The OCYA provides advocacy for young people who are receiving or want to receive child intervention services, or who are involved with the youth justice system.
Our LRCY program also provides access to legal representation for young people with child intervention court matters, or matters under PSECA, the Protection of Sexually Exploited Children Act.
Anyone can contact the OCYA to make a referral. If you contact the OCYA, an intake worker will talk to you and they may give some suggestions and advice. An advocate and/or lawyer may become involved with you or the young person you called about as a result of your contact with our office.
We know through our work that being involved with the justice system or in care can be confusing and difficult. The most important thing we can tell you is that if you feel you need someone who is there just for you, or to help you solve a problem, then give us a call.
Even if you’re not sure we can help, it is ok to call and ask.
The other important thing we can tell you is that we will only get involved with you if that is what you want. You can even start working with us and then change your mind.
On this website, we will give you some more information about what it is like to work with us. Also, we will provide more general information about things we think you would be interested in.
Keep coming back, because we will add new things from time to time.
An Advocate speaks up for someone or supports them to speak up for themselves. An Advocate helps you to make sure your voice is heard.
When an advocate is assigned to you, you can expect them to:
If LRCY appoints a lawyer for you, you can expect that he or she will:
I really like my foster home but I am getting moved to a group home at the end off the month.There is a meeting next week to talk about the move and my caseworker says I can’t come. Is that fair?
Good question! Advocates believe better decisions are made when the voice of the young person is included.
You have the right to have your voice heard at meetings where important decisions are being made. You can also decide if you want an advocate or someone else that you trust to attend the meeting and tell your side of the story.
If your caseworker does not change her decision, an advocate can explain the next steps that can be taken, and can help you through the process.
~ Jim Beaton, OCYA Advocate
My older brother is in jail and my social worker won’t let me visit him. Even when he isn’t in trouble she says I can’t have visits because he is a bad influence on me. I don’t think this is fair. Can you make her do what I want?
This is a good question! The most important thing that I can tell you is that you have a right to be heard. That doesn’t mean that you’ll always get what you want, but it does mean that you have a right to express your view.
If you think that you need help with an issue in your life, ask an adult that you trust to help you, or call our office!
We can help you speak up so the adults will listen to what you have to say and they may change their decisions. There are also ways that you can appeal a decision. An advocate can help you figure out what rights you have and what you can do in your situation.
~ Jonathan Carlzon, OCYA Advocate
Working with the right caseworker is something that’s important to most young people. If you feel that your caseworker is not working with you to resolve certain matters or simply doesn’t ‘get you’ then an advocate can assist you in having your voice heard.
An advocate can help you to arrange a meeting with your caseworker and either support you during the meeting, present your views on your behalf or not even attend. Remember, it’s your meeting, so it’s your call.
If you feel that matters are still not fixed, an advocate can explain to you what further steps may be taken and if you would like, continue working with you until you feel there’s a satisfactory outcome.
You might not always get a new worker, but you will have had the opportunity to present your case and at the very least discuss issues that are important to you!
~ Tracey Cowen, OCYA Advocate
I’m living in a foster home that I really like and will be turning 18 really soon. Can I stay or do I have to move?
The short answer is maybe. It will depend on what you want, what your foster parents can accommodate, and what your caseworker thinks is best for you. Human Services can provide support past your 18th birthday, but a few different rules apply.
Many things, including where you live, are negotiable and it is very important that you have input into decisions made about you. All parties (you, your foster parents, the caseworker, and whoever else you think should be involved) should be talking about where you will be living and making plans. At any point in the process, an advocate can help you to decide what you want and figure out how to best share your views with decision makers. We can also assist you to request that a decision be reconsidered if you disagree with it.
Every young person in care who is age 16 or over is expected to have a clear, individualized transition to independence case plan in place. This plan includes placement as well as other supports needed to make the transition to adulthood successful.
~ Shannon Lauder, OCYA Advocate
I need someone to speak for my children in a marriage, separation or divorce matter. Can an OCYA advocate help us?
Our mandate allows us to provide advocacy services to children and youth who are receiving designated services – that means services under the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act, PSECA and youth involved in the youth justice system.
We are unable to provide services in separation or divorce matters. Please try Family Court Services at the court houses, as well as Legal Aid Alberta.
~ Jenille Wong and Erin Jamieson, OCYA Intake
I think the rules at my group home are really unfair. What do I do?
If you’re having problems in your group home or residential facility, a good first step to take is to try and resolve the issue with group home or facility staff.
If you are unable to resolve the issue with staff or don’t feel like they are listening or hearing your opinion, the next step would be to address this with the group home or facility supervisor or program manager. A supportive person like your caseworker, would be able to support you in this conversation. Letting your caseworker know about placement issues is a good conversation to have so he/she knows how you are feeling and if you are happy.
If you don’t think that anyone is listening to your issue or supporting your voice, give us a call for further advocacy strategies or steps our office can assist you with.
~ Jenille Wong and Erin Jamieson, OCYA Intake
Young people should have a voice in legal decisions affecting them. A lawyer can explain what’s going on and what your options are.
If you are 12 years of age or older you can choose whether or not you want a lawyer, unless a judge has said you must have a lawyer.
No. It’s the judge’s job to hear from everyone and then decide what is in your best interests.
Your lawyer works for you. If you’re not happy with your lawyer, first you should try to discuss your concerns with him or her.
If you’re still not happy, call our office and talk to our staff about the problem you’re having.
No, this doesn’t mean you have to go to court. However, if you are 12 years of age or older, you are a party to the court proceedings along with your parent(s)/guardian(s)/caseworker.
All parties have a right to attend court, but the judge has the final say on who can be in the courtroom.
No, there is no cost to you or your family to have a lawyer appointed through our office.
A lawyer appointed through our office is hired to work for you and only you. The lawyer will tell the judge what you want. The judge then makes the final decision based on what he or she hears from everyone in court.
Our office does not appoint lawyers for criminal court.
If you need lawyer for a criminal matter, talk to your parent/guardian/caseworker or contact Legal Aid Alberta at 1 (866) 845-3425.
They also have a Youth Criminal Defence Office: http://www.legalaid.ab.ca/help/Pages/Youth-Criminal-Law.aspx