Youth fight for extension of care


25 not 21 - 1

Dylan Cohen shares his story at the 25 not 21 panel. THE PROJECTOR/Christiana Jones

While most kids are going through school and letting their parents help ease them into adulthood, other kids are fighting for solid ground.

“It’s about honouring the spirits of youth,” said Dylan Cohen, 20, who is leading the 25 not 21 campaign – a campaign that is fighting for the age of care be extended to 25 in Child and Family Services.

“It’s students and youth from care leading the initiative,” he said. Cohen will be aging out soon.

On November 20, Cohen spoke on a panel and shared his story about entering the system at 13 and how that has shaped his experiences today.

The Phoenix Sinclair Inquiry and other organizations have consistently requested and recommended that Child and Family Services (CFS) extends the age of care to 25, but CFS has yet to take action.

Cohen said in a province that has more children in the system than most others, CFS can’t keep doing the bare minimum.

By extending the age of care, children in care have access to social workers who can help them access funding as well as set goals.

“Things that a parent does, where these kids don’t have that,” said Cohen.

Jordan Harper, an 18-year-old child from care that now runs his own business, also shared his story.

“I have a home now. I want to know that home is going to be there a week from now, a month from now, a year from now,” said Harper, adding that he wants to break the cycle.

“It’s the fact that I want to change my life around,” he said.

Harper said the campaign is about having a place to stay and feeling safe. He said other kids get guidance from parents but that’s not always the case for youth in care.

The Guardian article “Record levelsof young adults living at home, says ONS” shows young adults are staying at home for much longer now, but this is not reflected within CFS’s current policy.

Supporting children in CFS is helping end the cycle of poverty, Cohen said. He said that youth in care need just as much support as other kids and young adults.

“Other kids aren’t getting kicked out of their houses because of some arbitrary date.”

Cohen says 25 not 21 isn’t just about funding or a place to stay, but futures. “We need to restore that hope people get out of having a place,” he said.