The fundamental needs of children don’t change

Family, lots of love, a warm bed, and a safe home. Those were overwhelmingly the top responses Campbell River children gave when asked in a recent survey what they need to thrive and survive.

The survey is part of the development of the city’s first Children’s Charter – a process that engaged 283 Campbell River children, approximately 7.5 per cent of the city’s 3,800 children between the ages of 3 and 12 years-old.

Joyce McMann, Family Place coordinator, and Cheryl Jordan, regional coordinator for Success by 6, told city council at its Monday meeting that the children were consulted through community early learning programs, health fairs, and a children’s conference.

“The first step was to go to the children and ask them what they wanted,” McMann said. “They were very, very earnest in their commitment to help us out.”

McMann said what stood out was how similar the children’s answers were among the different age groups.

“Things like insurance, access to nature, first aid kits, dogs,” McMann said.

“All of those were important pieces. Although some of the words were different depending on the age group we were talking to, the answers were remarkably similar.”

Coun. Larry Samson wanted to know if there were any significant differences in the needs of children, when compared to past generations.

“We’re now seeing both parents are working, grandparents involved in raising the children. Are you seeing any unique things we need to be aware of if we hope to help these children thrive in our community?” Samson asked.

McMann said while times have changed, the fundamental needs of children are still the same.

“The world is changing but some things stay the same and that’s family,” McMann said. “The way in which families function may shift from generation to generation but the need for children to have a family and a stable family and not have to worry if there’s food on the table or a cozy bed, that will be eternal.”

McMann said that was evident in the answers that the children gave in their responses, though obviously not in those words.

“Many said they needed a mommy and daddy, people to care about them – beds came up a lot,” McMann added. “Many said they needed lots of nature, lots of love, a safe house.”

Those are all issues that Success by 6, in partnership with the Family Place, are striving to tackle in the Children’s Charter – a vision and mission statement prompted by some sobering statistics shared with city council in recent years.

Dr. Tanya Flood with Success by 6 told council last February that 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 also told council at that time that Success by 6 was in the beginning stages of a Children’s Charter to help address those issues. Council gave its full support for the charter and agreed to have city staff assist Success by 6 in any way possible.

Now that vision is one step closer to reality.

McMann said all of the children’s thoughts and ideas will be compiled and incorporated into a document that promotes a commitment from the city to the healthy development of all Campbell River children.

A draft of the charter will be shared with city council before it’s approved.

McMann said the group is hoping to have it finalized by the end of March.