Gateway Gazette

OCYA Special Report: Speaking Out

Advocate releases Special Report on LGBTQ2S+ youth in the child welfare and justice systems

Edmonton…The Office of the Child and Youth Advocate (OCYA) has completed a Special Report on the experiences of LGBTQ2S+ youth in the child welfare and youth justice systems and is publicly releasing the results and recommendations as outlined under the Child and Youth Advocate Act.

“LGBTQ2S+ youth still experience higher levels of homelessness, suicide, mental illness, addictions, and violence. We can do more, and we should do more,” said Del Graff, Provincial Child and Youth Advocate. “I sincerely hope that the recommendations from this report will be quickly acted on to ensure that government ministries implement changes that improves the circumstances for LGBTQ2S+ young people in government care.”

From January 2017 to July 2017, information was collected from almost 300 stakeholders through focus groups, interviews, and online surveys. Young people, Elders, caregivers, and other caring professionals or stakeholders shared their perspectives about what was important to them.

The focus of this report was on LGTBQ2S+ young people involved with the child welfare and/or youth justice systems. This report started with a full review of relevant literature and research, and blessings from Indigenous Elders from each of the treaty areas (6, 7, and 8). An External Advisory Panel of stakeholders from across Alberta with expert knowledge on issues impacting LGBTQ2S+ children and youth provided advice and feedback throughout the writing of this report. This, along with our experience working with LGTBQ2S+ young people, gave us the background needed for this report.

The intent of Special Report is not to find fault with specific individuals, but to identify and advocate for system improvements that will help enhance the overall safety and well-being of children and young people who are receiving designated services.

The OCYA also created a video featuring young people and stakeholders’ perspectives on how to improve their experiences in child-serving systems. It can be found here: http://www.ocya.alberta.ca/child/videos/.

The Child and Youth Advocate has the authority under the Child and Youth Advocate Act to complete Special Reports on issues impacting children and youth who are receiving designated government services. This is the Advocate’s third Special Report. The Office of the Child and Youth Advocate is an independent office of the Legislature, representing the rights, interests and viewpoints of children and young people receiving designated government services.

Read the report “Speaking Out: A Special Report on LGBTQ2S+ Young People in the Child Welfare and Youth Justice Systems” and its recommendations.

OCYA report: Children’s Services minister responds

Children’s Services Minister Danielle Larivee issued the following statement in response to the Child and Youth Advocate’s Special Report Speaking OUT, released Monday:

“We thank the Advocate for taking the time to thoughtfully engage with vulnerable LGBTQ2S+ youth across the province, and for his valuable recommendations highlighting opportunities to strengthen the ways we support these young people through challenging circumstances.

“We agree that we must always look for ways to better support LGBTQ2S+ youth. That’s why our government introduced and passed Bill 24, to protect students in gay-straight and queer-straight alliances, and why we created new Youth and Housing Shelter Guidelines that recognize the unique challenges that LGBTQ2S+ youth at risk of homelessness face. We are so proud to be able to say that Alberta is a leader in this area and will continue to look for ways to lead.

“In Children’s Services, work is currently underway to enhance staff and caregiver training in ways that better support the needs of LGBTQ2S+ children and youth. The Ministry of Justice also has policies in place to ensure these youths’ needs are met at young offender centres, requiring the use of preferred names and pronouns, training for correctional staff, self-identified gender-based placements and a focus on promoting safety by listening to youth.

“These recommendations will play an important role in our ongoing work with community partners to create safe, inclusive communities where all children and youth are welcome, supported and loved. The Advocate has been and will continue to be a critical partner in this work.”

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