Over recent months the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor together with the Departmental Science Advisors from Health, Education, Social Development and Justice have been preparing a discussion paper on youth suicide. This paper was provided to Ministers this week and is released today.
The paper discusses the multiple factors involved in youth suicide and possible and evidence-based approaches to prevention. It points out the very different context in which young people now live their lives and the challenges of the transition from childhood to adulthood.
It points out that youth suicide often has different drivers from suicide at later ages. Māori youth appear at particular risk. Many young people have suicidal thoughts, some commit self-harm, a lesser but significant number attempt suicide and a much smaller but unacceptable number commit suicide. Predicting the latter at an individual level is very difficult. Often rather than a primary mental health problem, suicide represents a developmental lack of resilience leading to diminished self-control, increased impulsivity and exaggerated emotional responses in the face of the inevitable stressors that young people face – these stressors include a range of emotional factors as well as those social and contextual factors that can lead to a sense of low self-worth and despair. For young people the world is very different and is changing fast compared to that of previous generations – for example the impact of social media. The role of alcohol and illicit drugs in both reducing resilience and enhancing impulsivity are important factors. While challenging, reducing access to alcohol is seen as an important preventative measure. Inappropriate and negative peer relationships are further factors. Community and family environments, including issues of deprivation, social disintegration and family violence all create contexts in which suicidal and self-harm behaviours are more likely.
Thus the paper makes the point that youth suicide is more than simply a mental health issue and that, with what we know at present, the focus must also include an emphasis on primary prevention starting from very early in life. This means promoting resilience to the inevitable exposure to emotional stresses and building self-control skills in early childhood and primary school years, by using approaches that we already know about. It means promoting mental health awareness and ensuring that there are competent, well-trained and adequate adult and peer support systems in secondary schools. Because some interventions may be ineffective or can even do harm, all interventions must be evaluated. The report supports the need for public discussion and discussion with young people but this must be done in a form that does not increase the risk of contagion or put young people at greater risk. This must be backed up by a capacity to find and rapidly support those children and young adults who are in mental distress and ensuring that the needed interventions and therapy are early and effective. It means considering ways to reduce the exposure to and the impact of those contextual stressors, especially improving the sense of community self-worth in those communities where it is low.
The report can also be found at this link: http://www.pmcsa.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/17-07-26-Youth-suicide-in-New-Zealand-a-Discussion-Paper.pdf
26 July 2017
The Blueprint for residential care services in Ontario was released on 19 July 2017.
The Ontario Association of Child and Youth Care (OACYC) recognizes the work that the Ministry of Children and Youth Services has done to ensure youth involvement in the development of the blueprint. It is time that young people have a voice in the care they are receiving and the decisions that affect their lives. The commitment to unscheduled inspections is one that the young people have requested to improve their safety. We are encouraged that the Ministry is making a commitment to safety and to improving the standards of care across the Province.
While many elements of the Blueprint are encouraging, serious concerns remain. The blueprint makes no time commitments nor does it mention any increase in funding. The OACYC remains concerned by the lack of standards in place, the lack of immediate efforts to improve residential care for young people who are living in these spaces right now, and the lack of investment in the workforce.
It is the position of the OACYC that investment in the workforce would result in immediate and substantial improvements in the quality of care. While inspections are carried out to ensure standards are being met, the government should also ensure that only qualified professionals are hired to work in residential care facilities. Our College and University Child and Youth Care Programs graduate over 1000 qualified practitioners each year. Ontario has the qualified workforce, the workforce that was developed specifically to work in these environments; we now need an immediate standard, and the appropriate financial investment, to ensure that every provider is mandated to hire only qualified practitioners and is able to provide adequate support to their Child and Youth Care teams.
While the Ministry of Children and Youth Services has made a commitment to regulate ABA practitioners to ensure safe autism services to families in Ontario, they have not made any similar commitments to provide the same level of safeguarding, accountability and consistent high quality services to children and youth in care; vulnerable children and youth, who must rely on the government to provide for them and ensure their safety. As the legal guardian and care providers of these young people, entrusted with children and youth from our communities whose parents may be unable to care and advocate for them, the government has an even greater responsibility to act to ensure their care is the very best possible. The Government, with the mandate and resources to provide care, safety and support, like any parent, should be demanding and facilitating this.
