Sobering statistics paint child welfare in unflattering light

City council received some disturbing statistics Monday night relating to the welfare of Campbell River children

City council received some disturbing statistics Monday night relating to the welfare of children in this city.

Dr. Tanya Flood with Success by 6 painted a grim picture that parents are struggling and the effects are being passed down to their children.

“In 2004, one in six Campbell River children are not developmentally ready for school. In 2011 it was one in four not developmentally ready for school – as a city we are failing,” Flood said during a presentation at Monday night’s council meeting. “By 2013, one in three children in Campbell are not developmentally ready to learn.”

And to make things worse, Flood said the resources to help those children are not readily available.

“Wait lists for early intervention programs are utterly astonishing,” Flood said.

Children referred for autism assessment are waiting over a year from the date of referral, and families are being asked to travel to Nanaimo for assessment, Flood said.

And the bad news continued.

Flood said that currently 22.8 per cent of Campbell River children under the age of six live in poverty, compared to the provincial average of 18.5 per cent and the national average of 13 per cent. In addition, roughly 500 Campbell River children under the age of 17 use the food bank monthly and 154 children up to age 16 were living in care as of November 2014.

Flood said child poverty is largely attributed to the generation squeeze – young Canadians are paying more and more for an education but wages are stagnant. According to Flood earnings have dropped by 11 per cent since 1976, even though young people today are twice as likely to have post-secondary education.

The squeeze tightens after a baby is born, with families losing up to $15,000 in household income.

Flood said while “the decks are truly stacked against young Canadians” efforts are being made, especially in Campbell River, to turn the tide.

Success by 6 with the Campbell River Family Network which has hosted vision and dental screening programs for children, child development workshops, health fairs, and supports the family gym.

Flood commended council for taking an active role by partnering with the Family Place and recently appointing Coun. Michele Babchuk to attend Success by 6 meetings.

“But even with all the support it’s not enough, our children are becoming more and more vulnerable every year,” Flood said. “As a city council I challenge you to become provincial leaders to reduce child poverty in Campbell River to 15 per cent because the benefits are there. It results in a healthy community for everyone.”

As part of that step in moving forward, Success by 6 is working on a Children’s Charter (the city already has a Youth and Seniors Charter) and council on Monday night agreed to support the Charter and have city staff assist Success by 6 in any way possible.

Babchuk said it’s something that council needs to do.

“This is a demographic of our city that needs a voice,” Babchuk said.

“When you take a look at those statistics, it’s not something that’s necessarily new in our community, but it is something that needs to be looked at.”

Flood thanked Babchuk for pointing out that children need to be heard too.

“I’m glad you said that because there is an equal number of children as there are seniors in this community but it’s a voice that often goes unheard,” Flood said.