By Colleen Gray
The Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth (OPACY) works with young people in the child welfare, youth justice custody settings, or children’s mental health systems.
We have tracked calls from young people about their health rights, who have indicated that they are denied personal health and treatment information, feel coerced into unwanted treatment, have limited to no involvement in treatment decisions, are unable to access desired health and treatment services, and experience difficulty advocating for health rights. These issues are compounded by the care systems as young people report that they are often presumed incapable of making or informing decisions, have several layers of caregivers, live in residential care and may be disconnected from natural advocates, families and communities.
“I Do Care” project
OPACY created the “I Do Care” project to respond to the problems raised by young people.
We held seven interactive youth groups across the province, worked with an advisory group of young people to guide the project, set up a social media presence, and created on-line surveys for youth and service providers. Young people told us that while they often do not know their health rights, their health rights are very important to them. We also heard from the caregivers and service providers that they, too, are unclear as to the health rights of children in their care. Other barriers they identified were fears of harm to young people, concerns that young people don’t understand health decisions, and worries of complicating the process if children are involved.
Educating young people
The Ultimate Health Rights Survival Guide, a newly released, 80-page manual, is one result of this work. Through it, we hope to educate young people in care and service providers about the health rights of young people. We have also taken the next step and given some practical tools to establish great practice and to help both youth and service providers take on the responsibility of realizing these rights.
Ultimately, we hope that using this book creates better understanding for young people of what is happening with their health, greater control over their lives, better decision making and stronger relationships with supportive adults.
Our materials are all available to the public. Our blog features guest blogs from young people and from professionals, including the following topics:
- decision making
- emergency secure treatment
- consent and capacity
- rights of people with disabilities
- supported decision making
We have short booklets and a series of 10 fact sheets for children and youth. Both are available in English and French, on our website and in print.
Printed copies of The Ultimate Health Rights Survival Guide can be ordered from the office, by calling 416-325-5669 or 1-800-263-2841 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Colleen Gray is a Child and Youth Advocate for the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth.
This piece originally appeared on our Mental Health Strategy Page.