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BC parents support extending foster care from 19 to 21: survey

Technically they're adults. But they're helpless.

That's what most British Columbians think about the average 19-year-old's ability to live alone and support him or herself independently.

In a survey released today by the Vancouver Foundation, 1,820 adults talked frankly about how much support they give their own kids, versus what kind of support they'd extend to B.C.'s former foster kids.

It's a swish gig, being a young adult with a compassionate parent.

Unlike other generations of teens who found decent work in the province's forests, farms, and fisheries, many of today's youth depend on their parents to the age of 28.

For example, a quarter of a million of B.C.'s 19- to 28-year-olds live at home. That represents four in 10, many of whom who benefit from free groceries and rent, advice and paid tuition. Among those living away from home, 80 per cent of parents say they give their adult children money for rent or education, or other supports.

"The survey results underline how deep and important family and close relationships are to success," said Mark Gifford, the Vancouver Foundation's director of grants and community initiatives. "And how important those relationships are to people in the transfer of opportunity."

Those surveyed said they'd support extending foster care from the current cut-off at age 19, to age 21 -- as many U.S. states have done, with measurable benefits.

However, the survey also found that most respondents didn't think homelessness would be reduced by offering former foster youth housing, education funding, and mental health supports.

When the foster care system boots these youth out at 19, half go on income assistance soon after. Many land on the streets. About 40 per cent of street-involved youth have spent some time in foster care, and an unknown number of their families have been impacted by the child protection system.

Pieta Woolley reports on solutions to breaking the link between foster care and youth homelessness for the Tyee Solutions Society. This article was produced by Tyee Solutions Society in collaboration with Tides Canada Initiatives (TCI), with funding from the Vancouver Foundation. TCI and the Vancouver Foundation neither influence nor endorse the particular content of TSS' reporting. Other publications wishing to publish this story or other Tyee Solutions Society-produced articles, please see this website for contacts and information.

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