The BC Public Guardian and Trustee (PGT) holds and manages any funds owned by children who are or were in the care of MCFD. Funds are usually held in trust by the PGT until a child turns 19. The PGT is also the legal guardian of children in foster care.
PGT and foster children
Every permanent ward of MCFD has an assigned Guardianship and Trust Officer (GTO). Social workers must find out who the GTO is for each child on their caseload.
If a child in care is injured, involved in an accident, or experiences a critical incident, it is the social worker’s responsibility to inform the PGT. The Guardian and Trust Officer reviews such incident reports and decides whether or not further action should be taken. Often, a lawyer will review the situation and consider making a legal claim on behalf of the child. If, as a result of this claim, a child is awarded a sum of money, the PGT holds the award in trust. It is important to understand that funds held by the PGT belong to the child, but the PGT can only release the funds when the child reaches 19. There are some circumstances where the child may have access to their funds prior to 19, but certain criteria must be met. This can be discussed and explored with the GTO.
The good news is that the money the PGT holds in trust earns interest (currently 4% per annum).
There are also situations where children are entitled to receive financial benefits from the government. For example, when a young person’s parent or parents pass away they are potentially eligible to receive CPP (Canada Pension Plan) Orphan’s Benefits. This means that the PGT will collect approximately $200 a month on behalf of the child until he or she reaches 18. CPP Orphan’s Benefits must be re-applied for by the young person once he or she turns 18. If a child’s parent receives CPP Disability Benefit, then the child may also be eligible for some benefit. Again, it is the social worker’s responsibility to inform the PGT when a parent dies or becomes disabled so that funds can be collected and held in trust on the child’s behalf. Unfortunately, if the PGT is not informed of a parent’s death or disability in a timely manner, the child could lose a significant amount of money—CPP will only back pay for 11 months of benefit. When a social worker knows that a parental death has occurred, it is essential that she informs the PGT.
Sometimes the GTO is informed by the social worker, or someone involved in a young person’s life, that there are concerns regarding this person’s capability to manage their own legal and financial affairs at age 19. The GTO then makes an internal referral to the Assessment and Investigation Services (AIS) to explore these concerns.
Once a child or youth is legally adopted and the PGT receives notice that the adoption has taken place, the PGT is no longer the Guardian of Estate and the file is closed. If the child has money in trust, the PGT’s role changes from Guardian of Estate to Trustee for that child until he or she turns 19. If a child that is adopted is receiving CPP Orphan’s benefits, the money will still be paid after adoption but directly to the adoptive parents.
Patricia Hanley works for the Federation of BC Youth in Care Networks. She is on secondment from the PGT.