Transitions are times of increased vulnerability when children and youth may need extra support to navigate them safely. Developmental transitions include moving into adolescence and into the expectations of adult life. Other stressful transitions include changes in family, such as when parents separate or divorce or are unable to keep their children safe. Dealing with a mental illness, being new to Canada or coming to terms with a minority sexual orientation are other examples of circumstances and transitions that require extra support. BC’s youth need a strong safety net of universal and targeted programs and services to be there for them when times get tough.
- As of February 2013 there were over 8,154 children and youth in care in BC.
- Some youth are more likely to have experience of government care than others, including New Canadians, Aboriginal youth, young people with a disability and those who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual.
- Data from the 2008 Adolescent Health Survey shows that 23% of youth who had ever been in government care were born outside of Canada, and 9% had lived in Canada for less than two years. This rate was three times higher than would be expected based on the overall percentage of youth who had emigrated in the past two years. Almost a third (31%) of youth who had recent care experience were immigrants.
- Multiple moves for children and youth in foster care remains a serious concern. When youth have a stable home, they have the opportunity to build connections with their school, community and peers. BC research shows youth with foster care experience reported better health if they had moved less than three times in the past year.
- Some BC youth who transition out of care at age 19 may be eligible for financial assistance for post-secondary school or for support through an agreement with young adults. These are good programs, but they have limited eligibility and limited budgets, so not all youth transitioning to independence from care can get the support they need.
Q: How will your party work towards addressing the over-representation of Aboriginal, new immigrant, LGBT and youth with a disability in the foster care system?
Q: What will your party do to improve permanency, such as a stable home, adoption, or sustained family or community relationships, for children and youth in care?
Q: Youth transitioning out of care often need extra support in establishing a home of their own, finding employment and pursuing further education. How will your government improve supports for youth transitioning out of care?
- The decade-long hollowing out of the public education system through budget cuts is having consequences for BC children, and is especially harmful for low income children who most rely on public resources.
- Growing numbers of special needs students can’t get the supports they need in school, school libraries are closed, and class size are growing.
- Reliance on parent-paid fees and fundraising has created have and have-not schools, and has increased inequality within the public education system. For low income students, the result is often exclusion from full participation in school activities.
- BC had the highest student/educator ratio (16.6 students per educator) in Canada in 2009–10, considerably higher than the national average (14 students).
Q: If elected, will your party commit to restoring funding levels to public schools to eliminate the need for school fees and parent fundraising for basic supplies and equipment such as playgrounds?
- The graduation rate for public and Independent schools in 2010– 11 was 81%. However for Aboriginal and special needs students, those numbers are 54% and 53%. It is estimated that only 21% of youth in foster care graduate from high school.
- Increasing levels of support and connection with caring adults in the school setting has been shown to be an important part of helping vulnerable youth graduate, but this requires commitments in time and attention to making schools more welcoming and safe places.
- Addressing issues like income and food security, adequate housing and social supports for students experiencing family problems are also crucial to helping keep youth in school.
Q: If elected, what will your party do to improve the graduation rates for all vulnerable youth?
- As a result of federal and provincial cuts to post-secondary education, average tuition fees in BC increased four-fold between 1990 and 2010, rising from $1,271 to $5,139.
- Students are facing unprecedented levels of debt to finance their education. Average student loan debt has now reached $34,000.
- Students from low-income backgrounds are less than half as likely to participate in university as those from high-income families.
- The BC student grant program, cancelled in 2004, allocated approximately $80 million in non- repayable grants to students with demonstrated financial need. The Liberal government’s proposed one-time grant of $1,200 per child for a registered education saving program could cost up to $30M, close to the amount needed to eliminate the interest charged on student loans—a policy widely supported in the post-secondary education sector.
Q: If elected, will your party remove the financial barriers for low-income students and lower student debt levels through tuition fee reductions, student grants instead of loans, and interest free student loans?
- Growing public concerns and evidence arising from the advocacy work and investigations of the province’s Representative for Children and Youth have prompted this office to conduct a review of child and youth mental health services.
- Hospitals are sending away families and children who are having crisis mental health episodes. Public schools are unable to provide the necessary supports to students with mental health problems which are affecting their learning and social interactions.
- Suicide is the second leading cause of death for BC youth aged 12-18 and Aboriginal youth are 5-6 times more likely to commit suicide than non-Aboriginal youth. Sexual minorities (gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, queer youth) are 7 times more likely to attempt or commit suicide than straight youth.
- There are severe shortages of addiction treatment facilities for young people, and, unlike other health services, addiction treatment is largely a user-pay system. There is only one publicly- funded long-term residential treatment facility for teens in BC.
Q: Will you commit to increasing the availability of and funding for mental health and addiction services for children and youth both in school and in the community?
Sign the petition calling on the province to provide emergency mental health services for children:
- McCreary Centre Society: www.mcs.bc.ca
- Federation of BC Youth in Care Networks: www.fbcyicn.ca and www.fbcyicn.ca/programs/transitions/
- First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada: www.fncfcs.com
- BC Teachers’ Federation: www.bctf.ca and www.bctf.ca/uploadedFiles/Public/Publications/2012EdFacts.pdf
- Representative for Children and Youth BC: www.rcybc.ca/Content/Publications/Reports.asp
- Canadian Federation of Students BC: Rock the Vote www.rockthevotebc.com/
- Inclusion BC: http://bcacl.org/our-priority-areas/supports-to-children-and-families