16 too young to be on your own, Andrew Parsons says
Critic reacts to child advocate report into teen who started fatal boarding house fire
Andrew Parsons, Newfoundland and Labrador's Liberal critic for Child, Youth and Family Services, says it's time to revisit the age at which teenagers are able to live on their own while under the protection of the province.
"When you look at the different ages, you have to be 18 to vote, 19 to consume alcohol or buy a lottery ticket, yet 16, you're out on your own with money trying to find your own supports," said Parsons.
"It's a big issue, it's huge and it has to be re-examined."
On Tuesday, Carol Chafe, the province's child and youth advocate, released a report detailing how a 16-year-old boy living on his own did not get the mental health and addictions help he needed in the period before he set a fire on Springdale Street that killed a man.
From 2009 to 2011, the teen and his mother dealt with more than a dozen social workers, police officers, doctors and nurses, as they dealt with his addictions and mental health issues, and as he eventually moved through group homes, shelters, and eventually, into a boarding house with adults.
On Nov. 27, 2011, the teen wound up starting a fire in the boarding house. Carlos Escobar Medina, 54, died in the fire.
Parsons said, as a parent, it would be hard not to empathize with the teen and his family.
"It really could happen to anyone, the issues that were brought up here," said Parsons. "It's just sad, it's sad to see they never had the help they needed."
Under current legislation, young people between the ages of 16 and 21 can be in care, but only if they agree.
An official with the department of Child, Youth and Family Services said there are almost 100 young people who have opted to live on their own.