CBC: ‘You’re not alone’: New program helps foster kids with FASD prepare for life on their own

Jordan is a participant in the 4Y Program, a pilot project aimed at helping foster children with FASD transition out of care in the N.W.T. (Kate Kyle/CBC)

Jordan’s heart pounds as his feet hit the treadmill at a gym in downtown Yellowknife. Rap music rings from his ear buds.

Korry Garvey stands beside him guiding Jordan through a new workout routine. They’ve paired up as part of a new pilot project that helps support young people with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) who are aging out of the child welfare system. It pairs youth with a navigator, like Garvey, to learn life skills and build support networks.

“I turned 19, that’s when the adult life comes in,” said Jordan recounting his birthday in April, the day he left foster care. He still lives with his former foster family but he’s looking for more independence.

Jordan, who requested that CBC not use his last name, has some short-term memory loss from FASD, a disability resulting from exposure to alcohol when he was in the womb. Learning new things can also be tough for him.

“I wanted to be in the program because I can learn new skills and to learn how to live on my own,” he said.

Young adults in the 4Y Program learn life skills, everything from working out, to financial management and securing stable housing. (Kate Kyle/CBC)

The Foster Family Coalition of the NWT created the pilot 4Y Program after identifying a gap in services, specifically for young people with FASD who are transitioning out of foster care. That typically happens at 19, though teens can apply for extended services with their foster families until age 23.

“There’s quite a lot of good support in schools when individuals are children or youth, but once they’ve started turning 19 or 20, and then go through their 20s, there’s not really a lot in place,” said Garvey, who is also a program co-ordinator.

She says not all young people with FASD have people they can count on to help them transition out of foster care, and beyond. That’s where the navigator comes in.

They spend four hours a week providing one-on-one support to young adults.

“We don’t just work with a participant, we also work with their entire network,” said Garvey. That work includes everything from managing money, to building resumés and securing housing.

[People] with complex needs have complex transitions and tend to have access to fewer resources as they age.– Tracey Pope,  Manager of Disabilities Services, Dept. Health and Social Services

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