Anna Ho is Project Our Voice Our Turn’s Event Planning and Community Outreach Lead. She is also a former Crown Ward, currently studying for her Bachelor of Social Work degree, and has over 4 years of experience working with children and youth. She has a vested interest in dance/arts therapy, human rights advocacy and equitable social policy.
1. What is Youth Leaving Care Hearings?
The YLCH was an unprecedented two-day event held in November 2011 organized by the Our Voice Our Turn team at the Advocate’s Office. These Hearings helped to elevate the voice of young people in and from care, and provided a platform for young people to talk about their experiences, both positive and negative.
2. During the YLCH, did any of the young people say anything pertaining to health/health rights; can you tell us some of the issues that were raised?
Young people spoke about not having access to financial resources for counseling or medical services that they so needed and that many would consider an essential right. Service providers and advocacy groups at the Hearings recognized young people as “rights-holders who are entitled [to] protection, provision and participation.”
Direct participation by youth in making decisions about their own lives (where they live, who they could see or not see) and even their own bodies was one of the themes spoken about at the Hearings. Youth in care are sometimes the last person to be consulted in health care decisions, and it’s often at a point where the decision has already been agreed upon by the “experts” (not the young person themselves) and the “experts” are simply telling or persuading the young person toward that decision. Of all the submissions relating to health rights, overall, a lot of youth found that they were not fully informed of their rights or provided with the knowledge/resources to make decisions about their lives and their own bodies (particularly with taking medications). What these experts may not realize is that decisions deemed by “experts” as the most appropriate without direct participation and consultation with youth themselves can have long lasting, negative consequences. One individual at the Hearings talked about being diagnosed with various “disorders. He knew his behaviours were stemming from family issues but his psychiatrist thought otherwise and essentially forced them to take medication that had negative side effects, such as anxiety and depression. If he did not take the medication, he would be reported to the courts and to his social worker as “noncompliant”.
People also spoke about having access to medical services and resources while in care, but once they turned 18 or 21, they were booted out of the system without transitional supports to move from child services to adult services. But one individual at the Hearings said,
“As part of the rights information that a young person is given when coming into care, they should have some roadmap of how they will be raised, what they are entitled to and what to expect.”