The voices of Canadian youth in care are clear; youth who are transitioning out of the child welfare system are not supported or included in decision making, are isolated, vulnerable, and face unpredictability—care ends and they continue to struggle. Although some youth in care look forward to the increased autonomy of independent living, many of them experience hardships that include lower educational attainment, unemployment, mental health challenges, criminalization, and homelessness. These negative outcomes experienced by youth aging out of care raise concerns regarding the state’s ability to adequately prepare them for independence. Black youth may be facing the brunt of these negative outcomes as they are overrepresented in the child welfare system and face disparities across the child welfare continuum. Presently, there are no empirical studies in Ontario that explore Black youths' experiences transitioning from out-of-home care (OOHC). This study seeks to fill this gap in knowledge by investigating the narratives of Black youth who have aged out of Ontario’s child welfare system.
The empirical data of this study was collected as part of the Rights for Children and Youth Partnership Project. This research analyzes qualitative data from 27 in-depth interviews with Black Caribbean (Jamaican, Trinidadian, Guyanese, St. Lucian, St. Vincentian) youth aged 16-26 years old. Using a snowball sample approach, youth participants were recruited from across the Greater Toronto Area and have lived experiences navigating OOHC in Ontario (adoption, kinship, foster/group care). This study employed a narrative inquiry. Throughout the interview process participants were asked to share their current and previous experiences of navigating the child welfare system. Their narratives were shared chronologically from the moment they began interacting with the child welfare system until they transitioned out of care. The research team then interpreted these experiences as narrated stories.
Throughout the coding process, three major narratives were identified: 1) the need for financial literacy, 2) the lack of a formal transition (youth are dropped or fleeing from care), and 3) the economic hardships that Black youth with disabilities encounter. For Black youth, the need for financial literacy was imperative for their transition out of care. Although Black youth were offered financial literacy supports, many did not find them meaningful and were unprepared for the realities of living independently. Black youth identified that there was no formal transition out of care, rather they were dropped or fleeing from care. Additionally, the narratives of Black youth with disabilities revealed numerous challenges related to their funding (e.g., government funding applications), a lack of support, and income discrimination.
Conclusion and Implications
Black youth are inadequately supported for transitioning out of care and the realities of independent living. Recommendations include supporting youth earlier in their transition, ensuring they have a practical understanding of financial literacy, and providing youth with information regarding their funding resources and rights as tenants. For Black youth who are already marginalized, these recommendations could better prepare them to navigate the inequities and anti-Black racism that exists in society.