Elanis became a foster child at the age of two when the police removed her and her sister from her biological parents. They were substance users, and although the girls were separated from a potentially harmful situation, the trajectory of Elanis’s life was significantly altered.
She became one of the hundreds of children who enter the foster care system per year in BC. Elanis was eventually adopted and spent several years with a loving father. However, when she was 16, he passed away suddenly, and she found herself back in foster care while grieving once again.
Social workers were always a part of Elanis’s life, and they inspired her to become the social worker she always wished she had. After graduating, her passion for Social Work led Elanis to Thompson Rivers University (TRU), where she’s continuing her studies.
As a former youth in care, Elanis was eligible for the BC Tuition Waiver Program, but choosing to follow her dreams meant overcoming unimaginable barriers. Other youth have family and a support system to fall back on, but youth formerly in care often have nobody. At 19, these students are essentially on their own; losing support from social workers and most government programs, without further financial assistance.
United Way British Columbia, working with communities in BC’s Interior, Lower Mainland, and Central & Northern Vancouver Island, believes all youth deserve the chance to reach their potential.
The Youth Futures Education Fund, supported by United Way BC, helps cover expenses like food, textbooks, counselling, and transportation, allowing former youth in care to survive while focusing on their studies.
Elanis was relieved to use the fund when her car broke down and when she needed new tires. She could attend all her classes, and she wasn’t left with the stress of bills she couldn’t pay.
This is how United Way BC and YFEF make a difference. These bursaries are often the difference between earning a degree or withdrawing from school because of financial pressures. 93% of students receiving Youth Futures funding continue or complete their studies and go on to rewarding careers.
To ensure equal access to education, students from all over the province can access this fund, including here in the Lower Mainland at post-secondary institutions like University of British Columbia, Langara College and Douglas College. It helps students, like Elanis, who is determined to become a social worker.
Along with support from many generous donors, United Way BC will invest $325,000 into the fund to help ensure youth formerly in care here in the Lower Mainland can achieve careers that matter to them. It helps change the outcome of youth formerly in government care, one life at a time.