Help save youth in foster care with unresolved immigration issues
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Children and youth in the foster care system with unresolved immigration issues face unique barriers in their everyday life. Some of these barriers can be catastrophic, particularly for youth who may come in conflict with the law and suddenly find themselves in vulnerable situations because they are not protected by citizenship. In many cases, these barriers can be overcome by setting laws in order to help these youth obtain Canadian citizenship.
A large number of the youth* who make up the Foster Care System are refugees who are brought into Canada as unaccompanied minors, or are separated from their families upon arrival. They eventually age out of care without being granted permanent resident status or citizenship. This leads to a life filled with uncertainty, and barriers that Canadian citizens do not face. They will struggle to access health and social services (including mental health services), they will have restricted access to post-secondary educational opportunities (especially considering the financial burdens), it will be difficult for them to gain legal employment, and most of all they will be living in constant fear that at any time they could be sent away to an unfamiliar country.
The children and youth who have come into care have come because they are in need of protection due to many factors including neglect, abuse, abandonment, poverty, caregiver substance abuse or because of lack of available family. Since many of these youth are refugees, it is not uncommon for them to suffer from trauma and mental health issues after witnessing or experiencing violence, physical or emotional abuse, harassment, before fleeing their home countries. Some will be dealing with grief and terror from the loss of their families, friends, and communities. Many will face language barriers and many other cultural changes which can lead to social isolation and loss of identity. All these contributing factors are why there is a disproportionate amount of youth in care who find themselves in trouble with the law during the first few years after they age out of the system.
Many of these youth face deportation back to their “home” countries after they’ve committed crimes when they are labeled as inadmissible in court. This is the exact problem Abdoul Abdi is facing. Abdi is originally from Somalia and first arrived to Canada as an orphan when he was three years old. He has been in and out of 31 different group and foster homes since he was seven years old. At the age of 17 Abdi was sentenced to 4.5 years in jail for aggravated assault. He was set to be released from prison after his sentence earlier this year, but instead, he is now facing deportation. Throughout Abdi’s entire time as a crown ward, the government failed to start his application process to become a Canadian Citizen. Because of his lack of citizenship, Abdi is facing deportation to Somalia, a country he has not seen since he was a toddler, because the government actively prevented his family from including him on their citizenship application and also failed to apply on his behalf. Unfortunately, this is only one of the many examples of the ways the government is failing the youth in their care.
This is why it is essential that the government develop new laws and programs that will assist children and youth in resolving their immigration or citizenship issues, ideally while they are still in care. While minors can legally apply for Canadian citizenship on their own, they often don’t have access to legal aid, financial security and any other help they might need, making it very challenging to navigate the process.
We need see change in the system for a group of youth who are vulnerable to precarious citizenship status which can lead to unfair practices such as deportation. As well, more work is needed to ensure that there systems are gathering information and monitoring data that can determine exactly how many children and youth have unresolved immigration status issues across Canada.
Unresolved immigration status leads to a life of uncertainty, and it is the government’s job to make decisions for the youth in care based on their best interest!
Please sign this petition to protest the unfair laws immigrant youth face in the foster care system.
*Canada does not keep reliable national statistics on kids in care
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