British Columbia

B.C. government urged to create task force to help kids with long-term effects of pandemic

A letter sent to various government ministries signed by over 100 individuals and organizations calls for a collaborative approach to mitigate the long-term effects the COVID-19 pandemic could have on children and families.

Professionals, organizations call for collaborative approach to address indirect effects of COVID-19

While children's lives in B.C. may have been spared by COVID-19, the quality of their lives, especially in terms of socio-economics and mental health, could suffer greatly, says developmental pediatrician Christine Loock, a co-signatory of the letter.  (Ben Nelms/CBC)

More than one hundred individuals and organizations involved in the health and wellbeing of B.C. children are calling on the provincial government to create a new task force to help kids and families cope with the long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an open letter to several government ministries, the group says it is primarily concerned about children with complex needs and disabilities, and those marginalized by socio-economic inequities, racism and structural violence.

"We haven't just been looking at the direct effects of COVID, but also preparing ourselves for the tsunami of indirect effects," said Christine Loock, a developmental pediatrician and a co-signatory of the letter. 

She said while children's lives in B.C. may have been spared by COVID-19, the quality of their lives, especially in terms of socio-economics and mental health, could suffer greatly.

A collaborative task force could help address issues such as food security, access to education and psychological support, and family stressors such as poverty and domestic violence.

"We need to help parents have their feet firmly on the ground because parents' stress will spill over on the kids," Loock said Wednesday on CBC's The Early Edition.

A top priority for the requested task force includes giving all children equal opportunities to play outdoors. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Given pre-existing child poverty affects one in five B.C. children, Loock also sees the chance to collaborate on wrap-around supports as an opportunity to help close the divide between "the haves and the have-nots."

Recommended priorities

The letter, which includes signatures from the Public Health Association of B.C., the B.C. Association of Social Workers, and the B.C. Aboriginal Child Care Society, lays out specific priorities for the desired task force including:

  • Strategies to address poverty, food and housing insecurity, and stress in children.
  • Address systemic racism throughout services and programs for children and families.
  • Prioritize funding for programs to support the mental and emotional health of children and families.
  • Improve access to outdoor play, learning and connection for all children. 
  • Support health-care providers to inquire about and provide support for family experiences of stress, including racism and discrimination, poverty, food and housing insecurity, parental mental health struggles, violence exposure, and inadequate access to essential support.
  • Support child development and child-care providers, and teachers, including support for financial and work-related stress, personal health needs, and child care.

In response to the letter, a statement from B.C. Minister of Children and Family Development Katrine Conroy said the province has invested in expanded mental health programs, supports for parents of children with special needs, and more community spaces for people fleeing domestic violence.

"We must do more to address the systemic issues highlighted in this letter and bring equity to people across the province," Conroy said in the statement.

Loock said, in terms of the task force, she doesn't expect the government to go it alone.

"It takes partnership and it really takes the community, and that's [what] this task force really represents," she said. 

To hear the complete interview with Dr. Christine Loock on The Early Edition, tap here.

With files from The Early Edition

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