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WTF Wednesday: Foster care youth earn less than the “average”

Kelsey Braithwaite

If you are leaving the foster care system to face the world of employment, be prepared to earn less than your fellow “average Canadian.” A recent report from the Conference Board of Canada (CBoC) said former foster care youth will earn about $326,000 less in their lifetime compared to youth not in the system. Your WTF face goes here.

CBoC reports this wage gap will cost our economy approximately $7.5 billion over a 10 year span. It also forces some youth to remain dependent on welfare which will cost all levels of government about $126,000 per former foster youth.

This is Canada’s first comprehensive look at the lack of social and economic opportunities available to those leaving a children’s welfare system. Despite Canadians requesting a deeper analysis of the issue and better support of it for years.

In early March, York U professor Stephen Gaetz wrote a report titled “Coming of Age: Reimagining the Response to Youth Homelessness in Canada.” His research specializes around national homelessness solutions.

“Difficult transitions from care often result in a range of negative outcomes,” he wrote, “such as homelessness, unemployment, lack of educational engagement and achievement, involvement in corrections, lack of skills and potentially, a life of poverty.”

He explained these transitions occur because many youth “age out” of foster care without a safety net.

The Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies released a survey in 2010 stating that 44 percent of foster children leaving the system at age 18 graduated from high school. Compare that to the 81 percent of the “average Canadian”. Those numbers tend to swap in mental health scenarios with foster youth needing more support than their peers.

This is something many other Canadians noticed a while ago. And something many Canadians have been living. Finally, we have the data behind it.

Louis Thériault, CBoC’s executive director of economic initiatives, believes our nation needs a substantial strategy for youth in foster care organized by the federal government and supported with data collected at all government levels.

The conversation has begun. Let’s make sure we act on it.

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