Help after 18?
My name is Jade, I am a second year student in the Child and Youth Care Counselling degree at Mount Royal University.
I have started my practicum in a residential setting with ages 13-18. I have recently learned that there are not many resources in place for youth following their 18th birthday and departure from these programs. I was informed that some youth may end up going straight to a shelter because they do not have anywhere else to go. Not for a lack of trying on anyone's part but just the sad reality.
My question would be is there more we can do as Youth Care professionals to prevent youth from going straight to a shelter and losing the progress we have made? Or is the work we do, getting them prepared for adulthood, the best we can do? And do we have to except that the outcome is not always what we hope for?
I look forward to your responses.
I also live in Calgary and wanted to chime in quickly around aging out of care in Alberta. Child and Family Services has the ability to support youth up to age 25 with housing and financial measures. There are programs at some agencies, such as Hull (Independent Living Services), that youth with lower functioning skill sets can live until they age out. During that time, they learn life skills and caseworkers try to establish adult placements through Persons with Developmental Disabilities (PDD) or AISH.
Also, CFS has a responsibility to set youth in care up with appropriate transitional housing placement nearing their 18th birthday, such as Youth Transitioning to Adulthood.
Of course not all of our kids are suitable for such placements (especially if they are in residential for a long period of time), but there are agencies in Calgary to support these kids as they age out.
Many long term residential workers used to tell me the same thing about the youth when I was in group care. Once they turn 18 they just go to the shelter. It may have been more accurate back then, but CFS has updated their policies around aging out of care. The youth that end up in shelter are generally the kids that told their caseworkers to fuck off, did not participate in planning for transitioning out, have no interest in what is available to them, and so on. Do not believe that at 18 all res kids suddenly live at the Drop In or Mustard Seed.
In terms of what we can do? Advocate for your youth to receive appropriate services nearing and after their 18th birthdays. Engage them in conversation about what they want their lives to look like as a young adult. Find out what they qualify for and tell them/show them what is out there. Unfortunately, what happens is up to CFS and the youth. If someone does not want to sign a Supportive Financial Agreement with CFS, try to hook them up with any other service available. Calgary does have a lot of resources. And, don't forget your kids have the right to deny services and support if it is not currently what they want. We cannot and should not impose our will on others. When they start aging out it can be hard to accept some of the decisions they make, but if you did everything you could to prep them for what lives on the other side and taught them skills and did your best to improve their mental health, then you don't need to feel bad about that. Don't take their decisions personally. Many of our kids have had a shit experience with CFS and cannot wait to get away from them. Try to encourage accepting extended support so they don't get lost. But if it isn't what they want at that time, set them up for success in any way possible. Just don't think you personally have failed them if they end up in a shelter system. And don't believe everything everyone tells you ;) sorry this is so long!
Here in the progressive United States we have the Chafee Act which provides financial support to youth aging out of care if they are state wards and in a long term foster care placement on their 18th birthday. It pays for housing and school if you are enrolled or working part time. We also in Minnesota have a host of resources for youth ages 18-24, though they are piecemeal and often competitive as we have a lot of need.