There are some investments you can’t afford not to make…so why aren’t our governments doing so?

I woke up early this morning as usual, and sat down with my coffee to catch up on the news. And sadly, this was the first thing I saw:

Danny Francis takes own life while in ministry care, roommate says: Body of 18-year-old Danny Francis found yesterday in Port Alberni

Alex Gervais, Nick Lang, Paige…and countless more.While increasingly friends and family of these kids are coming forward to bravely share their heartbreaking stories,how many more do we never hear of?

Throughout all of the investigations and reports that inevitably result, there is a common thread that can be seen and it is never addressed. The failures go beyond a ministry of children and families so overloaded with the increasing demands of not only kids at risk,but the vast numbers of children and teens facing mental health challenges.

MCFD doesn’t just deal with kids in  foster care, they deal with a myriad of complex issues and services.Children with different disabilities and their families go through MCFD as do many kids suffering from mental health challenges – the wait list can be long. And all of these different areas are suffering because of a long time lack of investment in families and children on a variety of fronts.

Quite frankly,it’s a failure of not only our government, but a commentary on our society for allowing this to continue and this is why.

It is well known and documented that an investment in our children,our youth and families is an investment we can’t afford not to make. It is a direct investment as a province, and  in our collective future. When families and children cannot get the services and support they desperately need, they fall through the cracks and often begin a downward spiral that costs society and government far more than addressing the issues would have in the first place.

Take a look at the criminal justice system. Last Monday I took the bus route in Surrey that goes by the court-house, at around 10:30-10:45. Locally that bus is referred to as the court run,for good reason. When people who were arrested and held in custody over the weekend get their Monday morning hearings, many take this bus to get back to Newton exchange. And last Monday the number of young men getting on the bus at the court-house, filled it completely. Some were already stoned. One guy had a portion of his head shaved and sported some nasty stitches in a fresh would behind his ear. All were Caucasian that Monday.

It makes for interesting conversation,to say the least. Repeat young offenders. Petty crime after petty crime that if not turned around is going to lead to harder,more serious offences,more serious addiction and or death. And in Surrey the issues youth face are tremendous – but how did they go from being a young toddler to sitting on bus post court hearing?

How much does all of this cost us, as a society and a government? In policing, in court hours,in parole, in prison time? In hospital care for those with untreated mental health issues? In the inevitable costs of homelessness for many.

It all adds up. And what we fail to spend on sound investments in children and families from day one, we pay much more for down the road. There are a plethora of papers and reports documenting this with facts and figures. This one prepared by the World Bank, makes it very clear it is an investment no government should fail to make. This is a global issue and we are no different here in BC.  http://social.un.org/youthyear/docs/youth-smart-investment.pdf

Countries should make children and youth part of the national investment strategies and provide sufficient resources. The accumulation of human and social capital must start at a young age as the brain develops rapidly during early childhood and adolescence. Moreover, early cognitive and non-cognitive skills and health capabilities lead to enhanced effectiveness of later investment. As a result, by building a strong foundation, investing in programmes tailored to children and youth advances socio-economic development. Failing to invest in children and youth triggers substantial economic, social, and political costs resulting from negative outcomes such as early school drop-out, poor labor market entry, risky sexual behaviors, substance abuse, and crime and violence.

This one,from the Mental Health Commission of Canada, shares startling facts on the numbers and costs of failing to address this issue in youth,families and adults:

http://strategy.mentalhealthcommission.ca/pdf/case-for-investment-en.pdf

mentalhealth

There are more reports out there, but we don’t need them. We need action.

We need investment and I mean real investment- not just a few dollars tossed here in there for the sake of a photo opp. Long term plans. We are the only province still without a poverty reduction plan – appalling. We  are still suffering the impacts of deep cuts made under former premier Gordon Campbell, after he slashed BC’s personal income taxes by 25%. Yes, it was 25% .

Those cuts sounded great…but came with a social and economic cost the province has never recovered from. A 25% cut to any revenue source is unimaginable…and without an avenue to replace it, it resulted in sweeping cuts to programs across the board,many of which I documented here. http://lailayuile.com/100-reasons-the-bc-liberals-must-go/

While the province has tried to make up for the loss of revenue via increased MSP premiums, user fees, along with raiding ICBC coffers and more recently Legal Aid funds, it hasn’t been nearly enough. Resource revenue is dwindling. Houston, we have a problem and it could have been avoided.

Sadly, it is our most vulnerable that have paid the price and it is steep. Combine this with what seems to be an increasing disconnect and loss of a sense of community for many in our modern world and it’s every man woman or child for themselves.It needs solid provincial action and investment/partnerships with our federal government.

Kids like Paige,like Danny, like Alex… they paid the ultimate price. And I am so sorry we failed them. And that we will continue to fail even more unless government and community priorities are drastically changed. And yes, we have to pay for it somehow,but let’s do that now instead of later. Instead of having more kids take their lives because they see no other way out.

What we need is leadership, non-partisan and hard discussion on things like progressive tax changes, instead of ordering school districts to cut their already bare bones budgets as a remedy! School is a front line capture point for helping these kids at an early age!But that isn’t happening. While government defends its actions, the line of Families First is rarely heard anymore. And rightly so, as this all demonstrates.

Every citizen,corporate and private has to step up to build something better for our collective future. But I still don’t see that happening under our current government or in many segments of our society who think very little of kids in foster care or how and why they got there. Of helping those in poverty or those facing challenges.

And I wonder, how many kids have to keep falling through cracks that are no longer cracks but chasms, before these discussions and changes are made?

*a must read, that came out Friday evening.

https://www.facebook.com/notes/peter-lang/an-open-letter-to-premier-christy-clark-and-minister-stephanie-cadieux-about-mcf/10153759721592790

BC Government denies cancelling gifts for kids in care

A joint effort today, proving that when the going gets tough… the bloggers get going!  It started with a really pointed post at The Gazetteer, picked up over with the  indomitable Ian Reids, continued with a new tip and email here on my site and was carried on over at Norm’s….

And the Ministry of Children and Families denies everything, which is a good thing because we wouldn’t want any kids at risk, anywhere, to go without a little something.

Right?

 

My latest post for Huffington Post BC :

B.C. Government Denies Cancelling Christmas Gifts For Kids In Care