The aging of young people in foster care faces additional difficulties due to COVID-19, advocates say

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Toronto
Advocates for former foster children are concerned about the lack of funding and support for young people coming out of care — an issue they say is even more pressing because of COVID-19. Former foster children who age outside the system at 18, 19 or older often face many challenges as they attempt to address adult life. Many struggle with poor mental health, homelessness and the difficulty of finding employment.

According to Jane Kovarikova, founder of the Political Action Committee for Child Welfare Canada, “the PTSD rate is double that of veterans” among those who have been placed in foster care.

She has personal experience: Kovarikova was herself a foster child and now defends those who are getting older because she understands the challenges they face as young adults.

“We are rarely part of the conversation and [are] should thrive as adults without any life skills,” she told CTV News.

The global pandemic has only transformed this transition to adulthood that is more difficult for those who leave foster care.

“CoVID has not changed the problems for young people in care and aging,” said Richard Rothenburger, President of Youth Care for Care of Canada. “It amplified the problems.”

Chanice McAnuff, a university student, has experienced this over the past few months.

“It’s like a huge regression,” she said. “Isolation brings back terrible memories.”

After years of being mixed from one foster home to another, the third-year psychology student finally felt in control of her life—until COVID-19 struck.

She told CTV News that she had been “diving into the savings. I am trying to get emergency benefits. Count every penny.

“Insecurity,” she said.

Left to their own devices, some former foster children, such as 20-year-old Michael — who did not give a surname — choose to stay in group homes and not leave care.

“I’ve done things in place,” he said. “I had a savings account and I was already putting money into it.”

But he told CTV News that COVID-19 is making him too “nervous” to try to go it alone right now.

This sense of concern is something conner Lowes, Vice President of Youth at Care Canada, understands.

“Young people in care have always been [the] same reasons they are vulnerable now […] and will continue to be,” he said.

Lowes and Rothenburger set up town halls for the likes of Chanice and Michael to communicate with politicians and policy makers.

“Young people need to know their voice issues, that as a vulnerable population they are not hidden in the background, they are respected and their rights protected,” Rothenburger said.

The pandemic has also caused complications in the early care system. Foster care and family visits have become a struggle since health officials called on individuals to practice physical distance and avoid those outside their household.

A B.C. coroner’s report released last year found that children who were aging in foster care were five times more likely to commit suicide than their peers, a statistic advocates want to change.

Given the isolation that many feel during the pandemic, young adults who leave foster care need society’s support more than ever, they say.

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