The Mental Health of BC Youth With Government Care Experience: A Youth Research Academy Report

McCreary Centre Society Youth Research Academy


The Youth Research Academy (YRA) is a group of young people aged 16 to 24 with experience of the government care system. They are trained to carry out research projects that can help benefit youth in and from care throughout BC. This cohort has been meeting online twice a week since June 2021, and includes two peer mentors who took part in previous YRA cohorts. For this report, the group planned what analyses to carry out on the topic of mental health among youth with care experience. The analyses were based on questions from the 2018 BC Adolescent Health Survey (BC AHS), and they also analyzed changes across survey years over the past decade. In addition, they looked at protective factors among youth with care experience that were linked to better mental health and well-being. They analyzed the findings using SPSS and documented the results. They then reflected on the results and identified key findings. Their reflections are included throughout this report.

About the BC Adolescent Health Survey (BC AHS)

Over 38,000 students in Grades 7–12 completed the 2018 BC AHS in public schools across British Columbia, including more than 1,600 students who had ever been in government care or an alternative to care. Students answered 139 questions about their health and about the risk and protective factors in their lives. The survey has been carried out every five years since 1992. More information about the BC AHS can be found at Data from the BC AHS is considered representative of students in Grades 7–12 attending mainstream schools in BC. It does not include youth who were in most alternative schools, independent schools, were home-schooled, or were not in school on the day the survey was administered. Some youth may also have been excluded because the survey was only available in paper form and in English.


For analyses within the 2018 BC AHS, youth ever in care included those who had experienced the following types of care or alternatives to care: foster care, group home, Youth Agreement, Agreement with Young Adults (AYA), kith and kinship agreement, or custody centre. Youth may have received services from the BC Government or through a delegated agency. Percentages for trends (changes across survey years) were among youth with experience in the types of government care that were asked about on all three BC AHS surveys over the past decade (2008, 2013, and 2018)—specifically, foster care, group homes, and Youth Agreements. Non-binary youth were included in all 2018 BC AHS analyses but due to the small percentage of youth who identified as non-binary, results could not always be reported separately. Additionally, trends could only be reported for males and females as these were the only available gender responses in previous survey years. All analyses were carried out using SPSS Complex Samples. Associations included in this report are statistically significant at least at p<.05. This means there is up to a 5% likelihood the results occurred by chance. Statistically significant associations indicate a relationship between two variables. This does not prove causation or show the direction of the relationship. Any percentage that is marked with an asterisk (*) should be interpreted with caution because its standard error is higher than others but is still within a releasable range.