The OACYC continues to advocate for regulation of Child and Youth Care Practice to ensure that all those hired as Child and Youth Care Practitioners across sectors, including residential care, are trained professionals who are accountable to a professional college, committed to a code of ethics and responsible to work within their scope of practice. Young people requested the governments support for regulation of Child and Youth Care Practice in the report Searching For Home: Reimagining Residential Care (Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth, 2016). With regulation in place, the public could be assured that all those working in this capacity with young people would have pre-service qualifications and ongoing responsibility to meet standards of care. We also call on the government to invest to ensure there is ongoing professional development and supervision, improving retention of the workforce to provide greater stability, longer lasting relationships and high quality care.
This government has been willing to regulate those who provide counseling in an office for 50 minutes at a time and those who provide early childhood education and care. It is time now to ensure that those who are; caring and advocating day-to-day for some of our most vulnerable children and youth in the care of our government, intervening in crisis and high risk situations daily, responding to the complex needs of young people who have experienced trauma to facilitate their optimal development, have their expertise realized while being held accountable to be caring, skilled, educated and responsible professionals. This standard can only reduce risk and increase the quality of care being provided.
Our young people deserve nothing less.
Please read our report Safeguarding the Other 23 Hours: Legislation of Child and Youth Care Practice in Ontario.
21 July 2017
Ontario Association of Child and Youth Care
The Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to create a “bill of rights” for foster youth that lays out rights, resources and services available to kids and their foster parents.
California has its own such bill, but county officials said it’s outdated and doesn’t include county programs.
Supervisor Janice Hahn championed the move.
“The former foster youth who spoke at (Tuesday’s) meeting told us how frustrating it can be maneuvering the foster care system when you do not know your own rights or the resources available to you,” Hahn said. “This bill of rights will be a way for both foster youth and foster parents to know every tool, service and program that has been created to support them.”
Examples include a policy that allows social workers to act in lieu of a parent to help a foster child get a driver’s license and the fact that foster youth have access to MediCal until age 26.
Six current and former foster youth will join the bill of rights working group. Hahn had originally proposed two representatives but upped the total based on feedback at the board meeting.
The group, to be led by the Department of Children and Family Services, is also expected to include county lawyers, mental health workers, probation officers, health care professionals and representatives of various community- based organizations.
Advocates said that concerns about navigating the foster care system deter some potential foster parents at a time when the need is great.
Others noted the complexities of the foster care system.
“I’m a 40-something-year-old woman, a lawyer and a mom. I’ve worked and volunteered in the child welfare system for over 15 years and I still struggle to keep up with what the laws are,” Wende Nichols-Julien told the board. “The people within the system, the people affected by these laws deserve to know what the laws say.”
In Nichols-Julien’s case, understanding the laws helped a girl she was mentoring avoid moving into a group home while she was working to reunite with her family.
A state effort to reform foster care requires that foster youth have access to specialized mental health treatment, transitional support as they move from foster to permanent home placement, connections with siblings and extended family members and transportation to school.
Roughly 35,000 children and young adults receive child welfare services from the Department of Children and Family Services. A little less than half live outside their homes in a foster care or group home.
A report back is expected in 120 days.
18 July 2017
Leading social service providers like Family Works play an important role in supporting families to make changes so children don’t have to come into care, says Ministry for Vulnerable Children head Grainne Moss.
While the Ministry has a statutory duty to keep children safe, part of its new focus is also on supporting families to make changes so children do not have to come into care, Moss told social service workers attending a Family Works Northern conference in Auckland today.
“Getting positive outcomes for children and young people requires us to increasingly work with organisations outside the Ministry, especially where specialist skills and agile approaches are required to meet the most critical needs.
“Professionals at a local level such as those at Family Works who work with children and young people every day are best placed to notice if something isn’t right, or if a child and their family are struggling.
“Family Works is close to communities and so can ensure their focus on listening to the needs of each child in their care. Family Works has many stories of working with children to resolve their problems. “
Moss was the keynote speaker at the two-day conference being attended by about 180 Family Works Northern staff – including social workers, counsellors and financial mentors – who work from 11 Family Works Northern sites in communities across the upper North Island.
It is through families that children find the love and nurturing they need, said Moss.
“This means all New Zealanders playing their part in supporting families, providing safe, loving and stable homes where children and young people need it, and helping our vulnerable children and families feel a part of supportive communities.
“In many ways we are the smallest part. The community is the largest, and everyone has a role to play. With a shared focus we can achieve a collective impact.”
