“…Yet consensus was clear: they felt unheard. We were failing them.”
When did “the media” become a barrier to positive social change?
In 2015, Brielle Morgan, a journalist for Discourse Media, was attending a “community conversation” about foster care in Vancouver. At the Roundhouse Community Centre, the banquet room was packed with youth who had been in government care, social workers, teachers, and community leaders; they gathered around giant flip charts to brainstorm.
Brielle noticed “the media” scrawled on a few charts—under barriers to social change.
“I felt embarrassed, disheartened and frustrated by a sense of missed opportunity. Both rooms were packed with the sort of people the media should arguably most aspire to serve — young, marginalized people — yet consensus was clear: they felt unheard. We were failing them.”
And this is no small group. In B.C last year, the ministry had open child protection files on 2.6 per cent of the province’s kids. That’s over 23,000 kids with approximately 7,000 of them living under the care of the government. And, given the destructive inter-generational effects of colonial, racist policies, Indigenous kids are way over-represented.
Many of these youth have “fled abuse at home or have aged out of the foster care system.”
According to Grand Chief Ed John’s 2016 report on Indigenous child welfare in B.C., less than 10% of the child population in BC is Indigenous and yet, as of May 2016, 60.1% (4,445) of youth in care in BC were Indigenous.
Covenant House, a Vancouver-based NGO, estimates there are a minimum of 700 youth living on the streets in Vancouver at any given time. Many of these youth have “fled abuse at home or have aged out of the foster care system.”
With our partners at Discourse Media, we aren’t just trying to see the bigger picture but a better one. Our intention is to make space for critical conversations — for stories, questions and big ideas. With participants’ permission, we’re recording and sharing conversations more broadly to provoke a deeper conversation about what needs to change.
Some of the tougher experiences people have shared with us so far have been about family and the disruption of their homes. We’ve heard a former foster child speak to her husband about the challenges of growing up in care – the moving, the hardships, the lessons. We’ve heard a teenager talk with her mother about their family’s difficult decision to place her in care — a conversation that will surprise you. And we’ve heard from Stephen who shares his experience as a former youth in care both through conversations and his beautiful, reflective artwork.
In the weeks ahead, we will hear more stories from people who are both affected by the system and actively working to re-imagine it – families, youth, caregivers, social workers, community members. With the concerted collaboration of engaged youth and a number of committed partners — C4C and Discourse Media among them — there is a tremendous opportunity to help British Columbia correct its systemic failings and become a leader in the protection and treatment of some of the most vulnerable kids in the country.