Aboriginal leaders from across B.C. have penned an open letter to Premier Christy Clark, demanding the province extend the age of children eligible for foster care from 19 to 24.
The leaders write about Paige, the aboriginal teen who died of a drug overdose on the Downtown Eastside after aging out of foster care at 19.
“We need the proper investment from the provincial government. They need to shift some of the money away from (liquefied natural gas) into social programs, social supports, to look after their people in the province of British Columbia,” says Grand Chief Stewart Phillip.
The letter also calls for transition plans with high-risk youth aged 16 and older
The Ministry of Children and Family Development has also been under fire for cases such as that of Alex Gervais, an 18-year-old aboriginal boy who died after plunging from an Abbotsford hotel where he was staying in government care, and Carly Fraser, who killed herself less than a day after her 19th birthday.
B.C.’s children advocate, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, has also said there aren’t enough supports available to kids for them to make it on their own when they turn nineteen and age out of the system.
Other provinces do the same
Simi Sara spoke with Cheryl Casimer from the First Nations Summit about the idea. Casimet says it’s already happening in other provinces, but if it was to happen here, there would need to be some changes made to the system first.
“So we’re not talking about keeping children in a broken system, but we know that they need to continue to have services so that there’s a transition, a planning for them to move towards…independent living.”
Casimer says many children in care are missing the guidance and love that helps them to transition into young adults who are ready to go out into the world. She says that life-skills development programs geared towards 16-year-olds in care would go a long way to ensuring success for the child when they come of age at 19-years-old.