Indigenous Youth Need Better Support System in Transition to Adulthood

OTTAWA, Sept. 26, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Indigenous youth in foster or kin care in Canada need sustained, long term investments in their education and mental health while in care to achieve better economic opportunities when they reach adulthood. The new research was conducted by The Conference Board of Canada, and supported by the RBC Foundation through RBC Future Launch, and in partnership with Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada.

“Ensuring the economic prosperity of Canada and its citizens should be a key priority for all levels of government and policy makers,” stated Susan Black, President and CEO at The Conference Board of Canada. “To help children and youth reach their full potential in adulthood, public and private funders should be focused on Indigenous–led solutions that address educational attainment, infrastructure gaps, employment opportunities, and provincial policy barriers.”

Key findings of the research include:

  • Children and youth in kin care who successfully graduate from high school are more likely to pursue a post-secondary education compared to those in foster care.
  • Children and youth in kin care report better mental health than the foster care population.
  • Kin care is where an Indigenous child or youth is cared for by their family or home community.
  • Public and private groups should allocate long-term funding that helps Indigenous child and family well-being agencies offer programs to individuals beyond entering adulthood.
  • The current provincial age cut-offs impact programs and services, including financial support for caregivers. This could lead youth to experience precarious living conditions when they reach adulthood. These conditions impact their options for pursuing higher levels of education and finding employment.
  • On average, the income shortfall for a First Nations person who grew up in care on reserve will amount to more than $1.2 million over their lifetime compared to a non-Indigenous person from the general population.
  • If steps aren’t taken to improve education, employment, and mental health outcomes for Indigenous youth in care reaching adulthood in the next five years, the potential loss to Canada’s GDP would amount to at least $2.0 billion and up to $5.5 billion under two different economic modelling scenarios.

“It’s critical that Indigenous youth, in kin or foster care, are supported with the educational tools, skills and opportunities to establish strong relationships within their communities,” said Mark Beckles, Vice President, Social Impact and Innovation at RBC. “This support will help them make a stronger, smoother transition into their next adventure as they exit care. With partners like The Conference Board of Canada and the Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada, we’re working to increase the awareness of the realities for these young people and provide them with important resources for their bright future.”

Programs and policies should be implemented to improve the opportunities for kin care, according to The Conference Board of Canada. Kin care aligns with Indigenous values, connection to family, self-determination and the future state of Indigenous-led child welfare in Canada. Policy-makers should rethink provincial guidelines for program eligibility to ensure that youth get the support they need during critical life transitions.

“This report reaffirms our belief that Indigenous-led solutions lead to better outcomes for Indigenous youth in care,” says Valerie McMurtry, President & CEO, Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada (CAFC). “Through our programs, CAFC is committed to empowering young people to connect with their cultural identities, pursue good health and well-being, and achieve their academic goals forging their own paths to success. This report is a call to action to advocate for increased resources, implement meaningful policy changes and thoughtfully engage with Indigenous Elders, sector leaders, and youth.”

“The Red River Métis government is implementing wraparound supports for all youth who have been in the care of our agencies,” said Mona Buors, Minister for Métis Child & Family Services at the Manitoba Métis Federation. “Even if their parents are struggling, keeping children with family and kin is essential and the best way to ensure their well-being. Partnerships with private funders would be invaluable to creating programs to bring families together for decision making, reunification and supporting the well-being of children in care. The children, and the whole family, are part of our Nation, and we will never abandon them.”

“This research underscores the educational, employment, and mental health disparities faced by our young people in our 30 First Nations, particularly as they transition into adulthood,” said Thelma Morris, Executive Director, Tikinagan and Child and Family Services. “More importantly, it also highlights the urgent need for equitable support, whether they reside on or off-reserve, are in care or not. For too long, our communities have struggled with underfunding and limited access to essential resources, forcing them to be away from their families to travel for mental health services and education. This impacts their identity formation, graduation rates, and future indicators of success. The report’s emphasis on Indigenous-led programs and culture-based approaches aligns with Tikinagan’s commitment to keep our children with us, and within our community. We focus on keeping children and youth connected to their family and culture.”    

Media Contact

The Conference Board of Canada
E-mail: [email protected]
Tel: 613-526-3090 ext. 224

About The Conference Board of Canada

The Conference Board of Canada is the country’s leading independent research organization. Since 1954, The Conference Board of Canada has been providing research that supports evidence-based decision making to solve Canada’s toughest problems. Follow The Conference Board of Canada on Twitter @ConfBoardofCda.

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