SOS Children’s Village B.C. opened two new transition suites on June 17, marking the next stage in the organization’s program for youth aging out of foster care.
The legal basement suites were built underneath houses in Surrey’s Children’s Village, a group of five houses supported by SOS Children’s Village B.C. The organization operates independently from the B.C. government foster care system. It leases the houses in its Surrey village to foster families, and provides support for the caregivers and children.
The two newest transition suites are the last of five suites in the village. The first three opened in June 2016, 17 years after the village first started.
“I’m a neighbour from just down the street,” Surrey-Cloverdale MLA Marvin Hunt said at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the two suites. Back in the 1990s “we had our neighbourhood going … ‘We’re going to have 10 families of rebellious rotten kids? Delinquents that are going to trash our neighbourhood?’
“It’s an exciting adventure to let them know this is part of the solution, this is not the problem.”
The suites are part of a one-year transition program, which is designed to help teenagers aging out of foster care to “move from dependence on the system to independence,” SOS Children’s Village B.C. executive director Douglas Dunn said.
“We know kids who on their 19th birthday, their foster parents handed them a bag of clothes and said goodbye,” Dunn said. “That’s not going to give you a healthy positive member of society.”
“We believe if our kids are ours from birth to the grave, we need to make sure they’re ready for the real world,” he continued.
The program includes life skills workshops, as well as access to the suite. Participants pay rent each month — $400 a month at the beginning of the program and $600 by the end — which they get back at the end of the program to put towards a deposit on their next home. They also earn part of the furnishings in the suite each month, so by the end of the program they have a set of kitchenware and furniture of their own.
“That’s the big thing,” Dunn said. “They don’t leave our program. They move from their first home to their next home.”
In addition to the transition suites, SOS Children’s Village B.C. also announced the creation of a $120,000 endowment fund, which will provide enough interest to cover the maintenance of the suites for the next 30 to 50 years.
In the future, SOS B.C. hopes to build an additional five homes on the property, each with its own transition suite.