New national study on the state of childhood in Canada: The kids are not alright - Children First Canada releases report that demonstrates huge disconnect between perceived prosperity and actual wellbeing of our children

TORONTO, Nov. 16, 2016 /CNW/ - Canadians are living under a misconception that the kids are alright. That's according to a new landmark report from Children First Canada, a new national non-profit organization that launched today in Toronto.

The report, based on a survey* co-funded and conducted in partnership with the Angus Reid Institute (ARI) in October, highlights a significant gap between the public's perceptions about how Canada measures up for our children's wellbeing and the harsh realities that children face. While public opinion polling in the ARI report presents a generally encouraging picture of life for youth in Canada, additional empirical data from Children First Canada reveals a more dire reality. More than two-thirds of Canadians think Canada ranks as either a top-five or 10 country in the world for children's wellbeing. The reality is that Canada ranks 17th out of 29 affluent nations for children's wellbeing based on a global index by UNICEF. And we place near the bottom when it comes to measuring child poverty and children's health and safety.

Kids from all walks of life are affected, from coast to coast to coast**:

  • Nearly 1 in 5 children in Canada live in poverty
  • 1 in 3 Canadians have experienced some form of child abuse
  • 1 in 5 children have considered committing suicide
  • More than 1 in 4 children are obese or overweight
  • There are three times more First Nations children in child welfare care today than at the height of Residential Schools
  • 1 child dies every 9 hours due to preventable injuries

"These deeply alarming statistics reveal a magnitude of problems affecting a large portion of our youngest citizens," said Sara Austin, founder and President/CEO of Children First Canada, at the official launch of the organization today. "In a nation as prosperous as Canada, this is unacceptable. Each statistic represents individual children whose lives and futures are diminished every day by preventable causes, and we need to do much better."

Austin is a world renowned advocate for children, with 20 years of experience in Canada and at the global level. She left her role as Director of the President's Office at World Vision in 2015 to create Children First Canada. While there are many effective children's organizations already in place, Austin saw a gap that needed to be filled. Unlike other children's charities, the goal of the new non-profit is to advocate and hold the federal government accountable to meet the needs of our youngest citizens, and to mobilize public awareness and action for children by mobilizing a wide range of united stakeholders.

The national study released today reveals some of the biggest issues facing young Canadians:

  • The top three concerns for young people are bullying (40 per cent), cost of post-secondary education (37 per cent), and mental health, depression and/or anxiety (32 per cent)
  • 58 per cent of adults and 45 per cent of children say they would like to see more support for young people's mental health
  • More than half of respondents (58 per cent) believe Canada is not doing enough to help its poor people
  • 64 per cent of adults say that more programs are needed to prevent child abuse and neglect

Austin believes the findings underscore the need for Children First Canada to advocate for children with the federal government; the majority of Canadians believe that kids don't have enough say in the decisions that affect their lives. The survey also found that half of children (49 per cent) say they believe Canadians do not give enough attention to children and their issues. Furthermore, approximately three-quarters of adults (73 per cent) and children (77 per cent) say that youth need more support to safeguard their wellbeing and fulfill their potential.

Children First Canada is harnessing the strength of many individuals and organizations who are dedicated to improving the lives of our country's children – committed partners including children's charities and hospitals, research centres, corporations, community leaders, and children themselves. "Investing in children is the right thing to do, and it also makes economic sense," added Austin. "Every dollar invested in the early years of a child's life can save up to $9 in future spending in health care and social services, so it's in the government's best interest to take the necessary steps today to ensure a better life for all of our children." The report concludes with recommendations including a National Children's Budget, a National Strategy for Children and a National Children's Commissioner, all of which received support from survey respondents, and a call to action for all Canadians.

Other key findings from the ARI / Children First Canada report:

  • Fully half (50 per cent) of parents who have children under the age of 18 say that a lack of money is hurting their kids. This number rises to 55 per cent among middle-income earners, and 60 per cent among households earning less than $50,000 annually.
  • The vast majority of Canadians (74 per cent of adults, 69 per cent of children) say they're concerned their family cannot afford to pay for college or university. That number rises to 85 per cent of adults and 87 per cent of children in families with household incomes under $50,000 annually.
  • 80 per cent of Canadians who believe that the cost of licensed daycare is pricing out the families who need it most. This number rises to 87 per cent in British Columbia and 92 per cent in Atlantic Canada and drops to 62 per cent in Quebec, where the government offers universal, government subsidized daycare for children four years of age and under. 

The Children First Canada report was funded by the generous support of Telus and RBC. Several children's charities and research institutions provided advice and input to the research.

* The Angus Reid Institute conducted an online survey from Oct. 11 – 17, 2016 among a representative randomized sample of 1701 Canadian adults and 831 Canadian children who (or whose parents) are members of the Angus Reid Forum. For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of +/- 2.4 percentage points for the adults and +/- 3.4 percentage points for the children, 19 times out of 20. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.

** www.childrenfirstcanada.com

 

SOURCE Children First Canada

For further information: For more information about the report or to schedule an interview with Sara Austin, please contact: Andrea Ellison, Vice President, National Communications, Global Public Affairs, aellison@globalpublic.com, 647-943-0275; Andrea Chrysanthou, Senior Consultant, Public Relations, Global Public Affairs, achrysanthou@globalpublic.com, 416-797-8194

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