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Kids leaving care

I am a 2nd year student enrolled in the Child and Youth Care program and I am doing a project on the issues of youth leaving care. Should all youth leave care at the age of 18? What is being done to assist the youth that are not capable or ready to take care of themselves and live on their own? Why is it expected for youth in care to leave at age 18, but it's quite normal for those not in care to stay at home until they're 25. Any answers, ideas or suggestions would be helpful on this thought. Thanks!

Melanie
...

Hi Melanie
Here in New Brunswick, we have a program called "Independent Living". It is offered to young persons. You can get more details on our government website, which is www.gnb.ca. The service is offered by the Department of Social Development, formerly Family and Community Services. My program (ISP) also offers support to youth who need to live by themselves. I believe that certain youth, either in care or at home are not ready to live on their own at 18, nevertheless with the proper life skills, support and accompaniment, it is worth the try.

Good luck with your project and the continuation of your studies.

Louise Bergeron
...

You might find this series of audio recordings from Chaplin Hall really interesting: http://www.about.chapinhall.org/conferences/agingout2007/presentations

Hope this helps!
Rachael
Boston, MA
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Hi Melanie,

Firstly it depends on the developmental level of the youth. When I worked in Calgary the program I was in tried to transition the youth back to their family, foster home, etc from the ages of 12 - 18. However what I believe you're talking about is support to live on their own. Depending on where you live there is a lot of semi-independent programs out there from the ages of 15 - 25 years of age. For reference you can check out the Hull Child and Family Services Website, they talk about their program in this area. Hope this helps.

Regards
Dave Zimmerman
...

Often unless the child is immediately pursuing post secondary studies or an apprenticeship the courts and the system, children's aid here in Ontario cut the children off and leave them to their own devices. Usually with social services such as disability, mothers allowance and/or welfare, there is often no support from care providers past age 18 and sometimes 16. These children have a high rate of becoming street involved.

I have done some research on this subject while in college. I can forward you my papers if you'd like to read them.

Ziggy Stardust
...

Wow...you really have me thinking now, as I am a first year CYC student and engrossed in change and getting care for them, it never occurred to me about the after care???? I'm interested in finding out what people say about this. Sorry I'm of no help.

Good luck,
Brigitte
...

Hi Melanie,

I received these 2 links to these 2 reports about youth aging out of care, so thought I would pass them along to you.

When Youth Age out of Care - Where to From There
http://socialwork.uvic.ca/docs/research/WhenYouthAge2007.pdf

Midwest Evaluation of the Adult Functioning of Former Foster Youth
http://www.chapinhall.org/article_abstract.aspx?ar=1355&L2=61&L3=130

My opinion on your questions below.

Should all youth leave care at the age of 18?

Absolutely not. As you point out, most youth who live with their natural families stay until their later 20's, sometimes people even boomerang back and forth in their 30's. For youth who've been in & out of care, or even been in care for long periods, many have a number of special needs, some have challenges of life skills for functioning as an adult. If care has not been made to preserve family connections then these youth may be very isolated in the community. Some youth, such as those with FASD, Autism Spectrum Disorders or cognitive impairments, mental health, substance use issues, etc. they require care beyond age of majority. It is not there and it is not funded. There used to be transitional/post majority funding but it was slashed, like everything else. However, in BC, youth (sometimes as youth as young as 16) are often put on Youth Agreements, where they must participate in education, work, counselling etc. and their rent & bills will be paid. They should also have a Life Skills worker attached, but I don't have a good sense of whether that always occurs. Some youth can access semi-independent foster homes, some can be placed in youth-oriented independent living apartments. Some are just at the mercy of rental market housing, which is
exorbitant in some areas.

What is being done to assist the youth that are not capable or ready to take care of themselves and live on their own?

This differs from province to province, as do all things related to child welfare. In BC there are tremendous gaps in services to special needs youth and with the general state of the CW system here, many youth move out of care into very marginalized lives. Post majority, or post care planning are best practices, I'm not always sure that youth can access this type of planning and support. Some youth are more than happy to just leave care behind and anything to do with it, because of their experiences as a child and youth in foster care. The state does not always make a great parent.

Why is it expected for youth in care to leave at age 18, but it's quite normal for those not in care to stay at home until they're 25?

The age of majority of the province (or state) is often the determining factor in when youth are moved out of care. In BC the Child, Family & Community Services Act (CFCSA) determines that children are those under the age of 19.

Hope this has been helpful.

Tracey Young, BA CYC, MSW
...

Hi Melanie,

This is an interesting question because there is no one answer since each youth and their situation is unique. However, there are definitely many gaps in the system relating to youth 18-21. I believe all youth should be assisted to develop skills as adolescents that will prepare them to live on their own. That being said, you're right - how can we possible expect them to succeed starting at age 18 (sometimes younger) particularly given their difficult histories. Some of the things we can do to advocate better outcomes for youth may be to continue our interactions with them during this difficult time with the understanding that the only payment we will receive from this will be in their better chance at success and our continued role in their lives. Unfortunately it seems, the bottom line in many cases is the mighty dollar - there is little or very limited funding for youth transitioning out of care and many other youth under 18 demanding our attention. The youth that I have seen be the most successful while leaving at 18, have had support through Transitional Workers (we can all offer our services to do this) who will check in, support as needed with housing, school, shopping, etc., continue our high expectations, and assist with managing all those stresses that you can't teach youth about prior to 18 (or they just don't believe anyway :). To have youth come back during this time with the expectation that they will role model (somewhat :) to younger youth is helpful also; it gives older youth something to rise up to and us a chance to monitor and support them through this time. It also gives our younger youth a first-hand opportunity to understand that it's not easy out there - freedom comes with a responsibility price tag that just may be too high for some. I'm sure this topic will draw a lot of responses from your fellow colleagues!

