Description of the presentation

Dr. Jennifer Charlesworth, the Representative for Children and Youth of B.C., will provide her insights into a recently released report: Left Out: Children and Youth with Special Needs in the Pandemic. This report documents the input that the Representative received in a series of focus groups and a survey which harvested the voices of families.  The report clearly demonstrated the extreme pressures that the families of children and youth with special needs were experiencing even before the pandemic, and that were exacerbated with the onset of COVID-19, making this already vulnerable population group even more so over the last year.  The pandemic, on top of an existing paucity of and inequity in the distribution of supports and services, has had a profoundly troubling impact in the short term, with worrying implications for the long term. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the fragility of our support systems for children and youth, exacerbating long-standing problems and layering on new ones.  For tens of thousands of C families who rely on supports and services for children and youth with special needs, the pandemic illuminated a crisis decades in the making.” 


  • To outline the fragmentation and inadequacy of supports and services for children and youth with special needs
  • To detail the specific effects of the pandemic on these children and their families 
  • To highlight the voices and experiences of the families of children and youth with special needs 

Key take-away messages

  • The services and supports in place for children and youth with special needs were underfunded and fragmented before the pandemic; 
  • The experience of many children and youth with special needs and their families through the pandemic has been devastating; and  
  • The shortterm impacts have been profound and there is reason to be extremely concerned about the longterm impacts as well. 

Key Resources for Further Information

Presenter Bio

Dr. Jennifer Charlesworth is British Columbia’s Representative for Children and Youth. Jennifer has worked in the B.C. social and healthcare sectors since 1977 in front-line child welfare, social policy, program management and executive roles. As part of her extensive background in service of children, Jennifer has taught child and youth care at the University of Victoria, has been the Executive Director of the Federation of Community Social Services of BC, and is the founder of the Leadership 2020 program for the Federation. She has also been involved with InWithForward, and has worked with Chief Wedlidi Speck and others to inspire culturally safer workplaces.  Jennifer has a PhD in Child and Youth Care from the University of Victoria, and an MBA from Oxford Brookes University in Oxford, England.