Often when young people were being supported the focus was on their weaknesses, Moss said.
“But we know that what is loveable about them is their strengths. We need to create a space where those strengths can come to the surface, where children and young people feel safe and loved and can begin to unfurl.”
19 July 2017
Press Release: Family Works
Family Works Northern supports about 15,000 children, young people and their whanāu/families each year with services including counselling, Social Workers in Schools, financial mentoring, parenting programmes, family violence prevention programmes and reintegration services for women being released from prison.
LGBT Youth Scotland welcomes the recommendations following the inquiry of the Scottish Parliament’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee, outlined in the report ‘It’s not cool to be cruel’: Prejudiced based bullying and harassment of children and young people in schools. LGBT Youth Scotland submitted evidence to the committee which clearly shows that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people experience high rates of bullying in Scottish schools and that this can have a devastating effect on their health and wellbeing and their ability to learn.
Specifically the report recommends that ‘all teachers should get the right training in tackling prejudice based bullying’. This is certainly needed, as teachers tell us that they lack confidence to address homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying. LGBT Youth Scotland is inundated with requests for teacher training and last year alone provided training to 1,500 teachers.
The report also calls for ‘mandatory recording of bullying incidents’ and recommends that this is included in the HMIe school inspection framework. Any approach to recording incidents must include homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying and should take into account children and young people’s rights. It is important to ensure that LGBTI young people’s views are at the centre of interventions and that the monitoring and recording of bullying incidents do not needlessly ‘out’ young people to their family or carers.
Moving forward we hope that Scottish Government will effectively resource prejudice based bullying interventions and build on existing good practice in schools. This should include those schools that have completed or are working toward their LGBT Schools Charter of Rights.
There are several resources which are set to be published by LGBT Youth Scotland in the new school term which will support practice to address prejudice based bullying including:
LGBT Youth Scotland looks forward to the publication of Respect for All, the national approach to anti-bullying, and are committed to working with the Scottish Government to meaningfully address prejudice based bullying and to improve the lives of LGBTI young people in Scotland.
12 July 2017
Because of their age, homeless youth encounter a unique set of legal challenges. For example, they may be unable to enter into a contract or lease, leaving them unable to rent an apartment, even if they have the money to do so. They also face obstacles accessing healthcare or securing public assistance without a guardian.
In effort to increase legal services to this group, the American Bar Association (ABA) recently launched the Homeless Youth Legal Network (HYLN). The initiative helps homeless youth ages 25 and younger, while also providing opportunities for legal professionals and service providers.
“The Homeless Youth Legal Network is a fine example of how the American Bar Association can link youth experiencing homelessness with experts in the legal community who can help,” ABA President Linda A. Klein said in a press release. “This project, made possible with a grant from the ABA Enterprise Fund, shows how we can harness the power and reach of the ABA to improve access to justice by providing much-needed legal assistance to vulnerable populations.”
In addition to legal barriers, gaps in legal services mean that homeless youth can easily fall through the cracks. There are also programs nationwide that dont represent or provide services to those younger than 18. This new initiative encourages programs to expand eligibility and service criteria by ensuring programs are either equipped to address the issues facing homeless youth or able to refer those cases to partners in the network.
To help other programs better serve homeless youth, HYLN identified 12 programs to serve as models during the first phase of this initiative. These 12 pilot sites will provide technical assistance to emerging programs, document best practices, and share data on legal barriers and improved outcomes resulting from legal advocacy.
By identifying existing services, as well as unmet needs, the groups leading this initiative – the Commission on Homelessness and Poverty, Commission on Youth at Risk, and Section of Litigation Childrens Rights Litigation Committee – hope to create a national directory of legal services available to homeless youth.
In addition to helping homeless youth, HYLN benefits attorneys and service providers by offering them technical assistance, training, and learning opportunities. A pro bono initiative is currently being piloted in Florida to recruit and train lawyers and law firms while also matching them with homeless youth shelters and drop-in centers nationwide.
Recently, HYLN has also conducted surveys to gain deeper insight into the legal needs of youth in their community and started a listserv for attorneys and other advocates for homeless youth. Plus, on its website, HYLN offers a wealth of information and resources related to fulfilling the legal needs of homeless youth.
By Thorne McFarlane
10 July 2017
Zappone takes further steps to improve access to childcare for families who are homeless and programme refugees
Statement by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone
Free childcare schemes for families who are homeless and refugees starting new lives in Ireland are to be expanded, according to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone.
