedOut.com launch events from 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.:

    • Burnaby at BCIT, Great Hall
    • Kelowna at UBC Okanagan, Multipurpose Ballroom at University
    • Prince George at the Aboriginal Friendship Centre
    • Victoria at UVIC, Upper Lounge, Student Union Building.

Approximately 700 young people age out of government care every year. The Youth Education Assistance Fund (YEAF) is available to young people, aged 19-24, who were in the permanent care of the ministry or a delegated Aboriginal agency before they reach adulthood. Eligible students can receive bursaries of up to $5,500 once per educational year, up to a maximum of four times, for tuition, books, fees or living expenses while studying at designated post-secondary and vocational institutions.

Since the creation of YEAF in 2002, the ministry has contributed more than $10.3 million to support 1,350 youth to receive a post-secondary education. The Agreements with Young Adults program can provide financial assistance and support services to help young people finish secondary school, learn job and life skills, attend college or university, or complete a rehabilitative program.

On Jan. 22, 2014, Coast Capital Savings committed $200,000 to help former youth in care access post-secondary education. Tuition waivers are now available at many B.C. post-secondary institutions for eligible students who have been in government care. On May 22, 2015, MCFD provided a further $250,000 to extend and expand the YWCA’s Strive program, which offers under-employed former youth in care between the ages of 17-24 hands-on guidance in life skills like financial literacy, time management, decision-making and problem solving that are key to living independently.

On May 29, 2015, the ministry announced $315,000 in funding for Covenant House Vancouver’s new mentorship program, which will be available to all youth who are currently accessing Covenant House Vancouver’s services and to new participants through Covenant House’s Drop-in Centre or who may be referred from the Ministry of Children and Family Development.

We are making changes to better serve vulnerable children and to streamline the implementation of the new BC Training and Education Savings Program (BCTESP) – a grant of $1,200 paid into a Registered Education Savings Plan to help families plan and save early for their education after high school. These changes will include the creation of a separate fund to provide for the training and educational needs of former children in care and other vulnerable children.