B.C. youth representative calls for data on mental health of children in care

Youth rep calls for data

British Columbia’s representative for children says she’s concerned that neither the province nor the country gathers data on the rate of mental health disorders for children in care, especially when other jurisdictions show a much higher rate.

A report from the Children’s Health Policy Centre at Simon Fraser University found children in comparable jurisdictions in Europe, the United States and the United Kingdom had "dramatically higher rates" of mental health disorders when compared with the general population.

The report was commission by Jennifer Charlesworth, B.C.’s representative for children and youth, and analyzed programs that prevent children from entering care, the prevalence of mental health disorders among youth in care and effective programs for preventing and treating mental disorders.

It found anxiety disorders are more than three times higher among children in care, depression is nearly 10 times higher and post-traumatic stress disorder is 40 times more likely.

Charlesworth says in a news release that she's not surprised by the statistics, noting the figures are likely similar in B.C., but lack of government data remains a critical concern that should be addressed.

She says the government and health authorities in B.C. have successful programs to prevent child maltreatment, but have not yet implemented mental health prevention and treatment programs for young people in care.

Charlesworth says that a reasonable parent who knows their child has a 50 per cent chance of experiencing a disorder would make sure that child was screened and given the resources needed to help.

“But that is not the case with children in care in B.C. None of the research-based programs identified as successful in the (policy centre) review have been implemented systemically in our province. They should be considered for implementation.”

The Ministry of Children and Family Development did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the study.

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