More than 50 youths could be seen chanting “thrive not survive” at the B.C. Parliament Buildings on Wednesday as they carried large cardboard cutouts of ministers through the grounds.
The crowd consisted of youths who are or were from foster care as well as their allies. They scheduled 26 different meetings with ministers, MLAs, political staffers and Premier John Horgan. The youths, who are part of an organization called Fostering Change, were at the Legislature to advocate for better supports for youths who are aging out of the foster care system.
The cut-outs were meant to form a “family portrait,” signalling to the province that the ministers and premier are a key part of the youths’ “family” as people who take responsibility for them.
“Our journeys through care are filled with trauma and adversity. And at 19, we’re trust out by the caregiver … told we no longer need their services,” said Dylan Cohen, the campaign organizer with Fostering Change. “This is not what most kids go through, let alone those struggling like us.”
A group of youths took the opportunity to speak about aging out, a term used to describe the process of turning 19 and losing supports that youths in care once had.
“Too many of us die, too many of us age out without the supports we need … without an education,” Cohen said. “This is a solvable issue … government needs to listen.”
The group also noted the province’s Budget 2020 Consultation Report highlighted that changes need to be made when it comes to supports for youth formerly in care.
“The committee highlighted this as a critical area for action, acknowledging the anxiety of turning 19 and the fact that not all youth, whether in care or not in care, are ready to be independent at that age,” the report reads.
According to Victoria’s 2018 Vital Signs report put out by the Victoria Foundation, there were 770 children and youth in care on south Vancouver Island as of March 31, 2017.
Fostering Change is working to make sure aging out can be a positive experience for youths in care.
Cohen said the group hopes Horgan will listen to them and understand the reality youths face.
“You see the cutouts of the ministers here not to represent who’s missing, but who’s our family,” Cohen said. “We need change to come from them.”