Last year, a Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) One-Time-Only Health Promotion Project Grant helped McCreary Centre Society work with community youth leaders to initiate a series of focus groups with youth aging out of government care. The goal of this project was to identify challenges to healthy development and a successful transition to adulthood faced by young adults who are 'aging out' or transitioning out of government care.
Transitioning from youth to adulthood is a challenging phase of life. Those young adults who move on from government care face additional challenges to healthy development, and these health disparities continue into adulthood as well. McCreary Centre Society and members of their Youth Research Academy, a group of youth with government care experience, decided to start a longitudinal study about the health behaviours and life experiences of young people who transitioned out of government care in British Columbia.
Methodology and Data Collection
To begin the study, McCreary assembled an advisory committee comprised of youth with care experience and experts at the field. The advisory committee opted for a qualitative research approach by developing a focus group and engaging youth-serving agencies in Powell River (rural) and Vancouver (urban) areas. One focus group was held exclusively with Indigenous youth aging out of the care of a Delegated Aboriginal Agency. Overall, four focus groups were conducted and 20 young adults participated in the project. These groups not only gave the young adults a platform to share their perspectives but also gave vital insights into the challenges that they faced during this transition period.
Each group unanimously agreed that services such as life skills training, transition workers, access to physical, emotional and mental wellbeing and health care, and assistance with finding and maintaining housing and employment, must begin before the age of 19. Such supports should then continue to be available during the transition into adulthood and beyond their 19th birthday.
The participants also emphasized creating a transition plan early on and setting up goals to streamline the whole process. One participant said, "If I could make my own plan, we would start at 16, plan for where you see yourself in the future, and make goals to get you there." Several participants felt that the case managers needed more training and that the transition plan should be an ongoing process, rather than just a document.
"If you're not mentally prepared for the next step then things can go really wrong. You need someone with you through the whole process of aging out!" stated another participant.
This project was a success, as the advisory committee was able to acquire some vital information and data that enhanced their overarching research and helped them in addressing the key issues. Another achievement of this project was the inclusion of youth through the Youth Research Academy in leading, designing and carrying out all aspects of the project. McCreary Centre Society supported these young individuals to create a focus group script, collect data, analyze key themes and create a report of the project's key findings. Members of the Youth Research Academy reported that they learned new skills while involved in the project and appreciated being included in all aspects of its design and delivery.
VCH's ongoing support for the youth
Vancouver Coastal Health Community Investments was proud to support an initiative that was led by youth, to help their successors achieve better support and connectedness to the community and their peers. Vancouver Coastal Health recognizes the challenges faced by the youth who are in the process of transitioning from government care into adulthood and strives to support projects and programs that are meant to provide support in every capacity including research, policy and program innovation, and advocacy at the grassroots level.