Child and Youth Advocate highlights successes and challenges in annual report

By Bryan Eneas
April 24, 2018 - 2:00pm

The 2018 Saskatchewan Youth Child Advocate report was released this week, highlighting some of the struggles and successes seen in the province over the past year.

Saskatchewan’s Advocate for Children and Youth is an officer independent from the provincial or federal governments who lobbies, investigates and educates the public on behalf of those under 18. While the report outlined the advocate’s priorities for the year to come, it also pointed out several critical issues.

According to the report, the advocate's office fielded calls from many people who were dissatisfied with the conduct of workers assigned to them. Complainants reported being “subjected to disrespectful behaviours,” or having limited contact with children in care. Lack of visitation with biological family, lack of services and supports, as well as concerns with the quality of care being provided in foster homes and youth care homes were also noted in the report.

In total, reports about the Ministry of Social Services made up 63 percent of the calls the Saskatchewan Child and Youth Advocate fielded in 2017. First Nations Child and Family Service groups made up 15 percent of calls in the same year.

According to the report, 79 percent of youth deaths and 65 percent of critical injuries the advocate was made aware of involved children with First Nations or Métis ancestry, though information relating to ethnicity was not always reported. The group estimated the percentage of cases involving First Nations or Métis youth to be significantly higher than what is represented in the report.

Report notes positives from 2017

Although the report highlighted several major issues, it wasn't all doom and gloom according to the advocate himself, Corey O'Soup.

O’Soup said the annual report highlighted a number of programs groups and communities are using to raise awareness or make changes.

“In this past year we’ve seen models and programs that can be quite easily adapted to address the barriers that children, youth and their families face in our province,” O’soup wrote in the report. “We’ve seen that change does not have to be complex nor come with a significant price tag.”

The report highlighted the use of Indigenous language programming in schools. Following Their Voices, a program designed to bolster Indigenous graduation rates was commended in the Advocate’s report.

Providing timely mental health services to youth, the advocate also commended school wellness teams for providing timely mental health services to youths. The teams were designed to bridge the gap in services between provincial and Indigenous communities. The mental wellness teams have been successful in providing therapy, treatment and medical assessments to students in Saskatchewan, the report stated.

A number of successful programs which empower or highlight youth voices were also noted in the report. Access Open Minds, a national research project which supports youth engagement in transforming mental health services, was highlighted as a “promising practice.” In Île-à-la-Crosse, the Engaging Youth Leaders program was noted for bringing together youth over the last two years.

Looking ahead to 2018, the Advocate’s report noted four priorities they will focus on: fostering positive relationships with First Nations and Métis partners, ensuring education is appropriate for all children and youths while meeting the needs of First Nations and Métis people, ensuring children and youths have adequate access to the appropriate mental health services and ensuring children and youths are supported and empowered in using their voices.

 

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