A BC Coroners Service review of the deaths of 200 youth aging out of government care has made three recommendations.
The “death review panel,” which consisted of experts from medical, youth services, and police agencies, along with academia and government, looked at deaths between 2011 and 2016.
LISTEN: ‘Death review panel’ calls for closer consultation with kids aging out of care
The report recommends expanding agreements with young adults to address their own self-identified transition needs; improving collaboration to support planning; and the provision of services and monitoring the effectiveness of support services for youth transitioning out of care.
“We really don’t have a good sense of life outcomes for the young people, whether they are leaving youth agreements or whether they actually have been in care,” report author Michael Eglison said.
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Eglison said the effectiveness of the system relies on actually listening to and learning from young people who are using government services.
“Actually involving them, consulting with them around programs, services, policies that are actually going to be effective from their perspective,” he said.
The report also highlighted several areas of concern.
It found a disproportionate number of Indigenous youth (34 per cent) among the dead, along with high rates of suicide (24 per cent) and drug overdose (40 per cent) deaths.
Health and mental health issues were also prevalent among those who had died, along with a lower level of education.
The report also found a lack of documented transition plans for kids aging out of care.
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Minister of Children and Family Development Katrine Conroy called the report “truly heartbreaking,” and said the province will accept all of its recommendations.
“Some of that work will require further consultation with young people themselves. Some of it may require changes to legislation,” she said in a statement.
Conroy said her government is making a priority of improving the transition of kids from care, pointing to the new Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions and the NDP’s post secondary tuition waver program for kids aging out of the system.
“We’ve made strides with transition planning, as well. Right now, 84 per cent of 18-year-olds in care have an up-to-date Plan of Care, which includes considerations for cultural connection, as well as preparations for adulthood and independence – and we will continue to take steps to improve,” she said.
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Along with the recommendations, the report identified four areas where the province and service providers can work to reduce deaths of vulnerable youth.
Those include expanding services based on a young person’s needs, boosting communication between service providers, involving youth in developing both policy and planning services, and keeping a close eye on outcomes.
The report comes in the wake of public outcry following the high-profile deaths of several youth aging out of government care.
Those include Paige, whose death in 2013 shortly after aging out of care was the subject of a scathing report by B.C.’s Children’s Advocate, and the suicide of 18-year-old Alex Gervais, who jumped out of a fourth-floor hotel window while in government care in 2015.