Children and youth have a right to an advocate – they also desperately need one

Kids Help Phone Releases Results of 24/7 Texting Service Pilot Launch And Expands Nationally

Support is Just a Text Away for All Youth Across Canada

Crisis Text Line powered by Kids Help Phone is being rolled out nationally in both English and French making access to mental health support just a text away for all youth in Canada.

Research has uncovered that 42 per cent of young people would rather write than speak about their problem and 71 per cent of young people prefer a non-verbal form of communication such as texting. Since February 2018, when Crisis Text Line powered by Kids Help Phone was service-tested in Manitoba and select provinces, more than 13,000 texting conversations have taken place.

"Kids Help Phone has been speaking with young people every day, in every community across Canada since 1989, adapting and innovating to provide them with the mental health support solutions that suit them best," says Katherine Hay, President and CEO of Kids Help Phone. "With our pilot of Crisis Text Line powered by Kids Help Phone, we set out to meet youth where they need us most, and the response has shown us that this is a vital support service for young people in Canada.

Following the pilot's promising results and through a partnership with Canada Health Infoway, along with the support from generous donors, the free, 24/7 texting service is accessible immediately to youth anywhere in Canada by textingTALK to 686868 to reach an English-speaking Crisis Responder and TEXTO to 686868 to reach a French-speaking Crisis Responder on any text/SMS enabled cell phone.

"As we move forward with the national rollout, we are again boldly changing the landscape in virtual care knowing theCanada of tomorrow is depending on how we deal with the mental health needs our youth are facing today," adds Hay.  "Over the coming months, we will focus on sustaining Crisis Text Line powered by Kids Help Phone with additional funding and resources."

"Crisis Text Line powered by Kids Help Phone will give young people across Canada access to a much-needed and first of its kind texting support service," says Michael Green, President and CEO of Canada Health Infoway. "We are proud to partner with Kids Help Phone to usher in this new dawn in mental health support service delivery."

To meet the growing demand for talking through text, Kids Help Phone introduced the texting support option through a service partnership with U.S. based helpline and technology pioneer, Crisis Text Line.  The service is provided by trained, volunteer Crisis Responders who engage in empathetic listening to help bring a texter from a hot moment to a cool calm.  Paid, professional Texting Supervisors monitor the texting platform and are ready to step in should a situation escalate.

Crisis Text Line powered by Kids Help Phone requires no data plan, internet connection or app. For many young people, (especially in rural and remote communities) lack of privacy, unreliable internet bandwidth, and limited data plans make it difficult for them to communicate by phone, thus the need for reliable, accessible communication. 

Pilot results showed that the most common issues that young people addressed through their texting conversations with a volunteer Crisis Responder were related to anxiety, relationships and feelings of isolation. Twenty-four per cent of texters connected with a volunteer Crisis Responder because of suicidal thoughts. At times, crisis intervention was a factor in the texting interaction requiring a professional Supervisor to step in to conduct between one and two active rescues daily; this is seen as one to two lives being saved every day.

Some other key findings derived from surveys completed by respondents after their texting support sessions include:

  • Reduction in Stress Levels:  86 per cent of participants reported a meaningful reduction in stress after finishing a texting conversation with a Crisis Responder.

  • Improved Mood:  87 per cent of respondents reported feeling at least one of the following categories after having communication with a Crisis Responder:  less alone, less distressed, less upset, more hopeful, more confident and more in-control.

  • Increased Confidence: 52 per cent of respondents said that they felt confident that they could now cope with their situations after a texting conversation.

  • Service Satisfaction: 83 per cent of respondents said they were satisfied with the service they received, and 81 per cent said they were likely to recommend the texting service to a friend.

  • Early Intervention: 78 per cent of respondents said had they not engaged in a texting support session they would have done one of the following: managed the issue on their own, not spoken to anyone; ignored the issue and hoped it got better or went away. Additionally, 7 per cent of users said they would have gone to the emergency room.

