We Stand Up For Young People
The work of the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate (OCYA) extends throughout the Province of Alberta. We respectfully acknowledge that Alberta is the traditional and ancestral territory of many Indigenous peoples of Treaties 6, 7, and 8, including the Nehiyaw (Cree), Denesuliné (Dene), Nakota Sioux (Stoney), Anishinabae (Saulteaux), Niitsitapi (Blackfoot), Îyâxe Nakoda (Stoney), and Tsuut’ina Nations, the Métis Settlements, and the six regions of the Métis Nation of Alberta.
We are honoured to work, live, learn, and play on the lands of those whose ancestors have walked this earth since time immemorial.
The OCYA’s Mission is “We Stand Up For Young People.” These are not just words to us. This is what we do day-in and day-out. We have been standing up for young people for over 30 years. How do we stand up for young people, and what does this mean when children or youth come to us looking for help?
First and foremost, in every area of our office, our highly skilled and dedicated staff are all advocates for young people. This means we listen to what they have to say, support their point of view, and find them the right help to suit their needs, whether that help is inside or outside of our organization. And because we are independent from government, we can focus on what young people need to succeed in their lives and in their communities.
The OCYA also directly supports young people in a number of specific ways:
Our intake team is often the first point of contact for many young people and individuals who call our office. Intake workers gather information to determine whether to assign an advocate or appoint a lawyer for the young person. If a young person’s issue cannot be addressed by the OCYA, we will try to connect them to an organization or service that is able to help. Our intake team also educates young people about their rights, encourages young people to be involved in important decisions in their lives, and supports community members and significant people in their lives to help advocate on their behalf.
The job of our individual advocates is to advocate on behalf of children and youth receiving child intervention services or who are involved with the youth justice system.
They help young people to understand and exercise their rights so that their viewpoints and interests are considered in the planning and decision-making that impacts them. Advocates take direction from young people whenever possible. Young people have the same rights as all of us, but they also have specific rights as spelled out in the United Nations Convention on the Right of the Child. For young people involved in the child intervention and youth justice systems, there are many times when difficult decisions must be made that directly impact a young person’s rights.
Legal Representation for Children and Youth
Alberta is one of the few provinces in Canada that has legal representation for children and youth involved with child intervention matters. Our roster lawyers help young people with non-criminal issues and ensure their voices are heard and not forgotten when important decisions are being made about them. Whenever possible, lawyers meet with and take direction from their young clients.
Supporting young people through investigations is another important job of our office. Our investigations team completes independent investigative reviews when young people are seriously injured or pass away (who have involvement with child intervention or youth justice services). Through these reviews, we look at their experiences, identify and analyze the services they received; and make findings and recommendations to improve supports and services. Our recommendations are intended to improve services for young people and to help prevent similar serious injuries and deaths.
Engagement and Education
Promoting and educating young people about their rights is an important responsibility for our engagement and education team. We do this by ensuring that young people learn about our office, their rights, and what to expect when receiving various government services related to the child intervention and youth justice systems. Our staff also provide presentations, workshops and training opportunities about the work of our office and host information booths and tables at conferences and learning events throughout the province.
Indigenous Youth and Their Communities
The OCYA has a dedicated Indigenous engagement team that develops and supports initiatives to help Indigenous young people, their communities, and community partners have input into the work of our office. Growing and strengthening these relationships is
critical so that our work is informed, relevant, and connected to those we serve. Some of the team’s work includes facilitating culturally relevant workshops for our staff, promoting positive cultural identity through self-advocacy training with community partners, and leading the OCYA in the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action and the Canadian Council of Child and Youth Advocates’ Declaration of Reconciliation.
OCYA Youth Council
An integral part of the OCYA is our Youth Council, made up of a group of 10 to 12 young people. They offer lived experiences to amplify the voices of young people in Alberta to address issues faced by youth. The Council provides input, advice and feedback on OCYA initiatives and ongoing work. Members may also represent the OCYA at events. When asked, the Council gives input, advice and feedback to external stakeholders on projects affecting services for young people.
Questions? Contact the OCYA at 1-800-661-3446 or visit our website: ocya.alberta.ca