YMCA’s Nathan Smith and FACS Niagara’s Ann Godfrey at the Walker family YMCA with donations for the Cool Yule Program for youth transitioning from foster care. – Bob Tymczyszyn , The St. Catharines Standard
Cool Yule helps launch young adults
They are the essentials any young person needs to move out on their own.
Towels. Sheets. Plates. Cups. A toaster.
The list can add up, but not everyone has parents to help absorb the cost of being launched into adulthood.
The Walker Family YMCA, in partnership with Family and Children’s Services Niagara, is addressing that gap with the annual Cool Yule Program for young adults who are coming out of foster care or the Crown ward system.
“We’re looking for new household items that will help support these young adults transition into living on their own,” said Nathan Smith, the child, youth and family co-ordinator at the Walker Family YMCA in St. Catharines.
“Hygiene products, kitchen utensils, linens, bed sheets, towels, things like that. Things that we often take for granted, inheriting an odd set from our parents or grandparents. They don’t necessarily have that same safety net.”
Donations are being collected under the Christmas tree in the lobby of the YMCA, located near Fairview Mall. Anyone can drop off an item or fill a basket until Dec. 31.
Smith said the Cool Yule Program helps support what could otherwise be an expensive and time-consuming transition for youth as they work to try and pick up all their needed items.
FACS spokeswoman Ann Godfrey said less than four per cent of the 8,000 children FACS sees every year end up in care. But there is that small segment who will grow up with FACS and eventually age out of care.
Godfrey said the agency tries to prepare them for young adulthood with programs for life skills training, financial literacy and sexual health.
Its New Outlooks and Beginnings program addresses such things as how to rent an apartment, getting a job and applying to school. Last year 118 young people up to the age of 21 were helped through that program.
“For these kids, they may have come from difficult circumstances and hopefully their experience in care has been positive and supportive — we hear that a lot from kids — but the time does come when they have to move on and be on their own,” Godfrey said.
“Foster families can be very supportive and I know they often do continue to help the kids past the time that they are living with them, but they have other kids coming along so as an organization and as a community it’s great for us to come together and help these kids out.”
Children age out of care at 18 but are offered continued emotional and financial support until they are 21. They also are able to get some additional non-financial supports until 25.
FACS collects donations for young adults all year long and assembles them into baskets when they leave care, which happens throughout the year.
Godfrey said while the Cool Yule Program does help out youth financially because they have limited budgets to get set up on their own, it has an added benefit, too.
“It’s just a lovely expression of care, that there are people in the community who are just willing to say, ‘Hey, you need some help getting started? Let us help you out,'” she said.
“They get the basket and it’s got a toaster in it and a set of towels and some linens, it’s just a big help and hopefully makes them feel supported. It’s got to be a scary step going out on your own.”
The reactions of the youth when they get their baskets is often a mix of surprise and delight, she said.
“Again, it’s sort of a warm gesture when you’re about to head out on your own, to get that. There’s a reason they call it a care package, right?”
905-225-1628 | @karena_standard
905-225-1628 | @karena_standard
Article by Karena Walter – City Hall reporter with St. Catharines Standard