OUR VIEW: B.C.'s foster kids deserve a much brighter future

If your child was close to graduating high school and we told you that there was more than a 50 per cent chance that they would end up on the streets, in jail or getting addicting to drugs – you’d want to take action, right?

You’d be in a panic, right?

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You’d be raising the alarm with those around you that everyone needed to pull together to make sure those bad things didn’t happen to your child.

And yet, when it comes to foster children who are aging out of the government system, it’s mostly crickets from the public - even though these innocent kids face an uphill battle just to survive.

The group Fostering Change is the one sounding the alarm about foster kids.The group says that in B.C., an estimated 45 per cent of youth leaving foster care experience homelessness and 70 per cent deal with the justice system within the first year of aging out. Fifty per cent of street-involved youth with drug issues have been in foster care at some point.

You see, former foster care youth don’t have parents or family they can call when things go sideways, unlike other young adults, many of whom continue to live at home into their 20s.

Fostering Change, which is part of First Call BC, is a child and youth advocacy coalition. Its members held a recent event in Burnaby to teach youth leaving foster care about advocacy for their peers, asking for comprehensive and universal support for all kids aging out.

Fostering Change put out a report in conjunction with SFU and the Vancouver Foundation called Opportunities in Transition, which is an economic analysis of investing in youth leaving foster care.

According to the report, many foster children move around every six months and get shifted from to school to school, so they can’t graduate from high school. Only 32 per cent of youth aging out of care graduate from high school, as opposed to 84 per cent of the general population, while the university graduation rate for former foster children is one-sixth that of their peers.

The B.C. government recently implemented a program to waive tuition fees for youth who have left foster care to pay for their post-secondary education until the age of 27. While this is a good thing, Fostering Change said it’s not enough.

More needs to be done to help children who are being victimized by a system they were powerless to avoid.

For more information, visit fosteringchange.ca to see how you can be part of the solution.

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