When youth “age out” of the child welfare system between the ages of 18-21, many have little to no workplace experience and are entering a life of independence without access to the supports they are used to and continue to need. When they are no longer directly connected to a social worker, foster family, or other caregivers, their access to resources like housing, financial supports, physical and mental health supports, and career-related supports decreases dramatically and leaves many vulnerable young people struggling.

Without a strong social support network, youth leaving care often find themselves out of work and out of school, with a significantly higher risk of experiencing poverty, homelessness, involvement with the criminal justice system, and complex health challenges.

These young people may not have had the opportunity to build up their work history or the connections to help them acquire a first job. Despite these challenges, the youth we serve are resilient and strong, and when they are given the same supports as other young people, possibilities for a bright future are open to them.

Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada’s Youth Works program (Youth Works) is a national employability program aimed at improving employment outcomes for youth who have aged out of the child welfare system and are working towards building independent, successful careers.

Youth Works launched in the summer of 2017 in partnership with founding partner RBC, and four local youth-serving agencies, including: Connections Communities Services in Richmond, BC; Child & Family Services of Western Manitoba in Brandon, MB; Children’s Aid Society of Toronto and Pape Adolescent Resource Centre in Toronto, ON; and Partners for Youth in Fredericton, NB.

In 2019, RBC confirmed an extension and expansion of their investment, and with the support of the Foundation’s first-ever grant from the federal government, the program will be able to continue running in high-priority areas in Ontario, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, and Alberta. To date, Youth Works has seen a total of 922 youth access the program for support with refining their employability skills, job searching and referrals to employers, and assistance accessing employment training to gain credentials needed to accept a position.

“When experience is so important to getting a job, but so hard to come by, young people are left feeling uncertain about their futures in the new world of work,” said Jenny Poulos, SVP Workforce Strategy & Employee Experience, RBC.

“We hope that, through our partnership with Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada, RBC Future Launch can help young people get those all-important first jobs and break the ‘no experience, no job’ cycle – making a measurable difference in the lives of youth transitioning from care.”

Thanks to feedback received from the youth who’ve participated in this program, we’ve learned about the importance of continuing a flexible and youth-centred program approach; that employment objectives are different for youth depending on their age and/or educational trajectory; and that there’s an opportunity to help youth we’ve supported in achieving post-secondary education to transition to career-track employment.

We’re pleased to share that we’ll be continuing to build on this learning as we grow the program with our existing partners as well as with our new federal funding that will support the expansion of Youth Works over the next three years.

About The Author

The Children's Aid Foundation of Canada funds programs to help Canada's most vulnerable children and youth, those who have experienced or are at risk of abuse and neglect, overcome the obstacles in life that prevent them from reaching their full potential. We are committed to giving ongoing support to those who need it most.

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