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Report details fractured and under-resourced services for First Nations youth

A report released today by the Representative for Children and Youth (RCY), Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, has cast a spotlight on the under-resourced and fractured services for aboriginal children and youth in our province. The report, A Tragedy in Waiting: How B.C.’s mental health system failed one First Nations youth, investigates the life and final months of an aboriginal youth who ultimately took his own life in 2013 at age 16.

“The Representative for Children and Youth has identified many troubling problems with mental health services provided to First Nations youth that contributed to this young man’s death. She has identified a lack of timely access to mental health services, a lack of proper assessment, miscommunication and a lack of coordination between services providers,” says BCGEU president Stephanie Smith. “These are all problems that are within the government’s ability to remedy if they have the will to act.”

“Our frontline members are all too familiar with the problems identified in the RCY’s report,” says Doug Kinna, BCGEU vice president – Social, Information and Health. “Under-resourced and fractured services chronically fail to provide assistance to at-risk First Nations children, youth and their families. The representative provides concrete recommendations that would go a long way toward fixing the problems. I know our members are hopeful government will act quickly and implement the recommendations she has made.”

The representative has recommended the Ministry of Children and Family Development develop and provide the resources for mental health services for Aboriginal Children and Youth to reduce wait times. She also calls on the Ministry of Education to develop a plan to protect the rights and support Aboriginal youth with mental health problems in the public school system. Finally, she recommends the ministry develop a strategy to support delegated Aboriginal Agencies that are failing to meet performance standards, and develop a clearly articulated plan to ensure child safety before the provincial government explores devolving child welfare services to individual First Nations.

Last October, the BCGEU released a report describing B.C.’s Aboriginal child welfare system as complex, culturally unsuitable, under-resourced, severely under-staffed, and struggling under its own complexity. The report also provided recommendations that would begin to address many of the problems in the system. Click here to download the BCGEU report Closing the Circle.

Click here to read the Representative for Children and Youth’s report A Tragedy in Waiting: How B.C’s mental health system failed one First Nations youth released today.