Metro Vancouver pilot project gets boost to help youth transition out of care

Published in 24 Hours Vancouver | February 5, 2014 | Circulation: 280,000+

A new 18-month pilot project aims to help older youth in foster care transition out of the system.

The Ministry of Children and Family Development is offering $250,000 to the YWCA Metro Vancouver’s Strive program, which includes mentorship programs, workshops, job and life skills, and even small debt relief to help youth get a fresh start.

Langley resident Thomas Murtland spent his childhood in foster care, “bouncing between homes” since he was six. The 23-year-old thanks programs like this for enabling his university education, and his work as an admissions counsellor at Trinity Western University.

“When I was in care, I knew in Grade 9 that the chances of me going to university were very, very slim,” he said. “I knew no one else who did — that became a barrier.”

Programs like Strive, he said, “made education a real possibility” for him.

“It’s a good start,” Murtland added. “I don’t think it will be a complete fix, but it’s a really good program that will help a target area.”

Jane Thornthwaite, chair of the province’s Select Standing Committee on Children and Youth, said the ministry has known “for a while” that youth in care are an at-risk population, and although it spends $5 million on another transition program, this one caught its attention.

“(YWCA) has lots of experience with that age group,” said Thornthwaite, MLA for North Vancouver-Seymour. “It’s a financial investment, but whatever we can do to help these kids transition out of care, the better.

“Obviously these kids have started off their lives at-risk, but we’re trying very much to make their growing up as normal as possible, and hopefully they’ll be able to gain confidence to get into the workforce themselves.”

Strive will work with 10 youth at a time, offering “hands-on” guidance aimed at helping them live independently.

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