Let’s give Nova Scotia’s children and youth the voice they deserve

Social workers see firsthand how Nova Scotia’s vulnerable children and youth continue to fall through the cracks.

Child poverty remains stubbornly high and continues to be on the rise. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives-Nova Scotia reported that child poverty increased from 18.1% in 1989 to 21.5% in 2016.

The child protection system is over-represented by Indigenous and other minorities such as Black Canadian children and youth according to a recent report by the Canadian Association of Social Workers (CASW).

Additionally our FOIPOP request last spring showed that applications to the provincial court’s Family Division under the Child and Family Services Act increased by 8% after the amended Act was implemented. This indicates that more intrusive child protection interventions are happening more often. This is not the intent of the province’s child protection services.

Last week, Nova Scotians were again provided with compelling evidence through a Raising Canada report, which paints a startling picture of the state of Canada’s children. It states that suicide is the second leading cause of death of Canadian children and youth. Over the last 10 years, there has been a 66% increase in emergency department visits, and a 55% increase in hospitalizations, of children and youth due to mental health concerns. In Nova Scotia alone 806 children were hospitalized for mental health concerns in 2016.

The statistics are striking, but not nearly as compelling as the stories that social worker’s bear witness to daily of children and youth who are struggling in Nova Scotia.

Children and youth are struggling to have their stories heard, their rights acknowledged and their voices as part of the decision-making process on the systems and programs that impact them.

Social workers know that when the voices of the vulnerable and marginalized are raised up and given space that our society moves towards greater equality.

The time is right to create a Child and Youth Advocate office to ensure that the voices of our province’s children and youth are at forefront of the policies and programs that actively serve them.

Nova Scotia is one of the only provinces without a crucial Child and Youth Advocate office.  In other provinces these offices are involved in right-based public education, conflict resolution, conducting independent reviews and making recommendations to governments on programs and services delivered to children and youth.

A Child and Youth Advocate office would prioritize the voices of these vulnerable children and youth combining individual advocacy with vibrant policy and systemic advocacy.  In other provinces Child Youth advocates have advanced policies that led to more holistic and coordinated services for children and youth. Learn more in this backgrounder.

That’s why we are launching a campaign calling on the provincial government to create a Child and Youth Advocate office to protect and promote the rights of Nova Scotia children and youth

An open letter on our campaign website (https://childyouthadvocatens.org/) asks Premier Stephen McNeil to pass the legislation that would create a Child and Youth Advocate office. The legislation, An Act Respecting an Advocate for Children and Youth, was introduced by the NDP Tuesday, September 11, 2018.

Join us in supporting the creation of a Child and Youth Advocate office by:

  • Visiting & sharing the campaign website childyouthadvocateNS.org
  • Joining the conversation on Twitter and Facebook by using the hashtag #childyouthadvocatens
  • Writing a letter to Premier Stephen McNeil advocating for a Child and Youth Advocate office at: Office of the Premier, O. Box 726, Halifax, NS B3J 2T3

Let’s help give Nova Scotia’s children and youth the voice they deserve.

Alec Stratford
NSCSW Registrar/Executive Director

One thought on “Let’s give Nova Scotia’s children and youth the voice they deserve

  1. This is the news I have been waiting to hear. Sometimes the courts do not know what is in the child’s best interests but this would help immensely in knowing what the child wants and needs. I have seen children pushed into situations where they are literally sick to their stomachs because the courts have made a decision to send them with a parent where they are stressed and unhappy and the parent cares more about his rights than the happiness of the child/ children. We need this badly!!!

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