Former foster kid benefits from educational supports, wants to help Aboriginal youth
Meet Raven, who at 19 years of age ‘aged out’ of ministry care, having been in more than 20 foster homes since the age of four.
“It’s a difficult process to age out, to go from being supported with food and shelter and then go to having nothing. It’s really scary, so the extra support can only help.”
Raven didn’t let her past guide her future. With help from the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) she completed high school and studied at the University of British Columbia. She now works as a program analyst with MCFD with a goal to improve conditions for Aboriginal youth in government care.
“I’ve heard lots of negative things about growing up in care,” she says. “But that’s not my reality. My goal is to make Aboriginal youth feel empowered to make changes.” She’s hoping others can benefit from the same programs that have helped her.
Raven is grateful for support from the Agreements with Young Adults (AYA) program and Youth Education and Assistance Fund (YEAF) for youth who have aged out of care. AYA covers costs like living expenses, child care, tuition and health care while a young person is in school or a rehabilitation program. YEAF supports post-secondary education and training for former youth in care through bursaries.
“AYA and YEAF helped me by covering the cost of my education. It allowed me to complete an adult diploma and two years of university. AYA helps us feel ‘normal’ and gives us a sense of hope for the future.”
Recent improvements to AYA are expected to double the number of young people who are eligible for the program. The changes boost AYA eligibility to 26 years old from 24 while increasing the length of time a young person can receive benefits, from two years to four.
Raven welcomes the changes. “I ran out of AYA time when I was only 22 years old. One of the main reasons I did not complete my degree program was that I had to start using student loans, which added up quickly. Having 48 months of AYA support would have encouraged me to complete my degree.”
Raven is also a member of the Youth Advisory Council, which provides advice to the ministry about programs to support youth in care. The council is made up of youth and young adults who are or were previously in government care. It has helped launch important supports like AgedOut.com, a website built to teach young people about the supports and services that are available to ease their transition to adulthood.
As a Youth Advisory Council member, Raven has drawn from her experiences in foster care to help others in the same situation. “I had the opportunity to give input on my experiences to a panel on Aboriginal custom adoption by the Province’s special advisor Grand Chief Ed John.”
After facing a challenging start as a child in foster care, Raven is now lending her voice and taking action to improve the experiences for Aboriginal youth in government care.