With 70 per cent of mental health issues being known to begin in childhood and adolescence, early intervention can lessen or prevent a worsening of the issue. Crisis Text Line powered by Kids Help Phone is seen as an essential mental health resource for young people providing a place where small issues can be addressed before they become larger ones.

Kids Help Phone's phone and Live Chat counselling services remain core, vital services, where anonymous and confidential professional counseling is provided.

A group of leadership donors to Kids Help Phone helped to underwrite the majority of the costs to develop the new service including: Bell Let's Talk, BMO Financial Group, Boston Pizza Foundation Future Prospects, Great-West Life, London Life and Canada Life, RBC Foundation, The Co-operators Group Limited, TELUS, Shail Silver and three anonymous donors.

With the national rollout of Crisis Text Line powered by Kids Help Phone, additional bilingual Texting Supervisors and volunteer Crisis Responders are especially needed.  Those interested in volunteering, donating to support Kids Help Phone or wanting more information on Crisis Text Line powered by Kids Help Phone are encouraged to visit

Join Children First Canada in Toronto for National Child Day!

Date: Tuesday, November 20, 2018
Location: TELUS Harbour (25 York Street) Toronto
Time for Youth: 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Lunch with Adults: 12:00 to 2:00 p.m.

Children First Canada is hosting an exciting forum in honour of National Child Day! The event will bring together children and youth with leaders from the business, not-for-profit and government sectors to discuss the urgent need to invest in kids!

During the morning and afternoon workshops, child and youth delegates will take part in lively discussions that will delve into the finding of the recent report, Raising Canada, which has been making headlines across the country. Discussion will also include the Canadian Children's Charter and the most pressing issues for Canada's children.

At lunch, top business, not-for-profit and government leaders are invited to join the youth. During the lunch, table discussions will be led by the youth delegates. Theland Kicknosway, an Indigenous youth advocate from Ottawa, will be giving our keynote address. Then, Lisa LaFlamme, chief anchor for CTV National News, will moderate a panel discussion with two top business leaders, Josh Blair, EVP of TELUS Health, and Rhiannon Traill, CEO of The Economic Club of Canada, along with two of our youth ambassadors.

Children First Canada is inviting children and youth (ages 10-18) to complete the Expression of Interest form. Please note that completing the Expression of Interest does not guarantee attendance at the event. Because space is limited, CFC reserves the right to confirm final registration to ensure fair representation across diverse communities.

There is no cost for a youth to attend the forum. However, Children First Canada is not able to cover the cost of travel and accommodation for youth and chaperones.

Children and youth, CLICK HERE to fill out the google form. Please submit your Expression of Interest form by November 13th.

Children First Canada is inviting adult leaders from broad communities to join the youth at lunch. Purchase a ticket or a table for 4 adults by CLICKING HERE. Every ticket pays for an adult and sponsors one youth delegate for the day.

More information is available at Children First Canada or contact Trish Mongeon, Managing Director.

Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in the Digital World - November 8th in Toronto

How is digital technology affecting our reading brains?

Dr. Maryanne Wolf, cognitive neuroscientist, Director of the Center for Dyslexia, Diverse Learners, and Social Justice at UCLA, and board member of the Canadian Children’s Literacy Foundation, discusses the impact of technology – both positive and negative – on our reading brains and her new book, Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in the Digital World, with Indigo CEO Heather Reisman at 7pm on Thursday, November 8 at Indigo Manulife (Bay and Bloor Streets in Toronto).

“Provocative and intriguing, Reader Come Home is a road map that provides a cautionary but hopeful perspective on the impact of technology on our brains and our most essential intellectual capacities – and what this could mean for our future.”

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UNICEF Report Card 15: How Education Creates Fairness for Children in Canada

Canada ranks 9th among 38 rich countries on how well countries give children a fair start in life

A new UNICEF report released today measures levels of educational inequality in 38 rich countries along different stages of schooling. Findings show Canada's education system is among the most equitable in the rich world. However, income inequality and its side effects may stretch the education gap wider for some children in Canada.

