Across the country, an estimated 63,000 children and youth are in foster or group home placements, with approximately 235,000 more children at risk of abuse and neglect. Exposure to childhood trauma is almost universal for the children and youth who have experienced the child welfare system, which, among many other factors, leads to extreme barriers to success for many young people.
Those who have experienced the child welfare system and are preparing to or have already aged out of care and into independent lives face extreme obstacles and lack of opportunities needed to build successful futures for themselves. These challenges include lack of access to education and employment training, poverty and even homelessness.
In terms of educational achievements, only 46% of kids in care in Ontario graduate from high school, compared with 83% of their peers. With gaps in education due to lack of access to resources and supports, many young people struggle when entering a long-term career to obtain an income level that allows for their needs to be met. In their lifetime, youth from care will earn approximately $326,000 less in their careers than the average Canadian.
Wendy Chan and Elizabeth Mueller will be presenting a session on “Youth Works: Employment Outcomes for Youth from Care” at CERIC’s upcoming virtual Cannexus22 conference, taking place Jan. 24-26, 2022. Learn more and register at cannexus.ceric.ca.
Youth Works Program
Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada partners with agencies across the country to provide pre-employment supports to youth in and from care through our Youth Works Program, supported by RBC Future Launch and funded in part by the Government of Canada under the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy Program. Currently, the program is offered in six locations across Canada, in partnership with: Connections Community Services, Trellis Society, Child and Family Services of Western Manitoba, Pape Adolescent Resource Centre, Children’s Aid Foundation of Ottawa and Partners for Youth.
Youth Works Programming comprises four integrated components:
- Employability skills: Employment counsellors work with youth participants to prepare them for their employment path (preparing resumes, completing job applications, etc.)
- Internships and job placements: Youth who are job-ready receive support with job searching and are referred to employers for meaningful work experience
- Employment training supports: Youth are supported to access credentials or training they need to accept entry-level jobs (e.g. first aid and CPR, food handler’s certification or a driver’s licence)
- Wraparound supports: Agency partners provide flexible support that helps youth make initial connections to employment supports and subsequently maintain progress toward their goals
Youth Works aims to increase employment success for youth by offering access to opportunities that will help youth who have experienced child welfare break down the unique barriers they face to obtaining stable, successful employment. Four key structures of the program that have shown to increase success for youth include:
- Flexible and youth-centred approach: Youth Employment Mentors tailor their approach to individual youth based on their unique needs and goals, including taking the time to build trust, meeting at times and locations that work for youth, and connecting them to supports that will help them address other barriers.
- Wide variety of services for youth to pick from: Youth can participate in ways that are best suited to them, including case management, individual sessions, group programming and employment workshops, depending on their preferences and needs.
- Unique and tailored goal setting: Youth Employment Mentors ensure that the youth’s employment goals are unique and tailored to fit their personal needs and support them in reaching their goal, instead of having one common goal for all youth.
- No time limit: Youth can access the program for however long they need in order to be successful in their career. This provides youth with the opportunity to access support through the different stages of their employment journey.
Evaluation and results
To help demonstrate the broader impact and value of this program, the Foundation, in consultation with program delivery partners, developed customized program evaluation tools based on the four key structures of the program.
Since 2017, the majority of youth reported leaving the Youth Works program having:
- Achieved what they wanted to achieve through the program
- More knowledge about resources and supports available
- More preparation for entering the workforce
- More motivation to achieve their career or educational goals
- More optimism about the future
From these findings and through interactions with youth who participate in the program, the greatest takeaway regarding supporting youth transitioning from care in their employment journey is to have unique, youth-centred programming that allows youth to tailor their experience to suit their individual needs and goals.
“It is important for young people to have access to programs like this because it will help them know what really goes on in the ‘real world.’ As young people grow up in foster care, they don’t always get much information when it comes to independent living, programs like this can help young adults go into the real world and be able to ask and get all the information they need.” – Youth Works Participant, student, and former youth in care
For more information about the Youth Works program, read the latest Youth Works Program Report.