Children in care need solid goals
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From: "Doug Kelly" <dckelly@...>
To: "Doug Kelly" <dckelly@...>
Sent: Wednesday, March 07, 2007 5:41 AM
Subject: Victoria Times Colonist - "Children in care need solid goals"
Wednesday > March 7 > 2007
Children in care need solid goals
Youth representative says B.C. needs plan similar to New Zealand
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
CREDIT: John McKay, Times Colonist
Judge Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, B.C.'s first Representative for Children and
Youth, provides an update and briefing for media following her presentation
to the Select Standing Committee and Youth. Turpel-Lafond suggested
politicians put aside differences and work on getting a five- or 10-year
plan together before July to improve the lives of children in care.
B.C. needs a long-range plan similar to one adopted in New Zealand to
improve the lives of children in care, the province's new representative for
children and youth said yesterday.
Judge Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond called on government and opposition MLAs to
put aside political differences to develop a five- or 10-year plan by July.
The non-partisan road map would set five to seven objectives, such as that
children should be healthy, safe, and successful in their education. It
would also establish key areas that Turpel-Lafond would track, and then
report to the public on how the progress of the 9,500 to 10,000 children in
government care or home placements -- half of whom are aboriginal.
"British Columbia is certainly one of the wealthiest, healthiest provinces
with one of the best education systems in Canada if not more widely," she
said. "However, these children are still not doing well. And so my real goal
is to see that they do well, because if those children are not doing well, I
don't think any parent or family can feel confident."
Turpel-Lafond laid out her proposal to the select standing committee on
children and youth with a pointed reference to the B.C. government's goal of
being the best jurisdiction in Canada for children.
"That is a very high aspiration," she said. "Those aspirations need to be
put into a clear and comprehensive plan that can be measured and that an
independent office such as the representative's office can report out to the
public and say: 'Here's how we're doing...'"
Turpel-Lafond noted, for instance, that young girls in care are four times
more likely than other teenagers to become pregnant. This, in turn, means
they face greater likelihood of confronting education, health, and mental
"So teen pregnancy is an indicator that we really want to look at carefully.
How do we respond to it? Do the children in care receive sex education? Do
the children in care have access to birth control?"
In addition, an upcoming report done in conjunction with provincial health
officer Dr. Perry Kendall will highlight concerns about the education of
children in care. Turpel-Lafond said yesterday that only about 28 per cent
of children in care are graduating from high school, and only one in five of
those is graduating in an academic stream that could take him or her to a
A long-term plan would endeavor to get different government ministries
working together to monitor, report, and fix such problems, Turpel-Lafond
"New Zealand is a good example of a jurisdiction in which a clear,
integrated, 10-year plan was developed for children and monitored," she told
the committee. "And it was done so by an independent officer, much akin to
the office that I'm now occupying. I think it's early on, but it has been
Minister of Children and Family Development Tom Christensen said the
representative's proposal appears to match the government's desire to better
measure its impact on children. His ministry already has data-sharing
agreements with the education, health and welfare ministries in order to see
how children in care are faring, he said.
NDP children's critic Maurine Karagianis also backed the proposal, calling
it a "terrific innovation" by Turpel-Lafond.
Turpel-Lafond has been on the job for a month, but her office officially
opens for business April 1.
(c) Times Colonist (Victoria) 2007