MONCTON (GNB) – The Office of the Child and Youth Advocate has released its annual State of the Child report. It was presented as part of the 11th International Summer Course on the Rights of the Child, which is being held this week at the Université de Moncton.

The report provides an analysis of data released last fall in the Child Rights Indicator Framework. It includes five recommendations and examines some of the challenges faced by children with disabilities, as well as how their rights are being met.

“According to the data, children with disabilities in our province fare worse across several of the child rights indicators than their neurotypical/non-disabled counterparts,” said advocate Kelly Lamrock. “A child who struggles to read and is losing hope in school; the child who is bewildered, navigating a courtroom; the child in care, aching for a family; and the child with disabilities who needs support to have the friends and activities and hopes of their peers… these children all rely upon us taking their interests as ‘musts.’ When government ‘can’ help, the child often falls behind those who can vote, organize, donate and speak out. When government ‘must’ help, at first instance, there is hope.”

The data indicates higher reported rates of feeling unsafe at school, lower reported rates of feeling a sense of belonging at school, and lower rates of participation in extracurricular activities, such as sports.

One of the recommendations calls on the Department of Social Development to develop more robust data collection to measure how its programs are supporting youth with disabilities and ensure their rights are being met.

The report also calls on the attorney general to instruct the director of public prosecutions to review general comment 24 of the Committee on the Rights of the Child; it provides a guide for the holistic implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, particularly pertaining to early intervention and prevention of the involvement of children in the criminal justice system.

“This should be done with an aim to develop measures to support children’s rights through court processes, especially in terms of taking all other avenues to avoid prosecuting children with neurodevelopmental delays,” said Lamrock. “While these indicators are concerning, equally alarming is the gaping lack of information regarding how children with special needs fare on a number of other indicators. There is no information available for the number of special needs children who are in open or closed detention. In fact, there is no data at all to indicate how often neurodiverse/disabled children are coming into contact with the youth criminal justice system. There is very little data available to indicate how children and youth with disabilities, and their families, are being supported by the Department of Social Development, and how effective that support may be.”

The International Summer Course on the Rights of the Child is an annual event where professionals who work with children or promote children’s rights offer seminars in collaboration with Continuing Education of the Université de Moncton. Participants are given the opportunity to create and maintain connections by sharing their experience and knowledge with other experts in the field of defending and protecting child rights.