Mitzi Dean, Minister of Children and Family Development, has issued the following statement in response to the April 15, 2021, report from the representative for children and youth:
“I would like to thank the representative for children and youth for this report. I am especially grateful to the children, youth and families who shared their personal experiences, and Myles Himmelreich for contributing his professional expertise and lived experience to this report.
“There is much we can learn from in the representative’s report on fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). FASD is not well understood by most people, including sometimes even by those to whom families turn to for help. Structural racism, assumptions and stigma surrounds an FASD diagnosis and can lead to a focus on the origins of FASD rather than on the support children and youth need.
“The representative’s findings echo those in the recent In Plain Sight report about systemic racism in the health-care sector. We acknowledge that system-wide assumptions and practices in British Columbia have failed Indigenous children, families and communities for far too long, and other marginalized communities have also been impacted by stigma. The representative’s report makes it clear that this is particularly true in the case of an FASD diagnosis. Stigma can make it harder for parents to seek help and services for their children, and we are committed to changing this.
“Many of the representative’s recommendations are in line with our work to create and implement a new children and youth with support needs service framework. Work to expedite the framework is underway, and the new Minister’s Advisory Council for Children and Youth with Support Needs will hold its inaugural meeting in early May.
“The council includes representatives from all regions in B.C., and they have experience and expertise with a broad range of strengths, needs and disabilities. Their input will help shape the framework’s implementation, and their voices and experiences – like the ones included in this report and other recent reports from the representative – are integral to ensuring we’re building a system that will connect children and youth to the right services at the right time, no matter their diagnosis.
“Input from the advisory council will play a key role in shaping our approach. We know many families face tremendous challenges when they have a child with FASD, and children have been left waiting for supports and services that meet their needs. Government’s goal, and my goal as minister, is to support all people, especially those who are most vulnerable. Children must be supported to achieve their full potential by having the opportunity to build a strong foundation for learning, development and education – one that will lead to better health and life outcomes. This includes the need for prevention, early intervention and support services, regardless of labels or diagnoses.
“I am committed to working across government and with community partners, advocates, guardians and families to improve services for children and youth with FASD. It is only when we work together that we can best support the needs of families, children and youth.”