Yukon Child and Youth Advocate Annette King. (File Photo)

Yukon Child and Youth Advocate Annette King. (File Photo)

Yukon Child and Youth Advocate report details pandemic-year challenges

Issues with absenteeism, health and social services were identified

A document tabled in the Yukon’s legislative assembly on Nov. 4 details the work performed by the Yukon Child and Youth Advocate Office (YCAO) over the course of the challenging first year of the COVID-19 pandemic from April 1 to March 31 2021.

“It is more important than ever to consider children’s rights and views in all decisions made by governments,” said Child and Youth Advocate Annette King.

“We are inspired by the emerging youth leaders we have observed over the year.”

The office highlighted the challenges that the upheaval of normalcy from the pandemic created for children: the switch to online learning;

the cancellation of important sports and graduation events; and collective trauma due to the threat of the virus, were all noted as hurdles.

According to the advocate, the pandemic year highlighted long-simmering issues for young people in the Yukon.

“Some children and youth who were already having a difficult time need even more support now,” King said.

The child and youth advocate office described their work helping individual students and lobbying to solve wider issues.

Supports offered by the office included safety and family protection supports, housing and financial assistance, access to a variety of services including counseling and treatment and in-school supports promoting safety and attendance.

Of the issues the advocate dealt with, most were referred by either the child’s parent or caregiver or a professional such as a teacher. Parents and professionals referred about 40 per cent of the issues each and 10.2 per cent were brought forward by non-caregiver family members. Most of the remaining issues were identified the children and youths themselves.

Working on a wider scale, the office offered analysis of four systemic issues they had noticed to the Department of Health and Social Services in early 2020. They are: extended family care agreements, prevention supports for families, permanency planning that offers connections and care for children and youth in long term care and the pressing issue of youth homelessness.

“YCAO continues to have many unresolved advocacy issues in these areas and we continue to follow up on these systemic issues for individual children, youth and their families,” the annual report states.

The report also looked at the issue of student absenteeism from school.

The six areas of concern identified as driving chronic absenteeism among students are: belonging and culture, safety in schools, mental health and trauma, personal factors, behavioural supports and educational supports.

Concerning numbers resulted from the 2020/21 review of school attendance conducted by YCAO. It found that over 3,151 students missed more than 20 school days per year between August 2017 and March 2020.

Contact Jim Elliot at jim.elliot@yukon-news.com

Child advocate