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Transitions for Children in Care

In 2009, the Public Guardian and Trustee of British Columbia approached Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network (PLAN) with an issue that was emerging as a result of opening Registered Disability Savings Plans (RDSPs) on behalf of children in the care of the Ministry of Children and Family Development.  In short, the issue is that as youth in care become adults, the Public Guardian and Trustee ceases to have legal authority to act as account holders for their RDSPs.  Only a young adult, as the beneficiary, or a legally authorized representative may act as account holders.  While the Public Guardian and Trustee can seek to be appointed as a Committee under the Patients Property Act or could be appointed as a Representative by the youth under the Representation Agreement Act, neither of these seemed to provide uniformly satisfactory solution to the issue.

Some youth may be able to gain the necessary knowledge and manage their RDSP independently. However, many will need ongoing support and assistance, and may even be deemed not contractually competent by financial institutions. By the time children leave care, they may have accumulated a significant asset. Without someone to help manage RDSP, this asset can be lost.

Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network (PLAN) and the RDSP Resource Centre, in partnership with Public Guardian and Trustee, Ministry of Children and Family Development, Ministry of Social Development, and Community Living BC embarked upon a pilot research study to better understand the issues and identify solutions. (Read the Project Report) The project identified three reoccurring themes.

Transition out of care

When youth-in-care reach adulthood, they depart the formal system-of-care and move on to one of three situations: independent living; independent living with some support or move to another formal care system.  Youth-in-care with special needs are faced with a transition conundrum – often their need for support remains but the relationships and support structure are subject to change when they reach the age of majority.  This happens whether they are able to live independently or not.  Conversations with youth, foster parents and social workers highlighted the stress that ensues from the process of transition and feelings of uncertainty for the future.

Financial illiteracy

The majority of the youth and support people in their lives identified a lack of knowledge of the RDSP and an underlying discomfort with money management. Foster parents identified which of the children could make change for the bus, and some youth had not yet been given the opportunity to do so. Adults require a basic level of financial literacy to be able to function independently in life.

Lack of informal relationships

All youth need support and advice as they learn to manage their finances independently.  Some youth require or may desire ongoing advice in managing their finances (supported decision-making) while still other youth will always require people to manage their finances. Any of these situations require unpaid, trustworthy people to help make good decisions. For the youth we talked to, they had difficulty or were unable to identify such people in their lives.

Recommendation:  That the federal government enable authorized entities, such as the Public Guardian and Trustee to act as account holder of RDSPs until the age of 25 to facilitate transition planning.


Note: Child or children is used to represent children and youth.  Youth is used in instances where younger children are not included in the group and we want to be more precise.