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

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Jennifer Charlesworth, is seen in Victoria on Monday, Dec. 10, 2018. British Columbia's independent representative for children and youth, is calling on the province to start collecting provincial mental health data for children in government care. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dirk Meissner

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 statement 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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