Growing Up in B.C – Challenges Remain
Victoria B.C. – While there have been some positive gains for the most vulnerable children and youth in B.C. a new report from the Representative for Children and Youth and the Provincial Health Officer says children continue to struggle in a number of areas.The report “Growing Up in B.C. – 2015 ” is a follow up report to a similar report released five years ago. It finds that, while there have been some improvements for children overall, children and youth in care continue to struggle when it comes to education, physical and mental health, family economic well-being, safety, behaviour, and making and maintaining important family, peer and community connections.
“With the passage of five years since the last report are we able to report improvement? The short answer is ‘no’,” says Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, the Representative for Children and Youth. “While there are some positive findings overall, serious gaps in well-being remain. These children start out behind their peers and stay behind. This is most true for young people and their families with multiple, intersecting vulnerabilities.”
Provincial Health Officer Perry Kendall says there is some good news, “While the report shows some promising trends in declining teen pregnancy rates, rates of smoking during pregnancy and serious criminal activity, there are some findings that are of great concern. This report shines a light on what needs to be focused on to better support B.C.’s youth – especially Aboriginal youth and children in care.”
Among the positive changes:
• The number of Aboriginal students graduating from high school within six years increased to nearly 60 per cent – a 13 per cent improvement
• Teenage pregnancy rates declined
• 80 per cent of youth say they usually feel good about themselves
• Youth involvement in serious crime declined.
However, some findings in the report are worrisome:
• About one-third of children entering Kindergarten are not as ready as they should be for school
• Aboriginal children and youth are 12 times more likely than non-Aboriginal children and youth to be in government care
• Children in government care are five times more likely than the general population to be designated as having a special education need
• Almost 60 per cent of youth in care do not graduate from high school within six years
• Half of youth who age out of care when they turn 19 are on income assistance within six months of leaving care.
Poverty remains a key issue says Turpel-Lafond “Since the onset of the recession in 2008, the number of children living in families with incomes below the poverty line increased to one in five, with very little progress in recent years to improve that. This report demonstrates, once again, the need for a cross-ministry children’s plan in B.C. to close the gaps, planning for targeted investments where they are needed most.”
Both Kendall and Turpel -Lafond call for improved data from both the Provincial and Federal Governments in order to better track what is going on .”The importance of having accessible data to measure outcomes and guide policy cannot be understated,” says Kendall “In 2011, the federal government went against the advice of experts and chose to discontinue the mandatory long-form census. As a result, we have lost a critically important source of information, specifically about the more marginalized populations who are under-represented in voluntary surveys.”