Self-advocacy for Youth in Care

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), of which Canada is a signatory, identifies access to primary and mental health, spiritual, and educational “institutions, facilities and services” as categorical rights of children and youth. Consequently, ensuring that children’s rights are upheld within these systems becomes the primary obligation of parents and legal guardians. In contrast to youth whose parents assume this responsibility, youth in care of child welfare authorities depend upon a range of professionals to advocate on their behalf to ensure these rights are upheld, and that youth have access to information that supports their best interests. Despite the responsibility of child welfare authorities to act in loco parentis, many youth in care do not have equitable access to legal, financial, mental health, or educational support services, nor are they sufficiently knowledgeable to fully understand their rights in order to hold the child welfare agency accountable. Providing self-advocacy skill development for youth in care of may be one mechanism by which youth can contribute to changes in child welfare policies and practices that will address the acute disadvantages experienced by youth in care. This paper describes the development, implementation, and evaluation of a self-advocacy course for youth in care in Manitoba, Canada. Working within the framework of the UNCRC, Pillars of Learning is a five-month curriculum composed of a variety of modules that explore self- advocacy knowledge, skill development, and critically, how the self-identity of youth in care can be reclaimed through rights-based self-advocacy practice.

Youth in Care, Social and Cultural Diversities, Social Justice, Self-advocacy

Learner Diversity and Identities

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

  • Kathryn Levine
    • Associate Professor, Faculty of Social Work, University of Manitoba, Canada Canada
  • Melanie Janzen
    • Associate Professor, University of Manitoba, Canada Canada