Urgent action needed to help B.C. kids in care cope with trauma, says advocate's report
Nov 16 2012
Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, B.C.’s Representative for Children and Youth, says young people in care need help with trauma.Photograph by: John McKay , Vancouver Sun
The B.C. government needs to take urgent action to help children in care cope with the trauma in their lives that too often leads to suicide or self-harm, a new report says.
Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, B.C. Representative for Children and Youth, examined 15 suicides during a three-year period and 74 incidents in which young people in the child welfare system harmed themselves deliberately. One of the youths died by suicide at age 12.
The report concluded that social workers made persistent and ongoing attempts to help the young people, but their efforts often fell short.
“These youth had highly disrupted lives, characterized by early losses and wrenching instability,” the report states. “Services did not address the tremendous trauma they had experienced.”
Many of the young people had been in care for half their lives and experienced an average of 12 moves. Five youths were moved more than 30 times.
They endured domestic violence and substance abuse in their families. They suffered mental health issues and learning disabilities, and fewer than half of them were attending school on a regular basis.
The report also found that a disproportionate number of the youth were aboriginal, including eight of the 15 who killed themselves.
“When children wake up in countless different homes, always starting over with strangers, they lack the chance to form meaningful attachments,” the report states.
“When we consider that this is often layered on top of a life experience of abuse or neglect, and countless social workers and service providers, the sense of despair that permeates this report is understandable.”
Turpel-Lafond calls on the ministry to assess children for trauma when they are taken into care and provide services to help them recover.
All 89 of the young people had received child welfare services prior to the incidents and 58 were in the direct care of the ministry.
The report said more money is needed to provide therapy and family interventions across the province.
Turpel-Lafond also urged the ministry to develop a strategy to reduce the number of moves by children in care.
Resources: The Ministry of Children and Family Development recently reminded young people and their families that if they are feeling alone, sad, or having thoughts of suicide, there is help available. Here are a few numbers youth and families can contact themselves or on behalf of someone else to get immediate help:
* 1 800-SUICIDE (1 800 784-2433).
* Youth in BC: 1 866 661-3311 (Toll-Free). Youth in BC is an online crisis service where you can chat 1-on-1 with a trained volunteer 24 hours a day.
* Aboriginal People Crisis Line: 1 800 588-8717.
* Native Youth Crisis Hotline: 1 877 209-1266.
* Suicide Prevention Lifeline: A free 24 hour hotline in Canada or the U.S. 1 800 273-8255.
* Kids Help Phone: 1 800 668-6868. The Kids Help Line is a national organization offering bilingual, 24-hour toll-free confidential phone counselling, referral and Internet services for children and youth or their parents in English and French.
Source: Ministry of Children and Family Development