Our exploration of the eight pillars of equitable support for youth aging out of care, as outlined in the Canadian Child Welfare League sponsored report “Equitable Standards for Transitions to Adulthood for Youth In Care”, starts at the deep end of the pool: financial support.
According to the position paper,
Every young person should have the financial resources required to meet their needs. Youth in care deserve to have a financial starting point that is above the poverty line and allows them to pursue their career interests and dreams.”Dr. Melanie M. Doucet, in collaboration with the National Council on Youth in Care Advocates.
While the report gets into fine detail of what key financial supports may be needed, the key phrase is “above the poverty line.” For youth who have experienced family breakdown and been involved in the government’s care, and who live with the unavoidable trauma and instability that comes with those circumstances, financial options are few.
According to 2015 government data, 32-45% of former youth in care access either government assistance (SA) at a rate of $11,220/year or disability assistance (PWD) of $16,302 annually. For those youth who meet the limited eligibility for a Youth Agreement (AYA), support of $22,500 may be possible until they are 26 years of age. As of 2020, fewer than 20% of former youth in care were accessing the AYA program. Sadly, every one of these forms of support falls below the regional low-income cut off (known as the LICO or poverty line).
Youth who have the support, resources (internal and external), and opportunity to pursue formal post-secondary education in approved institutions have access to additional care, but for many youth the requirements to access that support are a barrier in themselves. For most, a minimum wage job (MW) where they take home just $300 per year above the poverty line is the reality.
Housing First for Youth and Financial Supports
According to the program model guide for Housing First for Youth,
. . . supports should be made available for as long as it takes for the young person toThis is Housing First for Youth, The Homeless Hub.
develop the skills, confidence, and financial stability necessary to achieve independence
The Threshold Way
The approach that Threshold Housing takes to financial support for youth meets both the principle of Housing First for Youth and the definition of the financial pillar. While recognizing that each youth has a unique story, distinctive strengths, and individual needs, our financial supports teach youth to live above the poverty line and to achieve independence and their dreams.
Within the Foundations Program, the core life-skills training available to all Threshold youth – including those receiving pre-housing support while awaiting housing and those who access support after leaving Threshold housing – extensive individual support and group programming exists.
Regarding finances, staff first help youth assess their situations and identify avaialble supports. When a youth is ready, staff walk alongside them in navigating the complex bureaucratic systems to access government supports; often this includes securing the necessary government ID and getting a bank account so youth have a foundation to move forward financially. If the youth chooses, they can also participate in formal Financial Literacy training provided by our partners at Coast Capital Savings. This training helps youth avoid the many financial pitfalls that often trap low-income earners in poverty, including over-extension of debt and predatory loans.
One very special financial tool available to Threshold youth is the Rotary Education Pursuit Fund. Created by the Rotary Club of Oak Bay, with additional support from the Rotary Club of Victoria, this fund removes financial barriers to youths’ education. In just two years of operation, the fund purchased laptops so youth can access online classes, paid application and other fees, and even covered tuition for several youth to pursue professional and post-secondary training.
It is this last level of financial support that truly transforms lives, and it stands on the foundation of support build through each step of a youth’s involvement at Threshold Housing. Youth who have the emotional, structural and financial support to create brighter futures can create lives of independence and reaching their dreams.
That’s not hyperbole; it’s the lived experience of Threshold youth:
“I never thought I would’ve made it this far. Before, I just wanted to make it through the day. I never would’ve thought that I’d have been able to have dreams and goals like this and actually make them come true.”From Shine a Light on Youth winter newsletter