Reflection: Vancouver Foundation – The Fostering Change Initiative

Polonne In a recently published book Philanthropic Foundations in Canada – Landscapes, Indigenous Perspectives and Pathways to Change, Natalie Ord of the Vancouver Foundation in her chapter “Vancouver Foundation: Fostering meaningful engagement with youth (page 239)” offers an insightful story of the Foundation’s role in assisting youth with transitions from foster care. Vancouver Foundation is a member of the Western Hub and we share our reflection of this chapter in this blog posting.

Anshing Between 2013-2018, Vancouver Foundation lead the Fostering Change Initiative to improve the quality of life for youth transitioning out of the foster care system. Their goal was to provide better opportunities for youth that were aging out of the foster care system at 19 and were at a greater risk of becoming homeless. Vancouver Foundation was also instrumental in increasing public awareness that paved the way for policy change by directly collaborating with the individuals facing the problem. Ord emphasizes that it is essential that social systems are improved in order to effectively create systematic change.

From the onset, Vancouver Foundation always wanted to do a lot more than “issue cheques”. Since the Foundation already had existing relationships within the community through their work on the Youth Homelessness Initiative and through other Children, Youth and Family granting programs and with recent changes to the Income Tax Act, which removed limitations on non-partisan public policy activity, the Foundation decided to take on the role of a policy advocate for at-risk youth.

Vancouver Foundation published research comparing costs of treating the adverse effects of youth homelessness with the costs associated with fixing the problem directly. It concluded that the public would save upwards of $200 million by directly supporting youth aging out of care. In a 2013 survey, Vancouver Foundation found that 80% of the respondents who participated in their survey provide their own children ongoing support past the age of 19 and 68% of those same participants believed that foster care youth should have the same access to supports up to the age of 21. The survey also highlighted that 28% of respondents were actually aware that government support ended at the age of 19. In 2016, Vancouver Foundation did a second follow up survey to their initial 2013 survey, showing that public awareness of support ending at the age of 19 had actually risen to 38%!

In 2015, Vancouver Foundation developed a Messaging and Communications Guide to change the way the community engaged with homeless youth. Vancouver Foundation was adamant about changing the outlook of youth in care from “those kids” to “our kids”. It was successful in obtaining more than 15,000 signatures from the public wanting the government to address this issue. This paved the way for the creation of a “Candidates Pledge” to be signed during the 2017 BC provincial election. 147 candidates signed the petition and 41 one of them were elected.

Vancouver Foundation also continue to successfully engage the community. In yet another amazing example, they involved the youth and held a series of five community conversations in Lower Mainland Vancouver that would gather more than 350 people to collaborate on community initiatives. Vancouver Foundation is a sterling example of a foundation that is honest and upfront with themselves, their community partners, the youth and their donors. These traits have helped Vancouver Foundation to facilitate many important projects that have given back to the community in many ways. The work of Vancouver Foundation has also contributed to effective policy change. The BC provincial government has since made major policy updates that provide access to financial aid to youth transitioning out of foster care.

Author: Al Bhanji, Hub Coordinator

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