Over half of British Columbia's children in care applied for income assistance within six months of turning 19 and aging out of the government's protection - something the opposition's children and family development critic describes as a "failure" on the part of the province. That revelation was included a batch of statistics that were quietly posted on the ministry of children and family development's Website late last month.
According to those statistics, that application rate has mostly increased over the past few years - from 36.9 percent in fiscal 2005/06 to 42.0 percent in 2008/09. But it shot up 11.5 percentage points to 53.5 percent in 2009/10.
In response, the critic - New Democrat Esquimalt-Royal Roads MLA Maurine Karagianis - said that jump "points to a failure on the part of government to care for the long-term future of foster children."
"There should be very specific efforts made to ensure they are getting the adequate education that they need and that they're getting some additional supports around life skills, work readiness and all that," she continued.
Adrienne Montani - the provincial coordinator for First Call, a coalition of groups concerned about children and youth issues - agreed, calling the increase "troubling."
Ms. Montani said the rise in the number of former foster children applying for income assistance could partially explained by the global economic downturn.
But she said the government should have made sure extra support was available for those children given British Columbia's tough economic times.
So what does the government have to say about all of that?
Well, in an email, a spokesperson for the ministry of children and family development stated, "The percentage of children who transition out of MCFD care and apply for income assistance is always a concern" - adding the 11.5 point increase represents an extra 89 children who went from the government's protection onto income assistance.
"However," the spokesperson continued, "the fact that almost half those youth are not moving onto IA is also a positive step, given the fact that many children and youth come into care because they have complex needs and that doesn't change simply because they turn 19 years old."
The spokesperson also stated the government has several services in place to assist children in care moving into adulthood.