Notice. Listen. Respect. Stand with B.C. children and youth in care. These are powerful words, and they hold a personal meaning for thousands of children and youth in government care across the province.
To help acknowledge and celebrate children and youth in government care and to help combat negative stereotypes and social stigmas, the B.C. government is proclaiming May 23-29, 2011 as the first-ever B.C. Child and Youth in Care Week.
It was a youth-driven idea to create the week - and it's a first for British Columbia. B.C. is the only province in Canada to celebrate a week for children and youth in government care.
Through various youth forums and projects such as YouthSpeak, youth in government care connect with one another to raise issues that are important to them and to generate positive ideas for change. One of the top priorities they have identified in recent years is finding new ways to combat the negative stereotypes and social stigmas that they experience. They wanted to raise social awareness and shift negative perceptions - to help people across the province recognize children and youth in care, like all young people, as individuals with talents, contributions and dreams.
They envisioned a week that acknowledges and celebrates the unique strength of young people in care - and that's how the B.C. Child and Youth in Care Week was created. This week shines a positive spotlight on children and youth in government care across the province - from small, rural communities to large, urban cities. Many children and youth in care face complex adversities, but they are strong and resilient, finding ways to achieve many successes in life. These messages of empowerment, unity, resilience and celebration are reflected in the creation of the week.
Several key partners have been integral in development and planning for the week - the Federation of BC Youth in Care Networks, the Federation of Aboriginal Foster Parents and the BC Federation of Foster Parent Associations - as well as the children and youth themselves.
A provincial celebration event will be held on May 24 in Vancouver, highlighting the remarkable achievements and artistic talents of children and youth in care. To respect the privacy of children and youth in care, this will be a private function, with no media invited. Several regional celebration events such as barbecues, picnics and youth awards will also be held throughout the week.
Mary McNeil, Minister of Children and Family Development -
"Children and youth in care - like all children and youth - are unique individuals, with their own dreams, experiences, talents and challenges. All children and youth benefit from understanding, acceptance and support, and we want young people in care across B.C. to know that we are standing in support with them."
Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, the Representative for Children and Youth -
"To the girls, boys and youth in care in B.C., it's inspiring and to your immense credit that you are staying strong through the challenges in your lives. So many of you are rising above, remaining remarkably resilient with your eyes firmly focused on the better path ahead. There may be times you feel like you're all alone, but always remember that you're not. Our advocates, your family, social workers, school and foster parents can help you. The greatest gift you can give yourselves and those who have helped you is to become your own champion -- with your voice, your choices, your strength, and your courage."
Jocelyn Helland, Executive Director of Federation of BC Youth in Care Network -
"Like every other young person, those in care need help from the community to thrive and become who they want to be. It's our responsibility to support young people in care to inform them of their rights, to encourage and support them to pursue education, to support them through the difficult transition into adulthood, and help them have life-long relationships with the people they choose. This week is a way to remind us of our responsibility to young people in care and to highlight their incredible strengths."
Gary Mavis, Executive Director, Federation of Aboriginal Foster Parents -
"Children and youth in and from care have unique and powerful experiences that they can impart to all community members. Aboriginal children and youth need support and strength from their community so they can stay connected to their roots, educate others, and grow to their rightful potential in life."
Heather Bayes, President, BC Federation of Foster Parent Associations -
"As foster parents, caregivers and service providers in B.C., we celebrate our young people and anticipate positive futures for them. By publicly celebrating and honouring our children and youth in care, we send the important message that we stand alongside them as family and community."
* There are approximately 8,400 children and youth in government care in B.C. That's an 18 per cent decline from 2001, when the number of children and youth in care in B.C. was approximately 10,200.
* In 2011- 12, the ministry is spending $371.5 million on child protection services. This includes foster care and guardianship, as well as delegated agencies.
* The ministry is committed to ensuring the safety of B.C.'s children and youth, by providing services for vulnerable youth engaged in high-risk activities.
* The ministry funds a range of youth services that include outreach workers, youth support workers, youth and family mediation, guardianship, safe house and emergency shelter beds, transitional housing, youth agreements, and support services to sexually exploited youth - in addition to programs like the Youth Education Assistance Fund and Agreements with Young Adults.
* The youth services budget for 2011-12 is $38 million, which is an increase of $12 million since 2000-01.
* The ministry works in close collaboration with several key partners on matters related to children and youth in government care - including the Federation of BC Youth in Care Networks, the Federation of Aboriginal Foster Parents, and the BC Federation of Foster Parent Associations.
The ministry encourages feedback from young people on what's working well and what needs improvement. To share your thoughts and ideas, please email us at: MCF.CorrespondenceManagement@gov.bc.ca
To view the new section of the ministry website dedicated to B.C. Child and Youth in Care Week, where you can view the Proclamation, go to: www.mcf.gov.bc.ca/foster
To learn more about the Federation of BC Youth in Care Networks, go to: www.fbcyicn.ca
To learn more about the Federation of Aboriginal Foster Parents, go to: www.fafp.ca
To learn more about the BC Federation of Foster Parent Associations, go to: www.bcfosterparents.ca
To learn more about the Office of the Representative for Children and Youth, go to: www.rcybc.ca
Media Relations Manager
Ministry of Children and Family Development
Connect with the Province of B.C. at: www.gov.bc.ca/connect