Homeless Youth Shelter Supports Extended Benefits for Foster Youth Recommended in New Ontario Report
ON, May 14, 2012 – More support for young people in foster care, particularly extending the age of eligibility from 21 to 25, is critical to reducing the alarming number of these youth who find themselves on the street, says Carol Howes, Covenant House Toronto program director.
“We believe the province has an important opportunity to improve the chances of success for many young people in foster care and prevent their risk of homelessness,” Howes says. She estimates that of the some 4,000 youth who use the agency’s services annually, as many as 40 percent have been involved with the child welfare system. In addition, a recent survey of Covenant House youth showed one in four had been in foster care.
Howes was among the stakeholders who attended the release of the Youth Leaving Care Report by the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth today at Queen’s Park. The report was presented to Children and Youth Services Minister Eric Hoskins for the government’s consideration.
“We applaud the work of the Provincial Advocate and in particular, the young people who shared their experience to produce this comprehensive report. We hope the government will act on these recommendations, and we want to offer our 30 years of experience as part of the solution,” Howes says.
“Covenant House Toronto has extensive experience in providing wide-ranging services to offer young people the supports they need to succeed, including many who have had experience in the child welfare system. We believe we could work with the government and the children’s aid societies to offer options that provide value for the dollars spent.”
Many young people who have left or ‘aged out’ of foster care arrive at Covenant House without the life skills, education or job experience to live independently.
Howes says Covenant House could be among the government’s partners in delivering services to youth who accept extended benefits by providing stable housing, life skills training, counselling, vocational assistance, and job training.
For more than a decade, the Ontario-based charity has offered a year-long transitional housing and life skills program for youth from 18 up to 25 at its McGill Street location.
Covenant House would welcome an opportunity to discuss expanding this housing program either on-site or in the community, to better assist youth receiving extended support, Howes says.
She also notes that the agency has experience providing counselling services in the community to young people who need one-on-one attention, including those who have been in foster care. This program would also be expanded to serve more young people in the child welfare system to help them move successfully to adulthood.
Covenant House Toronto is the country’s largest shelter for homeless youth with the widest range of services under one roof. During the past 30 years, the agency has grown to be a national leader in the care of homeless youth and has served more than 82,000 young people. To do this, Covenant House relies on donors for 85 percent of its almost $19-million operating budget.
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