Helping youth become empowered to chart on course

B.C. Liberal government now making sure children have tools to succeed

Stephanie Cadieux

British Columbia has proclaimed Nov. 20 as Child and Youth Day to align with National Child Day, highlighting the civil, economic, social and cultural rights that children and youth are entitled to under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

When children’s voices are heard and their rights understood, they are empowered to chart their own path forward. My ministry is dedicated to supporting the next generation – and we’ve made important changes to our programs and services to ensure every child has the tools to succeed.

We know that young people are happier and healthier when they are part of a family.

Achieving permanency and finding adoptive families for youth in care is incredibly important to their future, and that’s why we recently launched Adopt BC Kids, an online application system that streamlines the adoption process and matches waiting youth with approved families. Now, adoption workers can focus on home studies, interviews and bringing families together faster.

For youth who age out of care, B.C. now leads Canada with changes to our Agreements with Young Adults program, adding life-skills programs and helping to cover costs like housing, child care, tuition and health care while former youth in government care go back to school, or attend a rehabilitation program.

These young people can now receive support for twice as long as before – from 24 to 48 months, and we’ve extended the eligible age of enrolment by two years – from a young adult’s 24th birthday to their 26th.

In B.C., youth are considered adults once they turn 19, but for youth in government care, we won’t let them go it alone without help.

Supporting transitioning youth into adulthood is a shared responsibility, and that’s why we have established a strong network across 13 ministries to help young people prepare for adulthood.

Together, we’re investing in things like affordable rental housing and educational contributions towards post-secondary training for former youth in care to help keep the cost of living down for young people starting out.

We’re improving access to child and youth mental-health services by streamlining the intake process through more than 90 walk-in intake clinics throughout B.C. and reducing assessment wait times for children and their families.

Tele-mental health videoconferencing is also expanding to several northern and rural B.C. communities to connect children, youth and their families to mental-health supports without the need for them to travel long distances to seek help.

B.C. is also a proud supporter of meaningful child advocacy, fostering greater understanding of our youth-serving system with the help of the Office of the Representative for Children and Youth and B.C.’s Select Standing Committee on Children and Youth.

It’s everyone’s duty to ensure youth rights are held sacred and they are safe, supported and given every opportunity to build the life they choose.

Stephanie Cadieux is the Children and Family Development Minister.