B.C.’s youth in foster care need more help to do well in school: watchdog

Representative for Children and Youth looked at test results and graduation rates

More support, better relationships and more funding are among the recommendations in a report released Thursday by B.C. children’s watchdog that looked at youth in foster care do in school.

Bernard Richard, the representative for children and youth, looked at education outcomes for kids and teens still in care and those who have already aged out of the system, including test scores and graduation rates.

Graduation rates have gone up by 10 per cent between 2012/13 and 2014/15, but that rate still lags behind those for youth not in care.

Only half of youth in care graduated high school within six years of starting Grade 8 in the 2014/15 school year, compared to almost 90 per cent of students not in care.

Richard warned that recent improvements to the youth in care graduation rate are beginning to stagnate, based on/according to 2015/16 education ministry figures.

“If the overall graduation rate in B.C. dipped below 51 per cent… protests would break out across the province and rightly so,” said Richard. “Students in care are not naturally underperformers but because of their life circumstances many need extra supports to succeed academically.”

As for test results, fewer youth in care met or exceeded expectations on their Foundational Skills Assessments tests than did kids not in foster care, the report said, though it cautioned against stereotyping these kids as “underperformers.”

Those supports, Richard said, “are often not available.”

In response to the report, education minister Rob Fleming laid the blame at the feet of the past Liberal government.

He pointed to two recent initiatives that he said will turn the trend of poor outcomes around: the province’s recent decision to waive tuition fees for youth in care and the “largest hiring of new teachers in generations.”

Big portion of kids in foster care are indigenous: report

The report’s recommendations put a heavy focus on ensuring that Indigenous youth in care were kept with Indigenous families and that their elders and staff were present in schools.

Slightly more than two thirds of students in care were Indigenous, the report said, and statistically, Indigenous youth in care performed worse than their non-Indigenous counterparts.

Only 44 per cent of Indigenous youth in care graduated within six years of starting Grade 8, compared to 61 per cent of non-Indigenous students in care.

Currently, each Indigenous child comes with an extra $5,000 in funding that is pooled at the school district level and used to fund culturally-sensitive education initiatives.

Richard said that while initiatives like free post-secondary education for Indigenous students are great, they’re not having the effect they could be.

“If you graduate at a rate of 44 per cent, it’s wonderful to have an tuition waiver program but you can’t access it if you don’t graduate from school,” Richard said.

Fleming agreed.

“We’re not going to be able to utilize those kinds of tuition waivers and other supports into adulthood if we don’t get kids to be more successful in their school age years,” he said.

Stability is key: representative

Richard pointed to Alex Gervais as an example of why stable homes and schools are essential for success. Gervais, who committed suicide when he was 18 at an Abbotsford hotel in 2015, was moved 17 times over 11 years.

“If you’re a young person and you’re being changed from home to home and then quite possibly being moved from school to school it makes academic success for difficult,” Richard said.

A disconnect between social workers and foster parents contributes to poor outcomes and feelings of isolation at school for youth in care, Richard said.

Currently, youth in care need field trip permission slips to be signed by their social worker, not their foster parents.

“If you’re a teen and you’re already ostracized and labelled because you’re from the care system but then you can’t participate in school activities because your social worker can’t be reached… that’s a huge thing,” said Richard.

Fleming said the province was committed to making a youth’s in care school experience just like that of any other student.

“Where there are rules standing in the way that highlight that they’re different, lets get rid of those,” said Fleming.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The track washrooms will be opened up again next year in May. (Priyanka Ketkar photo/Lakes District News)
Toilets, sinks torn off, graffiti on walls at the Burns Lake track washroom

“Seems to happen once or twice a year” says the Village CAO on the vandalized track washroom

FILE - Nathan Cullen speaks to media in Smithers, B.C., Friday, February 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, Cullen apologize for Stikine candidate’s comments about Haida candidate

Nathan Cullen had made insensitive comments about Roy Jones Jr. Cheexial

The pile burning will occur to the south of François Lake. (Submitted/Lakes District News)
Pile burning and rehab work on three areas south of François Lake

Smoke might be visible for Burns Lake and neighboring areas

Participants earlier this year in March for Lakes Loppet at the ski club. (Lakes District News file photo)
How is Omineca Ski Club prepping for this ski season?

Covid restrictions, social distancing but ski season to continue

FOR WEB ONLY. (Lakes District News file photo)
Question Bill C-7, says this reader

Editor: Have you ever felt strongly convicted about something one day and… Continue reading

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry presents modelling of COVID-19 spread in B.C., March 25, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 203 new cases

up to 1,766 active cases in B.C., two more deaths

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
British Columbia man dies during ski trip near glacier west of Calgary

Kananaskis Public Safety and Alpine Helicopters responded around 2:30 p.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, following a week-long break for the House of Commons. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
One crisis after another for Trudeau since last federal election one year ago

It has been a year of unprecedented calamity and crisis

Rio Tinto Alcan’s aluminum smelter at Kitimat competes against producers in the Middle East and Russia that have no carbon tax. (Rio Tinto)
B.C. carbon tax highest in Canada, export industries unprotected

B.C. NDP, B.C. Liberals say they’re looking at exemptions

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

(Pixabay)
Vancouver teacher suspended after swearing, touching students and complimenting underwear

McCabe touched students, including rubbing their backs and necks, touching their hair and hugging them

A glimpse of some of the 480 (approx) cars written off as a result of the acid spills along the Trail highway in 2018. Photo: Trail Times
2 years after huge highway acid spill, Kootenay Ford dealer’s frustration grows with ICBC

Trail AM Ford owner Dan Ashman says he just wants fair compensation from ICBC

Mail-in ballot from Elections BC (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
At least 26% of eligible voters have already cast their ballot, Elections BC says

Voters can cast a ballot until 8 p.m PST on Election Day

Most Read