Fostering education: Supports for youth from care

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Author: 
Lucie Honey-Ray
Source: 
Focus on Adoption magazine

The government is expanding its services and supports for young adults who spent time in foster care. In this article, you’ll learn about the BC government’s expanded tuition waivers program, as well as Agreements with Young Adults (AYA), and a number of other sources of funding and support.

Accessible education

Post-secondary education can be the factor that makes the difference between a "meh" life and a thriving life. For young people with involvement in the child welfare system, however, barriers such as the cost of post-secondary tuition or a lack of family support can be much harder to overcome.

For youth transitioning out of government care, some of these barriers are being addressed by government programs such as  Agreements with Young Adults (AYA), tuition waivers, and access to laptops and mobile phones. In addition, non-profit organizations offer a number of scholarships, bursaries, and grants specifically for youth with foster care experiences.

Tuition waivers

At the end of August, the Ministries of Advanced Education, Skills, and Training and Children and Family Development made a big announcement. Tuition waivers for all 25 post-secondary institutions in BC (see AgedOut.com for a complete list) will now be available for youth from foster care. Last year, only 11 institutions offered waivers.

What makes this announcement so special?

First, the program is available to young people between the ages of 19 and 27­—a year longer than the AYA program.

Second, the eligibility requirements have been expanded to include youth in voluntary care agreements, special needs agreements, temporary custody orders, continuing custody orders, and youth agreements.

Also included are youth who were adopted and youth who lived with family members other than a parent, as long as they were in the care of government for a minimum of 24 months.

Here are answers to the most frequently asked questions about
tuition waivers.

Child's shoeHow do I sign up? Tell the Financial Aid office at your school you might be eligible for a tuition waiver. You will need to complete a consent form in order for the Ministry to confirm your history as a youth from care.

Am I eligible if I was adopted? Yes! All youth with a minimum of 24 months of government care experience are eligible.

Am I eligible if I was in care with a Delegated Aboriginal Agency? Yes.

What program can I take? You can take any program offered by BC’s 25 public post-secondary institutions.

What expenses does the tuition waiver cover? The waiver covers tuition only. Other expenses such as books and accommodations are not covered. There are other supports that might help with these costs, such as the Youth Educational Assistance Fund (YEAF) and AYAs.

Can I get a tuition waiver while on an AYA or a YEAF? Yes.

I have already aged out. Do I qualify? Yes, until your 27th birthday.

What if I’ve already paid my fees? If you’ve already paid tuition fees and qualify for a waiver you can be reimbursed your fees. Please go to your school’s financial aid office to find out how.

Agreements with Young Adults (AYA)

Unlike tuition waivers, AYA has much tighter eligibility criteria. To qualify for AYA, a young person must have had one of the following care statuses: continuing custody order, youth agreement, or in the process of adoption. The agreements can last for up to 48 months. They cover living expenses, health care, and child care for youth transitioning out of care onto one of the following:

  • Finishing high school
  • Attending university or college
  • Completing a rehabilitation program
  • Completing a life skills program (see list of approved life skills on AgedOut.com)

AYA recipients pursuing post-secondary education may also qualify for a free laptop and/or a mobile phone.

The AYA information sheets on AgedOut.com outline the process and contain direct links to applications.

Other supports

Finally, there are several other post-secondary funding opportunities for young people leaving care. The government provides up to $5,500 per student in additional support through the Youth Educational Assistance Fund (YEAF). Some non-profit organizations also offer bursaries and scholarships. A bursary is money awarded based on your financial need, often given as a cheque at the start of the school year; a scholarship is money awarded for having high grades or other achievements. The AgedOut.com website has an information page dedicated to bursaries and scholarships.

Hopefully this summary has helped you to understand the post-secondary supports available to you or to the young people in your care. For more details, check out the information sheets at
www.AgedOut.com/education.