July 26, 2019
Whitehorse…This week Health and Social Services (the Department) provided a response to the Yukon Child and Youth Advocate (Advocate)’s recommendations from the systemic review, Empty Spaces – Caring Connections: the Experiences of Children and Youth in Yukon Group Care. The Advocate provided the systemic review to the Department on April 10, 2019.
The Advocate’s recommendations entitled Stepping Stones for Meaningful Change focus on Family and Children’s Services integrating culture into care, involving children and youth in case planning, and providing additional supports to children and youth as they transition out of Group Care.
Under Section 21 of the Child and Youth Advocate Act, the Advocate has the authority to request follow up with the proposed recommendations on the steps that have been or are proposed to be taken within a specified time.
“We are encouraged that the Department acknowledges the issues that were identified by children, youth and families” states Annette King, Child and Youth Advocate. “These issues, highlighted in the Empty Spaces-Caring Connections report, are long standing systemic themes and will not change overnight; the recommendations are designed to guide the direction of the department to consider children’s rights and interests as paramount factors in decision making”
The response to the Advocate from the Department highlights the work to date in the area of Family and Children’s Services. From here, the Advocate will be working with the Department to align the progress made to date with the recommendations in the Empty Spaces - Caring Connections Review.
Most of the recommendations (26) were accepted by the Department, three recommendations were not accepted and one recommendation was modified. “This response demonstrates a potential to make a difference” states King.
The Advocate Office recognizes a shift over the last couple of years where Family and Children’s Services staff are more willing to cooperate with the Advocate on resolving advocacy issues. “We have noticed a significant improvement in First Nations and family involvement with decisions regarding children and youth” states King “and we are hoping the changes in the Department will translate to child and youth centred practice that will lead to improved experiences and outcomes for children and youth receiving service”.
The Advocate says that there is still more work to be done to bring policy changes and training into improved lived experiences and outcomes for children and youth. “How will Family and Children’s Service engage youth to participate in their case planning process?” asks King. “Too many children and youth living in Group Care describe not being active participants in their own lives”.
Empty Spaces-Caring Connections is a comprehensive review of the experiences of 94 children and youth who lived in group care facilities during a three year period 2015-2018. The findings of the Advocate highlighted policies that were in place but were not fully implemented.
“There are several associated themes that require ongoing attention” states King. These broad themes include: supports for youth ageing out of care, permanency planning for children in long term out of home placements, cultural integration in care, access to mental health services, school attendance and academic achievement, youth homelessness, and child centred case planning.
The primary role of the Advocate is to promote the views, rights and interests of children and youth accessing Yukon government services. “We will continue to address outstanding issues individually and systemically”, states King. “It’s what we do.” In 2018-19, YCAO addressed a total of 204 advocacy issues with 115 new advocacy issues related to Family and Children’s Services.
A copy of the review is available on the Child and Youth Advocate’s website: www.ycao.ca
The Child & Youth Advocate Office is an independent office of the Legislative Assembly. The operations of the office are guided by the Child and Youth Advocate Act. Children, youth or others concerned about a child or youth receiving services within Yukon Government can contact the Child and Youth Advocate Office at (867) 456-5575.