The Peterborough Examiner – November 23, 2004 (Excerpt)
Nathaniel Christopher, a fourth-year Canadian Studies student at Trent, had a unique question for the premier. The 23-year-old grew up in foster homes, making the Government of Ontario [British Columbia] his legal guardian. “People from care should be afforded post-secondary education based on the fact that the government was their legal guardian,” Christopher said. “If your parents are the government, the government should take responsibility.”
Christopher asked Rae to recommend that students from the foster care system be assisted with the cost of post-secondary education until the age of 24. Rae told Christopher he will respond to that question in his fainal report to Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal Government. “I’ll be watching out for that,” Christopher said. “I’d like to see him follow through with that.”
Here’s a more in-depth description of what I said.
When most kids reach the age of majority would it be accurate to say that on their eighteenth birthday the average Ontarian kid gets kicked out of his house for good, and cut off from all emotional and financial support? Of course not, but unfortunately this is the case for the 100 000+ youth in care in Canada.
For most youth in care childhood is a traumatic time marked by abuse, instability, and poverty. The effects of these conditions do not go away simply because we have a birthday. Our medical, educational, and psychological needs are far more acute than most other youth. Unfortunately the programs and services that we need in order to become self-sufficient after the age of majority are either woefully inadequate or in most cases, unavailable. In addition to these challenges we must also deal with the cruel unfounded stereotypes of the youth from care that are often perpetuated by the leaders that are supposed to protect us. When youth in care reach the age of majority they are expected to be completely self-sufficient, free from the pockets of government. However, this is a highly unrealistic expectation that forces many youth from care into the perpetual cycle of poverty.
As a former youth from care in post-secondary I can speak to this issue with authority gained from first-hand experience. I believe that the best solution to the eradication of poverty is education: Not about poverty by some middle class people but the education and eventual ascension of people from the “lower classes,” particularly the youth from care who are a product of the institutions and government systems that they have no control over or place in.
If a youth from care wishes to go to university in Ontario they must compete for money and admission in the same way any other person does. However, youth from care are at a huge disadvantage in that they do not (for the most part) have a stable family to stay with, receive emotional support from, or requisite funds to earn much of a living. As wards of the crown (in British Columbia we are known as wards of the court), the provincial government is our legal parent. So why then, does this said government expect other parents to supplement their child’s education but not pay for their own? I think that the government ought to fund the university education for youth in and from care until they reach the age of twenty-four. Such funding should cover tuition, books, and living expenses. This would allow a youth from care to focus on their educational and health needs and eventually break the cycle of poverty. in addition to making universities more universal institutions, it would also put youth from care on the path of success that has thus far been systematically denied to them.