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Early Years Letter to BC’s Representative for Children and Youth

Posted May 7, 2020

Concern is growing among those supporting families with children with special needs across B.C. at the lack of an effective response from MCFD to the continuing crisis. The Early Years Conference Committee has written a passionate appeal to Dr. Jennifer Charlesworth, Representative for Children and Youth: “We hope that you and your office will commit to a collaborative investigation resulting in a report including recommendations and help us bring needed reforms to our province. We look forward to an update. The time is right for change.”

Read the letter below.

May 7, 2020

Dr. Jennifer Charlesworth

British Columbia’s Representative for Children and Youth Sent via email:

Dear Dr. Charlesworth,

RE: Early Years Conference 2020

Listen Together, Learn Together, Act Together

We are writing to thank you for your excellent Keynote Address at our 2020 Early Years Conference in February. Your presentation emphasized the importance of the early years and the life‐long benefits to children, their families/communities and to society in providing the right services and supports at the right time, early in life to ensure the best outcomes. We appreciate your commitment to children and youth and the work your office is doing to support them and their families, in particular those most at risk. We also appreciate your invitation to work with you to bring about needed reforms for children with disabilities and their families.

In our discussions following the presentation we were heartened by your interest in your office conducting a formal report of services for young children with disability in BC similar to other reports conducted with other vulnerable populations. You noted it has been decades since such a review of services and supports for young children and their families in BC had been done and it was long overdue. As a collective we fully endorse a review that considers the needs all families of young children with disability, including indigenous, non indigenous, rural and remote.

Since that conference, our province has undergone massive changes due to the COVID‐19 pandemic. It has revealed how torn the fabric of service is to our most vulnerable populations. Services were limited, inflexible and inadequate before the crisis. We see the impact of inadequate care reflected in deaths in long‐term care homes. It is also reflected in the tremendous burdens of unmet needs experienced by children with disabilities and their families. Many families are faced with increased stress, mental health challenges, isolation, family violence and food insecurity. We believe that, going into the pandemic, had our systems of care been solid and the coordination and supports been in place to meet the diverse needs of children and families, the burdens of today would be more easily managed and infused with hope and knowledge that there would be an end at some point.

ACT BC has done significant advocacy for families of children with Autism and The Family Support Institute, Inclusion BC, BCEdAccess and BC Parents of Complex Kids have been working hard to bring direct concerns from parents to MCFD. Very little to date has been accomplished to address real and growing concerns now highlighted by the crisis of COVID‐19.

The Province can do better. We know from families and service providers what is needed. We know that low incidence populations benefit from provincial rather than regional oversight, when standards of service and care are developed, monitored, trauma‐informed and evaluated; when staff training is valued and supported; when families are fully involved in all decision making processes there can be success.

There is no excuse for needs to be met in one region and completely unmet in another; when one family can access needed support and others cannot; when one staff person can access training and another works with little or no qualification for what should be a highly skilled job. There is huge and unnecessary inequity throughout BC. This can create devastating and life‐long consequences for our youngest and most vulnerable citizens. Future changes should include, with family input, determining which services families deem are essential for our youngest citizens and their families.

We hope that you and your office will commit to a collaborative investigation resulting in a report including recommendations and help us bring needed reforms to our province. We look forward to an update. The time is right for change.


Early Years Committee

Diana Elliott, Co‐Chair, Provincial Advisor, Aboriginal Infant Development Programs, Victoria, BC

Stacey Walsh, Co‐Chair, Social Worker, Sunny Hill Health Centre for Children, Vancouver, BC

Yvette Bolduc, Advisor, Training Coordinator, Aboriginal Head Start Association of British Columbia, Duncan, BC

Tanya Brown, Team Leader Early Years, Mother Bear Child Development, Shéwaynewas “Growing Together” Family Program, Ayas Men Men Child and Family Services, Squamish Nation, North Vancouver, BC

Dana Brynelsen, Community Representative, former Provincial Advisor, Infant Development Program of BC, Retired, Halfmoon Bay, BC

Kjerstin Dunk, Infant Development Consultant, South Cariboo Infant Development Program; Cedar Crest Society, 100 Mile House, BC

Jason Gordon, Provincial Advocate, BC Association of Child Development and Intervention, Kelowna, BC Kristina Hiemstra, Director, Interprofessional Continuing Education, UBC, Vancouver, BC

Amy Mullis, Strategic Communications Lead, HELP, School of Population and Public Health, UBC, Vancouver, BC Judie Sahadeo, Infant Development Consultant, Langley, BC

Mary Stewart, Sessional Instructor, Faculty of Education, UBC, Vancouver, BC; Instructor, Early Learning and Child Care Program, NorQuest College, Edmonton, AB

Michele Tardif, Supervisor, Sources Infant Development Program, Surrey, BC

Mandy Young, Provincial Community Engagement Coordinator, Family Support Institute of BC; President, BC

Prader‐Willi Syndrome Association, New Westminster, BC

Angela Wrede, Syilx Early Years Lead, Okanagan Nation Alliance, Westbank, BC