Free childcare for families which are homeless is to be extended to include all children aged 12 and under for the summer months and all future school holidays. Children under 5-years-old currently benefit on a year round basis.
In addition children from families who arrive in Ireland from the Mediterranean crisis under the refugee relocation programme will be offered 60 weeks of free childcare – an increase from the current 8-weeks.
Making the announcement Minister Zappone added:
“I believe every child should have access to childcare, no matter what their background, income or family circumstance. It is an ambitious goal but one which we must reach if we are to have genuine accessible affordable quality childcare.
Since the start of the year we have used funding of €8m to offer free services with a daily meal to children aged 5 years and under from families who are homeless. I am now delighted to confirm that this scheme is being extended to include part-time childcare for 6 to 12-year olds over the summer months and during other school breaks.
The extension will not only provide activity for young children but will also ease the huge burden on families who are in very stressful situations.
In addition free childcare for children arriving in Ireland from the European refugee crisis is to be extended from 8 weeks to 60 weeks.
Families arriving into Ireland from the ‘hotspots’ along the Mediterranean will benefit.
The extension will assist integration and create space for parents, guardians and older family members to seek jobs, training and education. It will assist them to resettle and restart their lives in Irish communities which will become home.
Childcare in Ireland is changing forever. We are transforming one of the most expensive systems in the world into one of the best. Accessibility is a key challenge we must address to reach this goal. These announcements underline our commitment to achieve that goal.”
10 July 2017
Department of Children and Youth Affairs
The Center is celebrating two decades of success and is now turning to the future.
With respect and dignity, the Walgwan Center, founded in 1996 in the Mi'gmaq community of Gesgapegiag, has been providing treatment and a healthy environment for young members of indigenous communities struggling with substance abuse for the past two decades.
The only facility of its kind in eastern Canada, the Walgwan Center, located on the Gaspé coast, has a mission that is essential to the future of indigenous peoples, who want to build the capacity of Indigenous youth to take charge of their well-being.
As a member of the National Youth Solvent Addiction Committee (YSAC), the Center is working to guide the transition towards a healthier and better life and offering them personalized, holistic and cultural care. The Walgwan Center team takes care of the four aspects of well-being in life: the physical, the mental, the emotional and the spiritual.
With only a dozen beds, the Walgwan Treatment Center can meet only a small portion of the needs of the Indigenous population; with addictions representing an alarming issue affecting several Indigenous communities in Quebec.
"In the current context of reconciliation, it is important for us to be a leader in our field. We want to inspire governments, public organizations and communities to work with us to help youth and their families. The physical and mental health of Indigenous youth is essential to the well-being of communities and represents a wealth for our future," said Board Chair Jacqueline Kistabish.
The Board of Directors of the Walgwan Center is taking advantage of the 20th anniversary to put in place a new strategic direction for 2017-2022. Under the theme "Get together, journey together, grow together!" this new strategic plan defines a series of actions to support, engage and empower each Indigenous youth through their personal journey. The mission of the Center is therefore to help young people who are looking for a healthy life and a holistic and sustainable cultural well-being. These objectives are met with respect of each individual's values, in dignity and in a safe space.
About Walgwan Centre
The Walgwan Center is an accredited treatment center for Indigenous youth. It offers healing treatments in relation to addiction, as well as the support needed to meet the client's goals. The actions of the center are based on tradition, respecting client expectations and needs, as well as the values of the family and the community.
7 July 2017
Crucial improvements to the state’s troubled child protection system have cleared a major hurdle in Parliament and are set to become law.
After a late-night sitting of Parliament, MPs voted around 2am on Thursday to approve long-awaited legislation acting on a raft of recommendations made by Royal Commissioner Margaret Nyland to better protect at-risk children.
Child Protection Reform Minister John Rau said the laws would make “huge” improvements to a system which was found by Ms Nyland’s inquiry to be “in crisis” and in need of a complete overhaul.
“It’s a completely different system and so much better,” Mr Rau told The Advertiser. “The changes, just in the ability of kids to have a stable (foster care) placement, are so much of an improvement on where we are now. It will better support foster carers and make foster care a more attractive option for many people who may be thinking about it but might not be prepared to do it now.”
The new laws will:
Education and Child Development Minister Susan Close said the new laws gave a “stronger voice for children and young people so they can be involved in the decisions that are being made around their lives”.
