Message from Jennifer Charlesworth, Representative for Children and Youth

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L-R: Bernice Discon, VACFSS board member, Dr. Jennifer Charlesworth, Representative for Children and Youth, Bernadette Spence, VACFSS CEO and Holly Anderson, Guardianship Manager

Hello everyone,

Thank you for the opportunity to fill you in on what’s been going on in my Office. It has been a busy time since I was appointed Representative for Children and Youth on Oct. 1, 2018. Among other things, we have released reports, held an open house in Prince George, spent time in community, begun two special reports and, on Oct. 18, I was delighted to take part in the VACFSS Foster Parent Appreciation dinner. I was especially impressed by the VACFSS Youth Advisory Committee, and the group of youth who delivered an exceptional address to those at the event.

Some additional highlights: on Nov. 15, I released my first report, Time to Listen: Youth Voices on Substance Use, which offers the perspectives of 100 young people in B.C. with lived experience and draws upon lessons learned from an aggregate review of substance use-related injury and death reports received by RCY in 2017. In my recommendations, I call for a comprehensive support system – from materials to encourage prevention, to easy-to-access information about available services, to a robust array of culturally responsive harm reduction and treatment options, to youth-focused, safe-consumption sites. These recommendations are directed at the Ministries of Mental Health and Addictions, Health and Children and Family Development. This report was timed to help inform the mental health and substance use strategy currently being developed by the Ministry of Mental Health and Additions for release in spring 2019.

On Dec. 10, I released Alone and Afraid: Lessons learned from the ordeal of a child with special needs and his family. This report tells the story of 12-year-old “Charlie”, an Indigenous boy with special needs who was removed from his mother’s care after police found him alone and in a state of profound neglect. In this report, I make 11 recommendations, including calling for an overhaul of MCFD’s Children and Youth with Special Needs services. My recommendations for this report were also directed at multiple ministries, including the Ministries of Children and Family Development, Health and Education. The good news is that Charlie is now thriving in foster care and cultural connections are being built with his community. 

Government responded positively to both reports. Our Monitoring team monitors and follows up on our recommendations, and we will be keeping close tabs on developments that result from our reports. Both reports are on our website: www.rcybc.ca.

While our reports receive a lot of attention, there are many other vital facets to our work at RCY. One area that I feel is especially important to know about is our Advocacy services. Our advocates are here for all children and youth and their families or caregivers who are receiving or navigating government services. We can help you connect with services or programs you need, self-advocate and even advocate directly on behalf of a child or youth if necessary. We can also advocate for those between 19 and 24 who are receiving, or are eligible to receive, CLBC services. Call us free at 1-800-476-3933 or email rcy@rcybc.ca.

In addition, I spend significant amounts of time in community – along with RCY staff – both sharing and receiving information about the issues and interests of children and youth. This helps us stay attuned to emerging and ongoing issues.

This year promises to be just as full and interesting, with two new special reports underway – one on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and the other on youth transitioning to adulthood. I’ll have more for you in my next article. In the meantime, I invite you to keep up with all the latest news from my Office through our social media channels. Like us on Facebook (@RCYBC and RCYBCYouth), Twitter (@RCYBC and @RCYBCYouth), Instagram (@RCYBCYouth) and YouTube (Rep4Youth). And remember, if you or someone you know needs to call, please don’t hesitate. We are here for you.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Charlesworth

Representative for Children and Youth