A report released by the province’s Office of the Child and Youth Advocate OCYA today reveals that Newfoundland and Labrador is not effectively addressing chronic student absenteeism and that the province lacks an effective data collection system that provides accurate and timely information.
Child and Youth Advocate Jackie Lake Kavanagh released “Chronic Absenteeism: When Children Disappear,” a systemic review focusing on the problem, factors influencing it, impacts on students, and promising strategies to address the problem.
The report also makes four recommendations to government departments and agencies that have shared responsibility for solutions.
The office concluded that many children and youth in Newfoundland and Labrador are routinely absent from school without reason. Once they become disconnected from school, it can be hard to reverse.
These children often lose their social connections, drop behind in the curriculum, miss opportunities to participate in school activities, and eventually they may disappear from school completely. Lake OCYA says even though this is not a new issue, it is a very troubling one, affecting students across all grades and throughout the province.
In some cases, the OCYA found that absenteeism is the symptom of a deeper issue and need. This review shows how children who are absent have needs and require responses from many different government services, and not just schools.
“We must stop defining this solely as a school problem,” Lake Kavanagh stated in a release. “The issue truly demands a comprehensive approach that also involves the Department of Children, Seniors and Social Development, the Department of Health and Community Services and the Regional Health Authorities.”