Revolutionizing financial education for youth raised in and from care

28 October 2016
Author: Maya Ramchandani
In a previous blog post I reflected on some of the financial difficulties faced by young people from care. I also talked about the importance of financially empowering youth from care, given that we’re required to be completely financially independent after 18 years of age. 
 
In 2015, Prosper Canada partnered with the Children’s Aid Foundation (CAF) on a one year project to adapt six modules from its existing online financial literacy facilitator training course for young people in and from care. This course is available to youth who have been in permanent care anywhere in Canada and are 29 or younger. The course launched earlier this month now making it more accessible for youth in care to receive the vital financial education they need to succeed financially as they transition out of care. Upon completion of the course, students will receive a certificate accrediting them for having received financial literacy education. This certificate has tremendous importance in the sense that it provides young people with financial education, but more importantly, the completion of this course is hugely incentivized in Ontario.  
 
In 2008, Ontario’s Ministry of Child and Youth Services announced the Ontario Child Benefit Equivalent (OCBE); this benefit is equivalent to the Ontario Child Benefit except that it is specifically designed to serve young people from care. For children and teens from care under the age of 17, the OCBE is provided through their agency to cover, “recreational, educational, cultural and social activities”. However, when youth are 15-17 years of age a portion of the OCBE is funnelled into a savings account that young people can access at age 18 as they transition out of care and into independent adulthood. 
 
There are however very specific requirements that must be fulfilled to gain access to ones OCBE savings fund. As outlined by the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies, youth must:
 
  1. Acquire financial skills and demonstrate financial competency relevant to independent living;
  2. Establish a personal bank account, or an alternative savings mechanism to receive funds where banking is not feasible;
  3. Develop an appropriate plan for the use of the savings; and
  4. Secure stable housing.
The Youth Online Financial Literacy Training offered through CAF fulfills requirement number one. Obtaining financial literacy training can be challenging for young people as in-person training programs are not always easy to get to. Completion of these courses alone might be challenging because many young people face precarious living situations - attending multiple training workshops may not be the most practical method to fulfill this requirement. 
 
What makes the new course particularly commendable is that since it is online, young people can easily complete the course with access to a computer or a tablet. Financial literacy training becomes accessible to young people living all across Ontario allowing a significant increase in the number of youth that can fulfill the requirements to obtain their entitled OCBE funding. 
 
CAF is in the process of conducting outreach to youth, child welfare agencies and youth-serving agencies across Canada so that youth and workers know this resource is available. What is important is that awareness of OCBE is increasing and the practicality of fulfilling the OCBE requirements has the potential to increase with the availability of this course. Social workers will work with youth to complete the other three requirements; opening a bank account, developing a savings plan and obtaining housing. 
 
Some of the major benefits completing the Youth Online Financial Literacy Training Course: 
  • Financial education will be more accessible for young people from care all across Ontario, allowing them to qualify for the OCBE
  • Qualifying for the OCBE increases the chances that young people will fulfill the other requirements as listed above:
    • Creating a bank account - having an established bank account can increase young people's awareness and accessibility to safe financial products that can grow their money
    • Obtaining stable housing - allowing a smoother transition out of care after age 18
  • Youth learn important money management knowledge and skills on:  budgeting, banking and financial services, savings, credit, and debt
  • At the completion of every module, users are provided with resources relevant and unique to young people from care
  • Youth gain access to the OCBE and have the knowledge, skills and confidence to make wise financial decisions 

For more information about the conditions of OCBE funding release once requirements are completed, click here
 
For information and eligibility for the Children’s Aid Foundation’s online Financial Literacy course, click here.

THE AUTHOR

Maya Ramchandani is a former Intern for the Marketing and Communications department at Prosper Canada. She recently graduated receiving an Honours Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Toronto. She began her Master of Public Policy and Global Affairs degree at the University of British Columbia in the fall of 2016.

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