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Emergency funding helps former foster children stay in school during COVID-19

When Emilianna’s roommate moved out during COVID-19, she was left to cover the full cost of her rent. The comedy club she worked at also closed at the same time. As a former youth in government care who is now studying Social Work at Douglas College, Emilianna doesn’t have the safety net of her parents that so many young people pursuing post-secondary education rely upon when unexpected expenses arise.  

Youth Futures Education Fund is supporting youth formerly in government care, like Emilianna, with a $50,000 emergency fund to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and ultimately keep youth in school.  

“Programs like this are really important not just to me, but to so many people who don’t have any other option. They just understand that, as a youth from care, we probably need a little extra money during a global pandemic. Without that I would have had nothing,” says Emilianna.  

The emergency fund addresses the negative impact of interruptions to school programs or difficulty finding summer jobs because of the pandemic. Youth in care ‘age out’ of the system at age 19 losing all support from their foster parents, social workers, government programs, along with any financial assistance. Other young people may have a family to fall back on, but former youth in care often have no one, making pursuing post-secondary education and future careers challenging. 

“Without parents, students who have formerly been in foster care often have little support to build successful lives. This funding helps take the stress and uncertainty out of their current situation and offset income loss so they can finish their schooling. Education can make a huge difference to their futures,” said Kim Winchell, Senior Director of Strategy and Operations at United Way of the Lower Mainland.  

“No other options” 

Youth Futures Education Fund offers low-barrier support to help youth pay for living expenses while pursuing post-secondary education, such as help with books, groceries, rent, living supplies and transportation. During COVID-19, the additional emergency help can be critical, especially for youth who don’t know where to turn.  

“Knowing that there’s one service that will be there to help you without you having to jump through a bunch of hoops and where they’re like, ‘hey, we know you’re struggling here, let us help you, no strings attached,’ is fantastic. Especially when you lose a second source of income,” says Emilianna.  

“Youth Futures doesn’t have a long list of things they require, it’s just a signature. You don’t have to call up crying and provide 17 financial statements promising that you’re in dire need. They do all the background work. Without that I would really have had no other options.” 

Students are eligible if they use the Provincial Tuition Waiver Program while studying at any one of the 25 public post-secondary institutions in B.C., or at the Native Education College, or if they access a tuition waiver provided by their public post-secondary institution. 

“Funding provided through YFEF helps students with their living expenses, supporting them to pay their rent on time, purchase groceries, pay for vital mental health care treatment, cover the cost of textbooks, school supplies, child care and other expenses. In many cases, these are life-saving funds which change the trajectory of many young peoples’ lives,” says Maureen Young, Chair Youth Futures Education Fund and Director of Community Leadership, Coast Capital Savings.   

A right to go to school 

Emilianna was the first person to graduate high school in her family. She’s on the honour roll and has become an advocate for youth formerly in government care. In addition to schooling, she works part-time and has previously developed a guide to help youth who have aged out of foster care navigate being on their own. 

“I think as a young person, I have a right to go to school. And it’s really amazing that agencies see that and want to work with me and I have a voice. I’m really fortunate that I’m able to articulate my needs and do that, but a lot of my peers aren’t and so many people struggle in silence and have to suffer through working a full-time job and dealing with mental health issues and they aren’t eligible for bursaries and scholarships,” says Emilianna. 

“This money has been really, immensely helpful.” 

Read more about how the B.C. Government is supporting young adults through the Agreements with Young Adults (AYA) Program during COVID-19. 

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