Former foster kids in Surrey could use some love and magic sent their way

A program that helps foster youth transition to adulthood is asking for grocery and store gift cards in a Christmas appeal.

The transition from foster kid in B.C. to adulthood can seem overwhelming at Christmas.

Amy, 18, sleeps on a mattress in a cramped basement suite shared with her brother and dad, and wonders if the power will be cut because there’s no money to pay the bill.

A bright young woman with her heart set on studying a trade at BCIT, all she wants for Christmas are the basics – food, a winter jacket, a bus pass, and shoes. Right now she’s walking to where she needs to be without appropriate clothing or footwear.

A veteran of the foster care system, Amy had a part time job, but was forced to quit when she fell behind in her studies at high school. Her friends bring her food so she has something to eat during the day.

The holiday season is filled with joy, traditions, and gifts for many Surrey residents, but for youths aging out of foster care, it can be a difficult time of year, according to SOS Children’s Village B.C.

The society, headquartered in Cloverdale, is asking for donations of gift cards. They will be given to youths in their Transition to Adult program for youths aged 16 to 24 who otherwise have little support from family or the system.

In B.C., once foster kids turn 19, they’re considered adults who are expected to fend for themselves.

Amy’s story is one of four being shared in a Christmas call to action. The TTA team selected youths who “could really use some love and magic sent their way this Christmas,” reads the appeal, shared at Facebook.com/SOSChildrensVillageBC.

The SOS program is looking back on a successful year, sharing enormous milestones and achievements, such as high school graduations and sending off multiple youths to post secondary education.

But it’s just as important to celebrate the small steps.

“Most things in life do not come easily, especially when the odds seem to be stacked against us, which can certainly be the case for many of the youth that we work with,” says the appeal.

A 2014 national report found former foster children in Canada without support and resources risk becoming homeless, unemployed and impoverished.

Sebastian, 19, grew up in and out of foster homes, struggling in his teens with a lack of consistency or family support, but he learned to be his own advocate. Despite those challenges, he’s kindhearted and hopes to one day become a youth worker to help others like himself.

He’s on social assistance while attending school, trying to make ends meet. For Christmas, he’d like grocery store gift cards plus for Guildford Town Centre to buy some new clothing.

Lucy, 20, is a single mom who grew up in foster care and is working to create a different life for her daughter, Emily, 3.

She’d like to attend college, once she gets her financial situation more stable, but for now, she could really use some grocery gift cards to meet her daughters’ most basic needs. Craft supplies and activities for a three-year-old girl would mean the world to her, as would Toys R Us gift cards so she can pick out presents for her daughter.

Peter, 21, grew up in the foster system, moving 31 times in just six years between the ages of 13 and 19 into new placements.

Now too old for a foster placement, he’s been homeless several times but now has somewhere to live. He overcame an addiction to hard drugs, and would like to earn his diploma in community service work to help other foster children.

He struggles to meet his daily needs. For Christmas he needs socks, underwear (men’s size medium), and gift cards to purchase groceries and clothing.

To help, drop off or mail gift cards to 102-5830 176A Street, Surrey, B.C., V3S 4H5. Call 604-574-2964 to arrange for pick up.

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