Albertan panel to probe full impact of the COVID-19 crisis on children and youth

Calgary, May 27, 2021 – The Alberta government has announced new plans to address the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children and youth. Children First Canada (CFC) welcomes the acknowledgment of the gravity of the situation and the commitment to provide a whole-of-government response to the crisis. CFC is also encouraging all provincial and territorial governments to work in collaboration with the federal government to take urgent action for the sake of children.

Commissioned by the Alberta government, the Child and Youth Well-Being Review panel will work to assess the psychological, social, educational and physical effects on kids. The panel will be co-chaired by MLA for Calgary-South East Matt Jones and Minister of Children’s Services Rebecca Schulz. 

Through this process, panel members will hear from a variety of experts, including educators, health care professionals, parents and students. Based on the evidence presented, they will determine how best to support the urgent needs of young people – both now and into the future – and provide recommendations to the government this fall. 

“We are encouraged to hear that the Alberta government will be listening to young people and experts, considering innovative and evidence-based policy solutions, and taking action to address the short-, mid- and long-term implications,” says Sara Austin, founder and CEO of Children First Canada.

Across Canada, COVID-19 has led to devastating effects on the mental and physical health of kids. School closures, the lack of access to sports and recreational programs, and social isolation have led to devasting effects on the mental and physical health of kids. The urgency to support children and youth has never been greater.

The evidence is overwhelming:

  • Admissions for substance-use disorders have tripled since last year. (Children’s Healthcare Canada)
  • Among children and youth, suicide attempt admissions have doubled on averaged during the pandemic. (Children’s Healthcare Canada)
  • 70% of kids say the pandemic has harmed their mental health (Canada’s Children’s Hospital Foundations)
  • The Hospital for Sick Children reports a 25% increase in ER visits for mental health conditions during the pandemic.
  • Child abuse rates have risen sharply, with a 100% increase in cases of infants presenting with fractures and head trauma since September 2020 (CHEO).

Children First Canada and its partners recently launched a campaign to call for an emergency response and declare #codePINK (a term used for pediatric emergencies) in light of the crisis facing kids. Together, they are calling for an urgent meeting of Canada’s First Ministers to take action to address the crisis facing children and ensure they receive immediate and sustained support to ensure their mental and physical health. This includes safely scaling up virtual care programs, reducing backlogs for surgeries and rehabilitation, reopening schools, camps, parks and other recreational facilities as quickly as possible, and planning now for a safe return to school in the fall.

There are 8 million kids in Canada, representing nearly a quarter of our population. Ensuring their safety is our most sacred duty and it is a shared responsibility of all levels of government.


Contact:
Theresa Freeman
tfreeman@childrenfirstcanada.com
Tel: (403) 510-3505

About Children First Canada:
Children First Canada (CFC) is a national charitable organization that serves as a strong, effective, and independent voice for all children in Canada. CFC harnesses the strength of many organizations and individuals that are committed to improving the lives of children in Canada, including children’s charities and hospitals, research centres, government, corporations, community leaders, and children themselves. Visit childrenfirstcanada.org for more information.

About #codePINK:
The #codePINK campaign has been organized by Children First Canada, a national charitable organization that serves as a strong, effective and independent voice for all 8 million children in Canada. Children’s health organizations from across the country have joined this effort, including Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute, Canada’s Children’s Hospital Foundations, CHEO, Children’s Healthcare Canada, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, McMaster Children’s Hospital, The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and the Young Canadians Roundtable on Health. Visit childrenfirstcanada.org/codepink to learn more.