6 years after Bob Pringle became Saskatchewan’s Advocate for Children and Youth, Pringle says “there’s plenty of evidence in federal and provincial prioritizing that we do not value children.”
Pringle says the province has barely moved forward on recommendations made 6 years ago to strengthen prevention programs for families, addressing poverty, mental health and addictions, and family violence. Pringle says there hasn’t been enough money invested towards keeping families together, and when the economy is struggling, “the things that make a difference for children are always the first thing to go”.
The number of children in out-of-home care dropped to just under 4,500 at the end of 2013, but over the past two years, that number has risen to over 4,700, and some of those children are being put in hotels, which he says is inappropriate.
Pringle says the province had the lowest child poverty rate at 13 per cent last year, but he says 2 of 3 First Nations children on reserve are poor, 2 in 5 children are not kindergarten ready, and the number of children using the Saskatoon Food Bank is 10 per cent above the national average.
Pringle says in the first 3 and a half years of his tenure, the province addressed a lot of issues that other administrations had not touched, but in the last two years, “we have simply not made progress on those issues”.
He adds the closure of Saskatoon’s Yarrow Youth Farm last year, which he says is “one of the best programs for open custody in the country.”, has other provincial youth correctional facilities “jammed at the seams.” The Yarrow Youth Farm was closed due to a lack of young offenders serving prison sentences. Pringle says “We wonder why there are a lot of young people escaping from youth justice centres, because they’re maxed out”.
Pringle says the province has made some progress on a number of issues in 2015, including reducing the number of overcrowded foster homes, placing children with families, and risk management, but that has stalled this year.
Bob Pringle will be leaving his role as Advocate for Children and Youth at the end of the month.
Corey O’Soup, the Ministry of Education’s First Nations and Metis advisor, will become the province’s next Children’s Advocate.