EDITORIAL: Tragic deadline for troubled youth

Young people in care in the province are being virtually cut adrift in our society as soon as they reach the age of 19.

What are the limits of compassion in our society, and specifically B.C.? Can we put a price on it? Does it stop at a certain age?

Right now, young people in care in the province are being virtually cut adrift in our society as soon as they reach the age of 19.

While children in foster care – or in a youth agreement to receive financial help – may continue to receive some support and referrals after this deadline, government help largely dries up as soon as they ‘age out’ of the system.

It’s time enough for them to fend for themselves, our society evidently believes.

It’s a convenient solution for many of us, but it forgets that there are good reasons, often profoundly complex, why these individuals were placed in care as children.

These problems – often the result of generational cycles of poverty and physical abuse – don’t disappear the moment a child is 19.

“So what?” our society seems to say. “It’s not my problem and I shouldn’t have to pay for it.”

It is Stephanie Cadieux’s problem, however. The Minister of Children and Family Development, and Surrey-Cloverdale MLA, is well-aware of the challenges of young people aging out of the system, and says her ministry is doing everything it can to increase support for the transition.

But whenever the death of a young person formerly receiving government help is discovered, it seems to serve as a tragic reminder of how the system is failing some of our most vulnerable.

This week we learned of the demise of another teen, Patricia Lee Evoy, 19, who was discovered in a Burnaby apartment March 10, the apparent victim of a drug overdose.

She had been on a youth agreement to receive financial help, but it expired when she turned 19 in October. She was, by many accounts, a bright young woman, who had shown “remarkable resilience” in battling the disadvantages of a harsh life, according to BC Representative for Youth Mary-Ellen Turpel-Lafond.

The BC Teachers Federation is now calling for Cadieux’s resignation, after an emergency motion passed by some 700 teachers.

The teachers say they are aware of far too many young people like Evoy, and it’s time the government does more to address the ‘crisis’.

While the BCTF call may do a grave disservice to those in government working hard to deal with a complex situation on a case-by-case basis, it’s hard not to agree that more should be done.

As a society, we can espouse many things, but, ultimately, our level of compassion must be judged by our actions.

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