More than 8,000 children are in foster care in British Columbia. At age 19, youth in foster care lose their social worker, their foster care funding, and often their home.
Building Bridges Beyond 19, a community forum at the University of the Fraser Valley, will bring together front-line workers, former youth-in-care, foster parents, and other relevant community advocates and contributors to discuss issues related to the transitioning of youth out of the foster care system. The forum is presented in partnership with Abbotsford Community Services takes place on Tuesday, March 24, in the Abbotsford campus lecture theatre (Room B101) from 6 to 8 pm. Admission is free and the public is welcome, but please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org as space is limited.
The forum is being organized by a group of fourth-year students from the Child and Youth Care (CYC) degree program as the major project in CYC 402, their community and interdisciplinary practice course.
“We look to the community to find projects related to advocacy and promotion of issues related to child and youth care,” notes associate professor Cindy Rammage, who teaches the course. “When Abbotsford Community Services suggested this issue, it was a perfect fit. We really look for opportunities to engage in experiential learning. We want our students to be very hands on, and to present information and insight that really benefits our community.”
CYC student Cynthia Brodowski, who is also a foster parent, is one of the students organizing the forum. She says she and other organizers are excited that they were able to find three young adults who have aged out of the foster care system to be part of the panel.
“They will be able to add perspective from having lived through the experience. It’s great to have the professional perspective of social workers and front-line workers, but the voices of the actual youth will make it that much more relevant.”
Brodowski says that working on an applied project like this forum allows everyone in the group to bring their unique strengths to the forefront.
“Some of us have planned events before and some have experience in social media and we’re learning from each other. I’d never tweeted before this and I’m finding out all about how to reach out successfully via Twitter.”
Other groups in the CYC 402 class have taken on interesting projects that highlight issues social issues affecting children and youth. One held a “sleep out” on the Abbotsford campus to raise awareness about issues faced by homeless youth and money for Covenant House in Vancouver. Another is holding a Bowling for Youth fundraiser to help youth in Uganda finance their secondary education.
“As CYC students we are passionate about the issue of homelessness and raising awareness around the stigma’s and barriers that impact homeless youth today. We wanted to increase people’s recognition that this is not just an issue that occurs on the downtown eastside, this is an issue that impacts every community, including those in the Fraser Valley,” said Susan Hunt, one of the student organizers.
Her CYC team of five gathered a group of 14 participants (including some faculty members) to “sleep out for one night so that a homeless youth can sleep in.”
“Our CYC Sleep Out event was not only focused on raising awareness about the issues of youth homelessness, but also on raising money for the youth who access the residential crisis shelter. Each $200 raised by participants directly correlates to the cost of keeping a young person off the street for one night. This $200 covers the cost of shelter, food, and access to a variety of counseling and health services for one night,” said Hunt.
The aim was to create an authentic experience so participants were not be allowed to bring dry clothes to change into, tents or anything to cover themselves with. They were only provided with a cardboard box and were permitted to bring a sleeping bag or blanket.
The sleep out raised $3600 for Covenant House. The students are working with Covenant House to create a presentation that will engage high school students and other youth in facilitating similar Sleep Out events of their own.