Kamloops youth advocate Katherine McParland spoke to a Nelson audience last month about her youth in foster care and her current work to help homeless youth. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

LETTERS: Two responses to our article about foster care and youth homelessness

From readers Jennifer Cowan and Minister of Children and Family Development Katrine Conroy

Re: “Foster care is ‘superhighway’ to homelessness”

Katherine McParland’s courage, resiliency and advocacy on behalf of other youth should be commended. Her account of her time in foster care and its impact on her young adulthood is heartbreaking, and shines a light on the work we must do to improve the system and make life better for children and youth in our care.

My ministry’s goal is to reunite children with their families when it’s safe to do so or provide stable, caring foster placements. Every young person in our care deserves that kind of long term support and we’ve launched a new recruitment campaign to target and attract skilled foster caregivers who can provide that.

At 19, transitioning to adulthood from being in care can be incredibly challenging. Most parents don’t cut ties with their children then and neither should government. It’s why we’ve expanded our programs, and why we’re keeping the door open longer to help young adults access the right supports when they’re ready.

One of the first steps we took when we formed government was to waive tuition fees for kids aging out of care. We also expanded the Agreements with Young Adults program to provide more financial support for rent, child care and health care. This program is helping thousands of young British Columbians. Regardless of the road a young person takes when they leave care, our government wants to be there to support them.

Government is working with non-profits and advocacy groups to build new housing specifically for people under the age of 24, to help address the issue of youth homelessness.

More still needs to be done.

I want the same thing all parents want for their children — for children in our care to thrive.

Katrine Conroy

B.C. Minister of Children and Family Development

Re: “Foster care is ‘superhighway’ to homelessness”

After reading Bill Metcalfe’s thoughtful story, “Foster care is ‘superhighway’ to homelessness,’ youth advocate tells Nelson audience,” in the Oct. 25 issue of the Nelson Star, I felt compelled to write to the concerned citizens of Nelson about the homelessness issue.

During the recent election campaigning, I heard a lot of people say we need to “clean up the streets,” “take back our city,” “make Nelson great again,”etc. Seven of you got elected and I have great faith that you will follow through with your intentions, and promises that got you elected. But what about the rest of you? Did you mean what you said when you were campaigning? And what about CORE? You banded together because you thought it would make a difference as a group. You stated you are no longer willing to just sit back and complain. Are you still committed as a group to get Nelson back to the “vibrant city it once was?”

And to those who didn’t get re-elected or chose not to run again. Will you continue to be involved in the issues and initiatives that help this community? I think some of you will. One of the reasons I became a Rotarian nearly 20 years ago was because I knew that my resources alone wouldn’t make much of a difference. Collectively, as a group of local, national and international like-minded individuals, we can make a difference. In fact, we can change the world.

And to everyone who finds safety from their comfy couch and handy iPad, who tap away their concerns and criticisms of those they feel “should do something about this,” what are YOU prepared to do?

So, I’m challenging you all to stand up, take your hands off your keyboards and put them to a better use. Pick up the phone, call the politicians, business owners, family and friends and get together and do something. There are plenty of local organizations that will gladly take your help, or better yet, form a coalition of your own.

If a young woman who lived through homelessness and abandonment, who grew up in foster care and lived on the streets can make a monumental difference, imagine what we could do. Together.

Jennifer Cowan


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