Diane Rapkoski
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Hello Melanie,

I used to work in group homes in Alberta and from my experience, it's just like anything else, money! I am not an expert by any means, but there are too many budget cuts in social services, according to the newspapers I read. I remember working at a group home once and if one of the residents turned 18, s/he had to leave and their bed was not empty for very long. But from my experience, we used to put a lot of emphasis on preparing the teen for when s/he made the transition into the "real world." We started way before the teen was moving out and preparation was the key. I realize there are the exceptions, but as a Child and Youth Care graduate, I try my best! Sounds like an interesting project. These are only experiences that I had and ideas of others. Keep in touch and let me know how you made out. If I can be of any help, I will gladly do so. I love working with youth.

Bye,
Dean
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Hi Melanie,

I guess there are many different programs out there and they deal with the situation differently. Not everyone expects youth to leave care at the age of 18 though. We work with our youth in a process to prepare them for reintegration when they are ready, when it is in their best interest. This could mean vary different things for individual youth. Some will leave at age 18, because they are ready, and we will help them seek employment to become financially independent. Some carry on with their studies, because they have the potential to do so, and we support them in this every step of the way, once again until they are able to leave our care and be independent. Reintegration is a process that starts at admission. Each youth has a individual development plan, and it is in working with the youth with his plan that decisions are made about this future.

Werner van der Westhuizen
SOS Children Villages, Port Elizabeth
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This may or not be relevant to your question. Here in Manitoba, I am finding that they put these kids out on their own very close, as in 3 to 5 months on their own. They still get supports up until 18, but is that really enough time? I think not. If I had the money to start a program, these kids would be out by 17 and get a full year of support.

Mister Home Chef
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Hi Melanie,

The journal New Directions for Youth Development' No. 113 entitled 'Transition or Eviction' published by Jossey Bass Spring 2007 contains 8 chapters on the transition from care. I believe it would be useful reading.

cheers
Jeremy

The Robert Gordon University
Scotland.
...

Hi, Melanie.

Here are a few more sites with related info that might be of use:

Keeping in mind that in CYC, the perspectives and experiences of youth are of prime importance:

Federation of BC Youth in Care Networks
http://www.fbcyicn.ca/

National Youth in Care Network
http://www.youthincare.ca/index.html

- and more info to add on Youth Agreements in BC:

BC Youth Agreements (YAGS)
http://www.mcf.gov.bc.ca/youth/agreements.htm

As I understand, YAGS in BC are for youth where someone other than the state are their legal guardian (in other words youth are not in the "care" of the state, in the traditional sense of that phrase).

Conversely, when the state (BC MCFD) IS the legal guardian of a Youth in BC, MCFD also has "Independent Living" (IL) programs that are similar (yet also different) in many ways to YAGS that are available to Youth.

Oh, something else comes to mind that may be worth sharing as a tip... It's really helped me out in many ways to learn and to keep in mind the legal definitions of, and distinctions between CARE, CUSTODY and GUARDIANSHIP, because what each refers to in legislation (BC CFCS Act) in part determines what MCFD services can be made available to Youth.

Cheers,
Davey
Vancouver
ps Thanks to Tracey for providing links to those excellent reports.
...

Hi there.

I would just like to add a comment to youth leaving care. I am a transitional worker and have assisted youth to leave their foster homes and live on their own. I assist with housing, shopping, advocating with regards to school and CAS as well as with landlords and other service providers. I help to teach the youth financial techniques, apply for college and many other things.

Some youth are all for this assistance while others see it as another wall between themselve and freedom. I do believe that this is a very important part of youth leaving care for they may have a few ideas, even skills on how to write a cheque and pay bills - but do they know what their lease means?

Once again it comes down to money. Most agencies in my experience will not pay for these services and feel that a worker checking in with a youth once a month will be just fine. I feel that it is unsupportive for that youth and that there is no one to "bail them out" or have a back-up plan when a youth is evicted, forgets to pay a phone bill or racks up a major credit card debt.

This is a HUGE gap in the services for our crown wards especially for the ones who will not be going to college/university. These are the youth that need to learn the most specific life skills on budgeting, shopping, debts, rent, and many other factors. Some CAS offer independent living classes for a few weeks. This gives a brief overview of skills but does not give these youth anyone to fall back on if they need it.

This is a job that is not through an agency (I contract myself out to different CAS) and is difficult to come by as some workers do not see the point. But I have to agree with Diane, the most successful moves have been with assistance. I believe this is a gap that must be continued to be advocated to fill for the youths' sake.

Tabitha Woodall BA CYC
Toronto & Durham, Ontario

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