Poor co-ordination causing extra stigma for children at risk in schools, child advocate says

·2 min read
The office of Marvin Bernstein, P.E.I's Child and Youth Advocate, has released its first annual report, which said the office handled 151 referrals involving nearly 200 children, since its operations began July 2020.  (Nicola MacLeod/CBC - image credit)
The office of Marvin Bernstein, P.E.I's Child and Youth Advocate, has released its first annual report, which said the office handled 151 referrals involving nearly 200 children, since its operations began July 2020. (Nicola MacLeod/CBC - image credit)

Well-intended professionals in Prince Edward Island who work with children at risk may be approaching kids so frequently that they are enduring additional stigma in the classroom, according to the child and youth advocate.

In the first-ever report from the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate, Marvin Bernstein related that in one particular case, a child reported that their significant problem was being called out of class to meet with people assigned to their case.

"The child indicated that what was problematic was all the disruptions in terms of a school day, so being pulled out of class by service providers," he said.

He added the the practice is "calling attention to the fact that that child may have certain issues or certain problems."

Adults should show more respect for a child's schedule, Bernstein said.

"The child was able to express through the assistance of the advocate that that wasn't helpful. There needed to be a more systematic way of responding to his needs and his issues," he told CBC News.

Bernstein advises professionals to put the interests of the child at the centre of their work.

"We have to be respectful and responsive to the needs and the pressures that children have as well. They have homework. They have recreational commitments," he said.

The report, which was released Friday, detailed the activities of the child and youth advocate office from its start in July 2020, until the end of the office's fiscal year in March.

The report indicated that the office's work for the current year will involve two child deaths, to ensure that proper procedures were taken in each case. The next annual report may detail recommendations to improve child safety.

Bernstein has already said he is awaiting a coroner's inquest expected next month into the July 2020 deaths of Danielle White, 47, and her nine-year-old daughter Olivia Rodd. Police concluded the deaths were a murder-suicide.

As well, Bernstein's office is reviewing the August 2020 death of Knox Beairsto-Whitlock, 2, who died of a head injury. The boy's death was ruled accidental.

Findings from those cases will be used to "educate public bodies, community organizations and the public regarding the mandatory reporting requirements for serious injuries and deaths," the report said.

Read the full text of the report:

During the course of its first nine months, the office handled 151 referrals involving nearly 200 children.

The report states most calls to the office related to child safety and protection, while others were about child custody or access.

The report does not provide details about referrals handled.

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