For three years now, British Columbia has dedicated one week to reflect on the strengths and needs of each of the more than 8,000 children and youth in the care of our provincial government. To each one of those boys and girls and youth in care, I want to take this opportunity to say:
You deserve this recognition of your unique situations – your triumphs and struggles, your individuality and contributions to your communities. You also deserve the commitment of stable and constant support, every day of the year – with a network that can help you transition out of care. That last part is very important, because no one stays a child or youth in care forever.
For the first B.C. Child and Youth in Care Week, I spoke about six different things that children and youth in care deserve. I’d like to remind you of those things now:
- Respect for your rights – knowing what you are entitled to and being treated fairly
- A good education – the key to so many successes
- Stability in your foster home or other places – not the unfairness of constant moves
- Strong adults who can be good role models – showing love, patience and kindness
- The strength to persist, ask for help and make changes for the better
- The courage to be different from those around you who may have done you harm.
While you are in care, the system should be dedicated to providing you with each one of these things. They are not only essential to your safety and well-being, but also to help make sure that you can grow and share your own special gifts and talents with the world around you. My Office will continue to advocate for what you need, including better planning and more effective mental health services – two shortcomings identified by recent Representative’s reports.
But while we will advocate for you, don’t underestimate the power of your own voice in seeking out what you deserve. Never forget that you are an irreplaceable part of the fabric of your community and, whatever your hopes and dreams, you deserve the opportunities to pursue them. And you deserve to have your government supporting you while you are in care, as well as giving you the tools, confidence and abilities for a successful transition out of care.
For some of you, that transition may be years away. For others, it may be coming soon. Either way, as your Representative, you can always contact my Office to learn about your rights and how we can help you to receive the services and support you deserve.
Starting Sept. 30 of this year, I will also be able to advocate on behalf of the more than 500 of you who transition from Ministry of Children and Family Development special needs services to Community Living B.C.’s adult services. This is an important change and my Office is working closely with the organizations involved to determine how we can best support you.
Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond
Representative for Children and Youth, British Columbia