“For staff, the new Bill enables greater ability to act proactively to protect children and young people at risk of further harm. It respects the professional judgment of those who know the children, young people, families and carers, so those decisions are best informed and have the greatest opportunity to result in positive outcomes”.
5 July 2017
Minister for Children Anne Tolley says a new handbook brings together information about universal health and education services, making it easier for caregivers to find the information they need to access services.
“Caregivers are an essential part of the support we provide for vulnerable children and young people in care, ensuring that they have safe and loving homes,” says Mrs Tolley.
“We know that children and young people in care do not access universal health and education services at the same rates as those who are not in care.
“Caregivers have told us that they find it hard to get information on health and education entitlements for the children in their care. 'Hand in Hand' book has been designed to address this gap. It’s the result of a co-design process with caregivers and social workers.
“'Hand in Hand' book, produced with the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education, provides information on publicly-funded health and education services available to families from before birth through to 18 years old.
“This is part of a wider multi-agency drive to increase uptake and engagement by New Zealanders with core health and education services.”
The handbook covers services available to everyone as well as information on how to access more specialist support services. 'Hand in Hand' book is being distributed to caregivers and is available online at: www.mvcot.govt.nz
Budget 2017 invests $26.4 million to support around 4,500 caregivers of children in care, as well as help for those caring for higher needs children.
There are a number of initiatives underway to provide further targeted help to caregivers including a new after-hours phoneline, peer support, targeted training, and more effective recruitment and retention strategies.
4 July 2017
Press Release: New Zealand Government
Hon Anne Tolley
Minister for Children
Young adults from a number of European countries joined Scotland’s Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, to mark the official launch of the new Institute for Inspiring Children’s Futures at the University of Strathclyde today.
The Institute brings together world-class professionals and researchers with the shared vision of ensuring children and young people facing adversity have what they need to reach their full potential.
It will work closely with the practitioners, services and systems supporting children and young people, including those affected by offending, and those in need of protection, to investigate and tackle the root causes of social inequality and adverse childhood experiences.
Deputy First Minister John Swinney, said: “This Government is committed to giving every child born in Scotland the opportunity to fulfil their potential, and giving young people the best possible chance in life is the central purpose of the new Institute for Inspiring Children’s Futures.
“The Institute will help protect children and help them overcome adversity by drawing on the skills and knowledge of professionals in Scotland and working internationally. It is an exciting collaboration, with the Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland and the Centre for Youth and Criminal Justice at its heart – two organisations, funded by the Scottish Government, with a wealth of expertise in supporting young people in Scotland.”
Professor Sir Jim McDonald, Principal of the University of Strathclyde, said: “As a socially-progressive University, Strathclyde is committed to its founding principle of ‘useful learning’, bringing positive change to some of the most vulnerable people in society.
“The new Institute reflects our ambition to do more for our children and young people, and marks a major step in the life of the University and its contribution to Scottish and global society.
“The voices of children and young people are critical to our success in ensuring we create powerful, and lasting positive change for the global communities we serve.”
Inspiring Children’s Futures is a joint venture between the University’s existing Centre for Youth and Criminal Justice, and CELCIS (the Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland, in partnership with the wider international research community.
Professor Jennifer Davidson, Executive Director of the Institute of Inspiring Children’s Futures, said: “We have a bold ambition to create a world where children and young people have what they need to reach their full potential, particularly children who experience adversity.
“We will be focusing initially on the challenges that bear most heavily on the lives of children in adversity: stigma and its profound effects in childhood; economic and financial pressures that can make raising children even harder for families; the promotion of young people’s educational opportunities and outcomes; and the benefits, as well as the misuses, of digital technology.
“Communities and family relationships increasingly face huge stresses; our job is to support children, young people and their families, by working with those who are developing policies, undertaking research, leading public services and delivering at the front line.
“Building on the excellent work of the Centres with their partners, and based on our reach across Scotland and internationally, we aim to draw on the fresh perspectives emerging about these challenges. Our work will help to ensure that in addition to our current activities, we are always focusing on the core determinants, taking a more holistic, child-centred perspective, and achieve more by thinking, learning and working together.
“Fundamental to all of this, of course, is that we also listen to the voices of the children and young people themselves, and their families, who offer crucial perspectives on what matters most.”
The Institute for Inspiring Children’s Futures will be driven by a commitment to promote the rights of children nationally and internationally, guided by the principles within the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
28 June 2017