More youth in care will benefit from extended supports, including life skills programs that focus on financial planning, healthy living and employability, thanks to changes to the Agreements with Young Adults (AYA) program.
Previously, AYA was available for former youth in care from their 19th birthday to their 24th. The changes boost eligibility to the age of 26 and increase the length of time a young person can receive benefits, from two years to four, helping ensure more young people from government care have the opportunity to achieve their goals and succeed in life.
The AYA program covers costs like living expenses, child care, tuition and health care, while a former youth in care is attending school or a rehabilitation program. AYA is now also being expanded to include life skills programs, which help give young adults the tools and knowledge that they need to make positive decisions that can enrich their future.
Former youth in care can apply for an AYA as early as Nov. 30, 2016, with life skills courses starting in the new year. An application process for interested service providers will be posted on the BC Bid website on Oct. 18, 2016, and the full list of approved life skills programming service providers will be available online by Nov. 30, 2016.
Enhancements to the AYA program help solidify B.C.’s place as a leader in Canada, exceeding many of the supports and services provided by other jurisdictions. No other province in the country provides this extensive degree of support – and for as long – to young adults who have been in government care.
Stephanie Cadieux, Minister of Children and Family Development –
“Like any other young person, youth from care are eager to exercise their independence, but recognize they also need the financial support and guidance to chart their own future. With these changes, they are supported as many other young people their age would be as they move towards adulthood. There are some who will say that these changes don’t go far enough; that the only way to help the young adults who are aging out is to keep them in foster care until they are 26. To be clear, these enhancements are based on what our youth have told us that they need.”
Ashley Frerichs, Youth Advisory Council and former youth in care –
“The Agreements with Young Adults program saved me. And now, with the AYA expansion, I’m able to complete my degree in child and youth care, with a child protection specialization, without having to manage a full-time job on top of a full course load. Now I can focus on getting the most out of my education and plan for my future, without additional stress.”
More than 2,000 young adults have benefited from AYA since the program was established in 2008.
On average, a young adult on an AYA receives approximately $1,000 per month, with additional support available for MSP, as well as extended health benefits including dental and optical.
Last year, the Ministry of Children and Family Development, the Adoptive Families Association of BC and the Federation of BC Youth in Care Networks launched AgedOut.com, to help youth in care with their transition to adulthood.
Now, more than 10,000 users have accessed the site and, in June 2016, government invested an additional $200,000 to expand its reach.
Government supports the YWCA’s Strive program, which offers under-employed former youth in care between the ages of 17 and 24 hands-on guidance in life skills like financial literacy, time management, decision-making and problem solving.
The Youth Educational Assistance Fund (YEAF) supports post-secondary education and training for former youth in care through bursaries of $5,500 per educational year, up to a maximum of four times, to assist with tuition, books and fees.
The Province supported the establishment of a youth and young adult mentorship program to be delivered through Covenant House Vancouver.
Eleven B.C. post-secondary institutions now offer tuition waivers or bursaries to former youth in care. Bursary or waiver recipients may also be eligible for the Vancouver Foundation’s Youth Futures Education Fund, which helps cover expenses beyond tuition.
The Education Achievement Bursary – offered through the Federation of BC Youth in Care Networks – also can help with tuition and registration fees for youth in care.