International Youth Day
This year, International Youth Day is being marked under the theme "Youth Engagement for Global Action". In order for young people to succeed in building the future, they need the right skills and opportunities.
Mélanie Doucet is a 2014 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholar who as a youth was herself in the care of the child welfare system. She says what is needed is love, mentoring and support. That is why it is more important than ever to involve young people in the policy development process, and even engage them as co-researchers within a new approach that seeks to be emancipatory and focuses on social justice. In that way, young people are empowered to help define their own needs, hopes and expectations, rather than having conditions imposed on them.
In her doctoral research, particularly through her "Relationships matter for youth aging out of care " project, Mélanie Doucet suggests rethinking the child welfare system in Canada, with a move away from the current model to one where the young person is accompanied as they take on responsibilities and gain autonomy. Among the many recommendations in her research report, she strongly urges the implementation of a permanent social support network for youth who are no longer supported by the child welfare system once they reach the age of majority.
"These young people deserve the same level of ongoing care, support and unconditional love as everyone else, so they can get a fighting chance to thrive and not just survive," she says in the project video. Studies have indeed shown that the supportive long-term relationships that youth develop while in care help them avoid the many pitfalls to which they are at risk, including homelessness, crime, and mental health issues.
The urgency of the situation has been made even more glaring during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Mélanie Doucet, as 1,180 youth who have reached the age of majority have recently been forced to leave Quebec’s child welfare system, la Direction de la protection de la jeunesse, or DPJ.
In an article recently published in Huffpost Québec (in French), Mélanie Doucet calls on the Quebec government to come to the aid of these young people.
United Nations International Days are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce the achievements of humanity.