June 23, 2010
MIRAMICHI (CNB) - Child protection services will be available to New Brunswick youths 16 to 18 years old starting Monday, Sept. 20.
"Extending child protection services to this age group addresses a long-standing gap in our province's services to young people and will also assist in our efforts to reduce youth homelessness," said Social Development Minister Kelly Lamrock. "Many homeless youth were abused or neglected in the home and felt homelessness was their only alternative."
Lamrock made this comment while visiting Miramichi Youth House, a youth shelter.
Under the changes, youths 16 to 18 will have access to all of the child protection services available to children younger than 16, including kinship care and foster care. These older teens will be able to obtain services voluntarily and actively participate in the decision-making using tools such as the province's highly successful family group conference model.
Lamrock said that, while youth homeless is an issue in New Brunswick, obtaining accurate data is difficult because most young people do not seek services geared to adults.
However, a voluntary survey in Moncton in September 2008 revealed that most participating homeless youth were staying with friends (couch-surfing) or living in rooming houses. In a similar survey in Saint John in February 2007, 45 youth said they were homeless, and more than half were between 17 and 19.
This is the latest in a series of announcements focusing on affordable housing and homelessness. Tackling youth homelessness is a component of the province's new housing strategy, Hope is a Home, and the New Brunswick Homeless Framework.
"The complex issue of homeless youth has no simple solution," Lamrock said. "Strategies must be developed to meet the needs of young people already on the street and to prevent other distressed youth from becoming homeless."
Extending child protection services to youths 16 to 18 also responds to a recommendation made by Child and Youth Advocate Bernard Richard in Connecting the Dots: A report on the condition of youth-at-risk and youth with very complex needs in New Brunswick.
MEDIA CONTACT: Chris Connor, communications, Department of Social Development, 506-444-3730.