July 13, 2010
FREDERICTON (CNB) - Ombudsman and Child and Youth Advocate Bernard Richard is applauding legislative changes that will extend child protection services to youths 16 to 18 years old.
"I am pleased that children between 16 and 18 will no longer be left without services," said Richard. "I have seen too many vulnerable youth denied vital services because of a cut-off age which is three years shy of the age of majority. This amounts to nothing short of discrimination stemming from an internal conflict within the Family Services Act, which gives conflicting definitions of who is considered a child."
While the Family Services Act defines a child as a person younger than the age of majority, long-standing regulations have until now limited child protection services to those younger than 16.
This service gap was addressed in Richard's 2008 report, Connecting the Dots: A report on the condition of youth-at-risk and youth with very complex needs in New Brunswick. The report noted that young people, including those with highly complex needs, have been routinely denied services due to an arbitrary cut-off age. The report deemed this an inexcusable act of age discrimination and recommended that the provincial government take immediate steps to end the denial of social services to vulnerable youth.
The provincial government announced the changes to regulations last month but Richard said that the changes cannot come soon enough.
"Even this week we have been dealing with complaints from young persons who are denied services based only upon their age," he said. "All too often children would be weaned off social services as early as 15 as they neared the cut-off age. The changes to the Family Services Act regulations can be described as very significant in terms of their impact on the most vulnerable segment of New Brunswick youth."
The changes will come into effect on Sept. 20.
MEDIA CONTACT: Bernard Richard, Office of the Ombudsman and Office of the Child and Youth Advocate, 506-453-2789, email@example.com.