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Foster system leaves children isolated, vulnerable: report

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on Sat, 05/19/2012 - 14:15

TORONTO Ontario’s child welfare system needs fundamental change to address the isolation, vulnerability and abandonment experienced by too many children in foster care and group homes, says a groundbreaking report written by youth about their plight.

The report, entitled My REAL Life Book, reflects six main themes of youth who addressed the hearings, including feelings of vulnerability, isolation and being “left out” of decision-making about their lives. The unpredictability of foster care and group home arrangements, the struggle when care ends, and the lack of one meaningful adult relationship to carry them into adulthood are also highlighted.

The report, based on unprecedented legislative hearings last fall by youth from the child welfare system, calls on the province and others to work with them to produce an action plan by November.

The goal is to make Ontario a better parent to roughly 8,300 children and youth in its care and make their transition to adulthood more secure.

The report being released Monday at Queen’s Park, says the government should act immediately to raise the age of financial and emotional support from 21 to 25; allow youth to stay in foster care beyond age 18; and declare a “Youth in Care Day” to raise awareness and reduce stigma.

The province should also develop ongoing health and education plans for every child and youth in care; collect and publish information on their experiences during and after they leave care; and create an online clearing house of information and resources for them, the report says.

“Every child and youth deserves to feel and know that we are loved and cared for,” says the report, based on almost 200 submissions from young people during two days of hearings last November. “We are vulnerable youth and need more than a system of policies for this to happen.”

The trauma of their young lives, coupled with frequent moves in foster care leave too many ill-equipped for adulthood.

Just 44 per cent complete high school. As adults they are more likely to experience poverty and homelessness, suffer mental health problems and become involved with the criminal justice system.

Torstar News