Child advocates talk reform, following report on sexualized violence in care

October 7, 2016

Source: CBC

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, B.C.'s representative for children and youth, says there is an 'urgent need to respond more appropriately to sexualized violence against children and youth in care." (CBC)

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This week, calls to overhaul Canada's foster program re-emerged after a report revealed at least 233 cases of sexualized violence against young people under government care in British Columbia were reported since 2011.

British Columbia's representative for children and youth, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, said the actual number of victims is probably much higher, as many cases go unreported.

"Children and youth in care in British Columbia continue to struggle, " says Turpel-Lafond.

"We frequently move them into a care system where they continue to have a lot of turmoil, including, as this report suggests, being targets of sexual victimization by both the adults responsible to care for them and also by peers that they may encounter in that care system."

Despite the fact that Indigenous girls only make up about a quarter of the youth in foster care in B.C., more than 60 per cent of the victims in the report were Indigenous girls.

For some child advocates, this is the latest in a series of failure of the child protection system in Canada.

"I found the report disturbing but I didn't find it surprising," says Marni Brownell, professor in the department of community health sciences at the University of Manitoba.

She tells The Current's Friday host Duncan McCue, that the system requires an overhaul due to fundamental problems.

"I think it's it's a chronically overburdened system. Canada has some of the highest rates of children in care in the world," says Brownell.

"We remove children from the situation, so we remove them from the home. And that does nothing to address the family and community vulnerability towards child maltreatment."

Brownell says the current system deals in short term solutions that don't address the needs of families and communities.

Many child care services across the country have already started to move away from traditional foster care.

In Manitoba, the Métis Child and Family Services Authority has created a program it calls LIFE (Live-In Family Enhancement).

Under the LIFE program, rather than removing the children from their parents, the family is kept together and made to live with a mentor who helps the family develop a safe and nurturing family environment.

McCue spoke with a mother who is in the program now.

"I have a 4 month old son and a two and a half year old. I'm learning to cook and clean,[and] budgeting... all the things you need to learn to be on your own independence," she says.

"It was a very good chance to keep the bond with my newborn and I feel like a lot more people should be able to have the chance."


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