Whole-Child Leadership needed

An early interest in Autism led me to study psychology several decades ago and, eventually, to become a Psychologist.  Therefore, it was with much interest that I read Peter Rukavina’s opinion piece “An Integrated Network” and listened to MLA Sidney McEwen introduce a private member’s bill to establish an Autism Secretariat.  Integrating services will not only help families navigate the system, but will allow decision makers to identify gaps and create the best flow possible through the system for these Islanders.

The same day that Mr. Rukavina’s letter appeared in the Guardian,  I was re-reading the 2016 Child Protection Act (CPA) Review Report which made 66 recommendations for creating a social policy framework for the care of Island children, and ultimately a system in which all Island children and youth are central.  A system which meets their basic needs for protection and wellness.

The concerns Mr. Rukavina raises regarding a lack of coordination, information sharing and integration in services and oversight are echoed in the CPA review report and, in my opinion, equally apply to all children in our Province, especially the most vulnerable.

This report states:  “The Advisory Committee which reviewed the Child Protection Act called for the government to adopt a “social policy framework” which, in short, would recognize that the care of our most vulnerable children and the promotion of healthy child and family development and well-being is everyone’s responsibility which requires meaningful collaboration across all aspects of our society and governmental departments.”   

When assessing and planning for our children’s well-being and future we do not, as parents and caregivers, consider only one aspect of our child.  We consider their whole being and how things relate - if they are to have the best chance of success at school, for example, we understand that how they are doing socially, economically, physically, and emotionally will impact greatly on their ability to engage in learning.   Our Island youth will be healthier, in all ways, if our government policies, structure and legislation reflect this reality. Children do not live in siloes. No single government department can meet the needs of our children and youth.

I applaud Mr. Rukavina and MLA Sidney McEwen for bringing their concerns and solutions forward. I am calling on the government and all MLAs to go further.  All children on the Island need, and deserve, the coordinated, social policy (health in all policies) framework recommended by the Child Protection Act review committee.

Susan Hartley is the Green Party of PEI's Shadow Critic for Health & Wellness and Nominee for District 2- Georgetown-Pownal.