On Tuesday we had the privilege of meeting Irwin Elman, Ontario’s Advocate for Children and Youth. As an Independent Officer, he reports directly to the legislature and acts as an independent voice for children and youth. His mandate includes children or youth who are seeking or receiving services from the Children’s Aid Society or the justice system, children with special needs, and First Nations children. Provincial and Demonstration schools also fall within the Office’s mandate. As Mr. Elman highlighted, the definition of advocacy, under the Child and Family Services Act, is all about partnership. In his role as an advocate, Mr. Elman partners with children and youth to bring their ideas forward. He stressed in our meeting that he does not seek to speak for children, but rather to help them to have their voices.
What stood out most from our meeting with Mr. Elman was his dedication to his office and the children he represents. Sharing genuine stories of children who keep him grounded, Mr. Elman spoke passionately about the reason why this office is needed. Most importantly, he spoke about how we as a province can do a better job of listening to our children and youth, especially those in particularly vulnerable positions.
Together we discussed ways to become more engaged. Mr. Elman and his team are currently leading the I Have Something to Say campaign, designed to provide a space to discuss issues children and youth with disabilities face in their daily lives. We encourage all of our readers to visit the website to learn more about the campaign and how you can assist in elevating a child’s voice.