Once a year, British Columbia dedicates a week to recognize the unique situations, strengths and struggles of the more than 8,000 children and youth in the care of the provincial government. It is an important time to remember and reflect on the needs and rights of these young people – and for me to speak directly to those of you for whom government care is, has been or may be a part of your childhood:
You have rights. There are laws that exist to protect you and ensure that you get what you need to grow and develop to your full potential. Your caregivers, social workers, teachers, doctors and other adults around you have the obligation to make sure you know your rights and that those rights are respected. You can learn more about your rights at www.rcybc.ca or by calling the RepLine at 1-800-476-3933.
You have value. Never forget that you are an irreplaceable part of the fabric of your community and, whatever your hopes and dreams, you deserve the opportunities to pursue them, and to share them with the world around you. You can contact my Office for help if you are being denied these opportunities.
You have a future. No one stays a child or youth in care forever. You deserve the support, education and services to transition to adulthood and live an independent life. As your Representative, I’ve been working with government and different groups to identify gaps and find ways to fill them. Don’t be afraid to dream big – two B.C. universities now waive tuition for youth who have been in care, and I expect more to follow suit. It’s a smart investment in a group of future leaders who are too often overlooked.
You have a voice. My Office will continue to advocate for your needs and rights – but don’t underestimate your own power in seeking out what you deserve. Contact us for resources, tips and advice on self-advocacy and how to make sure your voice is heard.
It’s to your immense credit that you have stayed strong through challenges and upheaval in your lives. So many of you have stayed resilient through traumatic or abusive situations – and I give you my firm commitment to continue to work hard to improve the system and services available to you.
Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond
B.C. Representative for Children and Youth