I am proud to be the President and CEO of CHEO, a pediatric health and research centre in Canada’s capital. Our incredible team helps tiny babies, adult-sized teenagers and everyone in between. We feel there is no greater service than to care for and support kids and their families — when, where and how they need it most.
I am also the proud dad of a very busy toddler. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you have children of your own or a young person in your life that you love very much. Together, children and youth in Canada are an amazing #8MillionStrong.
They are indeed strong! Especially through this COVID-19 pandemic.
And they’ve needed their strength — and our support — to deal with challenges this pandemic has put on their development, mental and physical health, social connections and schooling, in ways they won’t forget. We’ve all heard the difficult stories that underscore these challenges. A recent study from the Canadian chapter of UNICEF ranked Canada 30th out of 38 wealthy countries in caring for kids. Let that sink in — Canada is near bottom of the list.
We all dream big for the kids we love, but “big” means different things for each child or youth. What’s meaningful to one child is irrelevant for another, depending on their circumstances. Right now, adults are not doing enough to help make all these dreams come true, and we have a role to play to help children. They are, after all, the next generation of leaders and change-makers. It’s our duty to set them up for success.
The number one thing we can do as a nation to best support children and youth is to remember they’re not tiny adults. They go to school — that’s their work. They don’t vote. They have unique diseases and disorders. They need care plans that factor in their growth and development needs. They rely on parents, guardians and caregivers, in other words, all of us — the adults.
Keep these two key questions top of mind: Are kids’ needs being met? What can we do to help children and youth thrive?
Apply these two questions and you will find yourself thinking differently when reading and taking in information. Scroll through your social media channels like a sleuth and watch the news like an investigative reporter. Ask these two questions of stories about medicine, education, equity and shelter. And don’t be afraid to speak up, push back and take action.
Use the guiding principle that ‘kids are not tiny adults’ as your superpower and be part of the solution.
Our #8MillionStrong are stronger with every one of us on their side.
We can do this. Kids are counting on us.