Teen who aged out of B.C.'s care found dead in tent
A 19-year-old woman who aged out of government care was found dead in a tent in Surrey this week, prompting an urgent call for action from B.C.'s children's watchdog.
The young aboriginal woman's body was discovered near King George Boulevard, in a forested area frequented by homeless people.
The spot is dirty, littered with garbage and clothes, and at this time of year it is also cold and frequently soaking wet.
The young woman used to be under the care of the Ministry of Children and Family Development, but was cut off after her last birthday.
Her tragic death just months later highlights the pressing need for more support for vulnerable people being pushed out of the system, according to Bernard Richard, B.C.'s interim Representative for Children and Youth.
"We can't do anything for her. But we need to be able to respond to others before the same thing happens to them," Richard said.
The watchdog is in the early stages of its investigation into the young woman's death and few details are available. Richard said she was among a cohort of young people his office is concerned for, and who are in clear need of additional help.
"We know that she suffered greatly while in care. That she's one of those way too many, mostly aboriginal young adults [and] young teenagers who have a horrible time in care while they're living," he said.
"Many of them are not aging out of care, they're dying out of care."
The representative also said they will be looking into any similarities the case has with the tragic death of Alex Gervais, an 18-year-old in government care who was living in a hotel when he jumped from a window in September 2015.
The Children's Minister, Stephanie Cadieux, was not available for comment Friday. Premier Christy Clark addressed the latest tragedy at a news conference, pointing to previously announced extensions of services.
"She didn't have the supports she needed. We need to be there for those kids and that's why we've made the changes that we have," Clark said.
Those changes, announced in October, apply to the Agreements with Young Adults program, which covers costs such as living expenses, child care, tuition and health care for youths formerly in care if they are in school or a rehabilitation program.
It was expanded to last until the age of 26 instead of 24, and to apply to those who are in life skills programs as well.
Richard said more still needs to be done, however. He estimates there are roughly 200 youths in circumstances similarly challenging to those of the unnamed young woman who died this week, and who are in dire need of additional help.
"It could have saved her life," he said.
With a report from CTV Vancouver's Michele Brunoro