Making ‘system’ change is one of the most difficult tasks to accomplish. Remove the fact that fear often overwhelms many people as they think about change, doing something differently, even if the old way of doing things is no longer working. The other great challenge is that our experiences provide us with outdated data to make our decisions on. How do we move from the way things used to be to the way things need to be in order to create policies that match the new realities?
Currently our system of ‘Social Services’ in Canada is outdated and the reality is that transitioning children out of the Child Welfare System at the age of eighteen is counter-intuitive. The age of children/young adults leaving home is increasing. Many families are providing support not only emotionally but financially long past the age of eighteen. Staying at home longer provides most young adults an opportunity to go to or continue and complete their schooling, save for a house or help them make ends meet as they work at minimum-wage jobs. This is not the case for our most vulnerable children as they are asked at the age of eighteen to make it on their own.
Recent studies have indicated that raising the age of support to the age of twenty-one or some studies to the age of twenty-five would be a great start in reducing the number of young adults living in poverty as well as increase their chances of making a successful transition into the ‘adult’ world. It will take more than just raising the age, it will take a new way of doing things. It will mean finding a new way to support young adults complete their schooling, find better paying jobs, assist these young adults learn the responsibilities of caring for what we hope is eventually their own home. It will also be trying to provide the long-term emotional support many of us receive from our families but take for granted.
One such program in Winnipeg is called the SAIL Program (Supported Advancement to Independent Living).Knowles Centre’s SAIL Program helps youth living in care of the child welfare system to gain the skills and competencies they need to gradually transition to living independently in the community as young adults.At Knowles Centre’s Annual General Meeting in June there was a celebration honoring the achievement of many of the young adults from the SAIL Program who are completing their schooling and or finding employment. Moving towards increasing their independence.
When Knowles Centre started the SAIL Program to support the transition from the child welfare system to adulthood it was done by recognizing that by doing what has always been done was no longer working. It took the new realities of today and applied it to a solution that provided the hope for better outcomes for young adults. Knowles Centre’s SAIL Program tries to mirror the support parents have recognized their own children have required in order to increase their chances for a better future.
If we as a city, province, country are truly serious about ending poverty, about creating a more inclusive society, we must free ourselves from the ways we have always done things and move towards focusing on creating new and better realities.