Tikinagan, OACAS raising awareness with Children and Youth in Care Day
Reeti Meenakshi Rohilla - Staff Writer
Tikinagan Child & Family Services and Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies (OACAS) took the opportunity on May 14 to raise awareness about the importance of caring for children and youth in/from care with Children and Youth in Care Day.
Proclaimed into law as the Children and Youth in Care Day Act in 2012, a news release issued by Tikinagan stated that this day, “offers an opportunity to recognize the enormous contributions that current and former youth in care make.” It added that an increase in awareness about the unique lived-experiences of children and youth in and from care increases the likelihood of these children getting the supports they need to reach their full potential.
“As an agency, we recognize the importance of this day and honour the strength, bravery, and resilience shown by children and youth in the face of difficult times,” said Thelma Morris, Executive Director of Tikinagan Child & Family Services. “We hope this day will destigmatize views about children and youth in and from care by increasing public awareness and understanding.
“I think it’s important we celebrate the amazing success of children and youth in care who have connections to our 30 First Nation communities.”
Tikinagan explained, “To help share the stories and to support the new Children and Youth in Care Day campaign OACAS also has developed a new hashtag – #CARE4CARE – and logo. The lion in the new logo represents the bravery and courage these children and youth need in order to overcome the obstacles and challenges of being an individual in and from care.”
On the occasion of Children and Youth in Care Day on May 14, Tikinagan Child & Family Services joined with OACAS in their launch of a new mental health initiative, Take5.
Tikinagan shared that Take5 is a tool for children and youth in and from care, as well as their caregivers, to access mental health resources in an interactive and accessible way, allowing them to prioritize their self-care and mental wellbeing.
Tikinagan added, “As the name implies, we are encouraging young people to pause, reﬂect, and take a moment to breathe. We are thankful that OACAS is providing children and youth with these resources that are speciﬁc to highlight the importance of prioritizing our mental health and well-being.” Take5 can be accessed at http://take-5.org.
Tikinagan encourages children and youth in or from care to use these resources, along with others that are currently available including the Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Hope Line at nanhope.ca or 1-844-NAN-HOPE.
Tikinagan shared that there are approximately 12,000 children and youth in care in Ontario and that each year, 800 – 1,000 individuals “age out” and leave the care of the Ontario child welfare system.
With funding from the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services (MCCSS), Tikinagan shared that OACAS worked alongside Tikinagan’s Youth Advisory Committee, over 20 community organizations, experts, and First Voice Advocates to create information resources, multimedia content, live workshops, and events for caregivers, children, and youth of all ages.
Tikinagan shared, “Children and youth involved with child welfare are at greater risk for mental health issues than children in the general population. Marginalized youth in and from care are also more likely to be impacted by COVID-19. This includes young refugees, youth living in rural areas, Indigenous, Black, racialized people and ethnic minority youth, young persons with disabilities, and young people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities.” It added, “Feelings of isolation and loneliness are among the main challenges and concerns for young people during the pandemic. This is particularly true for children and youth in and from care.”
Tikinagan’s annual Honouring Our Children Day will take place on Thursday, June 24.