Sara Austin

Kids Are Worth the Risk

By Sara Austin

Dare more greatly. Take more risks.

I made this New Year’s resolution while sitting on a ski lift in 2014. I had been reading Dr. Brené Brown’s book Daring Greatly and reflecting on a recent conversation with my mentor about moving forward in my career. At the time, I had no idea how this resolution would impact my life. 

First, I took on small personal challenges to get me out of my comfort zone. My friends and I also began trying new activities each month to challenge ourselves. Before long, I found myself taking risks – big and small – to accomplish meaningful goals. There’s something about taking risks that trains your heart to dream big. This seems to come more naturally for children and youth. As adults, we often need to be reminded of how powerful this exercise can be.  

Over the year that followed, I strengthened my courage muscles and began embracing much bigger changes. My family and I relocated across the country from Toronto to Calgary, taking us away from our families and current employment.  And in consultation with leading experts, I dared to set the wheels in motion for what would later become Children First Canada (CFC).  

Most Canadians were unaware that our global ranking for child well-being was on the decline. There was a gap in advocacy for and with children that desperately needed to be filled. I began to think about the risks required to move the needle for kids in Canada. As a country, it was time for us to dare greatly.

Today, CFC is a mobilizing an alliance of Canada’s leading children’s charities and hospitals, research institutes, corporations that invest in kids, teachers, parents and kids themselves. We are improving the well-being of children by building greater awareness among Canadians about the urgent needs of kids in our country, and mobilizing government and other key influencers to change the status quo.  And this all began on the foundation of a bold and ambitious vision: Together we can make Canada the best place in the world for kids to grow up.©

CFC recently celebrated five years of dedicated advocacy for children in Canada. With the support of our partners and donors, we have published groundbreaking research on the state of kids in Canada. Our landmark report, The Kids Are Not Alright and our Raising Canada campaign revealed alarming statistics and the top 10 threats to childhood in Canada. In consultation with children and youth from across the country, CFC helped establish the first Canadian Children’s Charter. We also launched the first Young Canadians’ Parliament (YCP) – a platform that brings youth face to face with parliamentarians to speak up for their rights.

As an organization, we are always taking risks. It’s a part of who we are. CFC is known for empowering and educating people with data, harnessing it in a powerful way, telling the uncomfortable truth, and pointing towards solutions that offer hope that change is possible. In the last five years, we’ve watched how busting the myths has moved Canadians from disbelief to taking action. Most importantly, we’re not just acting for children, we act with them and enable their voices to be heard – even the very young ones.

Kids are worth the risk – every time. In the year ahead, we will continue to take bold steps to advance the rights and well-being of children and youth. We are excited that our plans include a new youth engagement strategy, as well as an Indigenous Advisory Council to better advocate for and with First Nations, Métis and Inuit children within a nation-to-nation framework. We also plan to expand our Raising Canada research and campaign, Young Canadians’ Parliament and National Child Day initiatives.

What changes would you like to see happen for children in your family, community and across Canada? This month, we invite you to share your #2021DreamForKids with us on social media – and consider how you can help make that dream a reality.

Sara Austin is the founder and CEO of Children First Canada.