As a long-time foster parent, Heather Bayes has a good grasp of what foster children need to flourish when the child welfare system casts them out into the world at age 19.
Although it is important to have financial security, even more vital is a sense of permanency for the future.
“‘Permanency’ means you know where you’re going to go for Christmas dinner,” said Bayes. “You want children to feel safe, secure and in a permanent placement. … We all need somebody in our corner.”
Every year, about 700 kids in the care of the Ministry of Children and Family Development “age out” when they hit their 19th birthdays. If they are still living in a foster home, it usually means they have to move — government payments to the foster parents stop and there is often pressure to fill the bed with a younger child.
Bayes worries constantly about foster kids who have moved out of her north Okanagan home over the past 15 years. Some have been homeless after turning 19. One young man is now in jail.