It is my pleasure to be here this evening to thank you in person for your very generous donation of almost $13,800. You may need to consider changing your name to “more than 100 women who care”.
This approach to raising funds in our community is not only creative and efficient but it also helps to bring women in our community together to have a very large impact on the health of our community and at the same time network and get to know one another. In this time in our world, it is this kind of creative thinking that will help us go that extra mile in our community.
Our organization is very grateful to have been the recipient of your donation at your last meeting. I want to thank Laura Greenway-Balnar for what I have heard was a very heartfelt plea to support the youth who have previously been in our care and are no longer formally involved with us when they turn 21.
As Laura indicated to you, this is a very difficult time in a youth’s life particularly when they often have little in the way of support from family and friends. Laura talked to you about the fact that in Canadian Society, more and more young adults are staying with their families well into their twenties. In 2006, 44% of young adults between the ages of 20 and 29 lived in their parent’s home, up from 32% just twenty years earlier. The figure is much higher if one looks at those aged 20 to 24, where 60 % are living with their family. More adult children also return to their parental homes within five years of first leaving, at triple the rates of two generations ago. During those years, parents continue to provide resources and support as young adults pursue higher education, find employment and become independent.
For many of our youth this is a very difficult time. Most don’t have those strong networks of support. They can’t take reassurance that when something goes wrong, someone will be there to support them or give them a hand. Without the networks of support from family and friends, they often feel lost, alone and scared. Without people in their lives to help them navigate these years of transition to adulthood many experience further difficulties. Youth leaving care are over-represented in almost every way – in the justice system, in mental health services, addiction services, they are under-employed, under-housed and often become parents far too soon.
Our youth with fewer networks of support struggle to graduate from high school, stay in post-secondary programs if they happen to make it there in the first place, find jobs that pay well or places to live that aren’t fraught with lots of other difficulties. Without parents to support them, they often don’t obtain drivers licenses. Without a license or a car, many jobs are not attainable. The list of difficulties that one encounters when you are young and don’t have the typical support systems that many Canadian youth do, goes on and on.
Our main goal is to assist our youth to leave us with those networks of support – to have at least one adult in their lives who will unconditionally care about them well into their adult years and hopefully forever. We are really focusing on that as we believe that holds a big part of the secret to success. When people feel loved, cared about and important to at least one person or to many – they tend to do much better. Many of the youth we work with deal with relational poverty*….not having those special people in their lives. (*reference work done by Bruce Perry related to relational poverty)
While the money you provided will not assist our youth in having people in their lives to care for them, at least not directly, it can be used to assist them in small but meaningful ways that may help them to overcome barriers that are in the way of their success. The following are some examples of what we have done to support older youth:
- Access to Financial Literacy Education which is geared to their unique needs
- Emergency gift cards to Walmart or Zehrs
- Assistance purchasing work related clothing/tools
- Driver education costs towards a road test
- Dollars for education costs that are not covered by provincial programs
- Housing or transportation assistance so that they can access training programs
In partnership with Conestoga College and Second Chance Employment we offered the Child Welfare Youth in Skilled Trades Program (CWYST) which provided participants academic upgrading, as well as accredited training in a skilled trade. As the program continued, one of the students who lived in Wellington County, indicated that he was having transportation issues and was no longer able to drive in to attend classes at Conestoga College. We were able to obtain housing for him at the University of Guelph and were also able to arrange for him to be picked up on Monday and returned to his County accommodation after class on Friday so that he could continue in the program.
A young man who participated in the program to obtain welding credentials had some significant challenges adhering to the schedule and study plan. He completed the program and managed to obtain the Conestoga Certificate but did not have sufficient welding skills to obtain the his official CWB ticket which he needed to apply for work. He worked to obtain a valid driver’s license (which many of the students also did not have) and then approached us for some assistance to redo the welding exam. Given the kind of training which was provided – it took thinking outside the box while exploring available options which would provide the specific skills this young adult required. In the end, we helped him to access 2 weeks of further welding training so that he could retake the welding test. He now holds a CWB ticket.
Having access to funds that can be used specifically for these older youth allows us to be creative in helping them to problem solve and overcome barriers that keep them from being successful.
Extended Drivers Education Training
We are really excited about this because having a drivers’ license is such an important step in removing future barriers. If you don’t have parents with a car, don’t have money to buy a car, don’t have people in your life who will teach you to drive, how do you learn this valuable skill? If you don’t drive, many careers, education programs, opportunities are not available.
So it is our goal to ensure that every youth who leaves us has their license. However, we know that there are many who have left us that don’t. We will be approaching companies in Guelph to ask them to partner with us in offering an extended program to ensure that youth without access to a car can learn to drive and be successful on a drivers’ education test. We will assist with the cost of this program and the cost of obtaining the G1 license and test. As you know Driver’s Education is a significant cost and is unattainable for those living in poverty.
On behalf of all of the youth that your donation will assist, I really want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. This donation is the first in establishing a separate fund to assist those youth over 21 who may need to come back for a helping hand from time to time to be successful in reaching their goals. We can’t thank you enough.
Sheila Markle, Executive Director, Family & Children’s Services of Guelph and Wellington County