In The Equalizer: How Education Creates Fairness for Children in Canada, the Canadian Companion to the global report, UNICEF digs deeper into what contributes to inequalities and how Canada could do better. Public education is a strong equalizing force in Canadian society, working to close disparities that children start school with so that by high school more children expect to continue their education beyond secondary school than in many peer countries. But school is not a place of opportunity for every child, and there are growing threats to the fairness and high standards Canada achieves in education.

"This report shows our education system is one of the most equitable amongst rich nations, and that it creates fairness even as income inequality has widened," said David Morley, president and CEO at UNICEF Canada. "Canada's social and education policies need to protect and grow the equalizing power of schools, because we are leaving some children behind and a more equal system pulls all students up."

UNICEF's global report, Report Card 15: An Unfair Start: Inequality in Children's Education in Rich Countries, reveals that Canada ranks 9th of 38 rich nations on the extent of educational inequalities at preschool, primary and secondary school levels. While children start school in Canada with wide gaps in family circumstances and access to services including early education, the education system creates more equality as children progress through it. By high school, the gap in reading narrows compared to other countries. Canada supports both high achievement and equality for many.

"What this report also teaches us is that when we invest in children, we get results. If Canada brought to other aspects of child and youth well-being the shared commitment we have to a good education, many more children would be healthy, free of violence and able to dream about and reach their full potential," added Morley.

The gaps: education is not an equalizer for some children

As for all countries, income inequality is a big force shaping children's education opportunity and experience, and there are wide and persistent achievement gaps for some children in Canada. While migrant children do just as well as the average Canadian child, girls do better than boys at reading and the gaps widens as they progress through school. Parental affluence has less influence than in many other countries but it matters: children in disadvantaged families are less likely to do well, even when their grades are just as good as their wealthier peers.

"All children have the right to a fair chance in life," added Morley. "In Canada, too many Indigenous children are left behind. Children in racialized ethnic groups, children and youth in care, children with disabilities and children who carry the burdens of poverty and other life challenges also have equal rights to be included and nurtured for their unique potentials."

The UNICEF report identifies threats to educational equality. Income inequality is making it more difficult to close the education gaps. It contributes to challenges for all children on both sides of the education achievement gap, contributing to poor nutrition, bullying and anxiety.

To sustain and improve educational equality, UNICEF Canada calls on all levels of government to:

  1. Reduce income inequality. All levels of government should set a target to reduce child poverty by at least 50% by 2020, and 60% by 2030, through an increase in child benefits for the poorest families. A National Housing Strategy including Indigenous communities should help equalize children's learning and development by ensuring safe and secure housing.

  2. Guarantee access to high quality early child learning and care. When some children benefit from preschool that others can't afford, inequality grows. Increasing access to early child education in Canada would help lift families with young children out of poverty. 

  3. Close the gaps between children in schools and establish a reconciliation framework to close gaps for Indigenous children. More targeted funding to schools with wide within-school achievement gaps between children, and to schools with lower average scores, would help increase equity.

  4. Create more flexible learning opportunities. Beyond reading, science and math, children and youth also want to learn life skills like how to manage their health, financial literacy and about their human rights.

  5. Make learning safer and healthier. We call for a holistic and balanced approach to children's learning and broader well-being at school. This can be achieved by focusing on food security and providing a universal healthy school food program in Canada, and by reducing the high rate of bullying, which is more common in societies with wider income inequality.

UNICEF Canada also calls on Canadians to join UNICEF Canada's One Youth campaign to elevate the rights and well-being of Canada's children and youth.

It is only by better understanding the state of our children and youth that Canada can identify the challenges, design solutions and direct smart investments to close the gaps and make children's lives better. It's up to all of us to sustain our commitment to Canada's great equalizer, our public education systems, and ensure they work for every child.

Download the full report here. Download the youth-friendly version here.

Visit UNICEF Canada to read all about UNICEF Report Card 15.