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Children in B.C. disadvantaged, more data needed for research: report

Findings from a report on B.C. children and youth are of concern and should be a “call to action”, according to its authors.

Growing up in B.C. was released at the Champions for Children and Youth 2010 B.C. Summit, a two day educational summit put on the by the Child Welfare League of Canada on Oct.18-19.

The report was developed by Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, representative for children and youth and provincial health officer Perry Kendall in collaboration with a panel of experts. The intent of the report was to better understand children and youth, with the long term goal of improving their well being.

It examined six aspects of well being (health, learning, safety, behaviour, family economic well-being and family, peer and community connections), using over 30 indicators.

Youth suicides were down in the last 25 years, intentional injuries to children and youth had reduced in the last six years, teenage birth rates declined and almost 80 per cent of youth graduated within six years of starting grade eight, according to the report.

However, its authors and researchers also found:

- Aboriginal children and youth encounter significant disadvantages – they face more health risks, experience less success in school and are over-represented in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems

- Children who have been in the care of the government face more health risks, are much less likely to experience academic success or graduate from high school, and are more likely to use tobacco, alcohol and drugs. They are three times as likely to have attempted suicide and more likely to have been pregnant or gotten someone pregnant.

- There are patterns of disadvantage that appear for certain geographic regions – children and youth in the North, the Interior and northern Vancouver Island are more likely to live in families receiving income assistance and to be in care. Babies are more likely to be exposed prenatally to tobacco and alcohol in these three regions. Children in the North and on Vancouver Island achieve poorer academic outcomes, and teens in the North have higher rates of pregnancy and hospitalizations due to injury.


- What is most disturbing is that many children are caught in the vortex of all three patterns of vulnerability. In addition, these more vulnerable young people often live in remote communities with very few resources.

The authors themselves seem alarmed by the fact that a more full picture of B.C. kids wasn’t produced by the study due to incomplete data. They recommended essential indicators be developed that will make future studies more accurate.

Information about child mental health, definitions of special needs for children and youth and the experience of children and youth living with chronic health concerns were noticeably missing, according to the authors.

Study results point to a need for the government to properly fund services required by B.C. children, which are facing funding cuts by the province, the BC Government and Service Employees Union stated in a press release today.

Justin Langille reports for The Tyee.

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