The all-party Special Committee to Appoint a Representative for Children and Youth has recommended that Jennifer Charlesworth be appointed as representative for children and youth.
“Dr. Charlesworth has extensive and broad experience in the social services sector in all parts of British Columbia and beyond. She has worked with Indigenous organizations, multicultural service providers, and children and families throughout the province,” said Nicholas Simons, committee chair, in a news release. “The committee was impressed by her knowledge, experience and leadership style, as well as her deep understanding of the need for diverse perspectives, and culturally safe approaches to work in the social services sector.”
Charlesworth has worked in the British Columbia social and health-care sectors since 1977. From 1980 through 1992, she served in front-line child welfare, social policy, program management and executive roles within government, and was engaged in formative work on deinstitutionalization, community inclusion for people with disabilities, women’s and girls’ health, mental health and youth services.
She served as the secretary to three cabinet committees, including Social Policy and Aboriginal Relations, and was appointed to lead Cabinet Operations and facilitated a smooth transition between governments in 1991. Charlesworth supported the implementation of the Gove Inquiry recommendations and was a member of the executive team during the formation of the Ministry for Children and Families. She left government in 1997 to complete her PhD on the power of women’s voice in the face of adversity, teach child and youth care at the University of Victoria, and grow her consulting practice.
In 2006, Charlesworth transitioned into the non-profit sector and became executive director of the Federation of Community Social Services of B.C. During her tenure, the federation grew in size, scope and influence, and worked with Indigenous organizations to co-create new ways to support Indigenous children, youth and families. Charlesworth co-led a comprehensive review of child and youth residential care, in collaboration with the Ministry for Children and Family Development.
Since leaving the executive director role at the federation, Charlesworth has been immersed in developing the leadership, innovation, and cultural awareness of the community-based social care sector. She is the founder of the Leadership 2020 program for the federation, has served on numerous community board and provincial advisory committees, and was a member of the Premier’s Advisory Council on Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship. She has examined the possibility of human-centered design in advancing social care in B.C. and, in 2017, became the organizational change lead at InWithForward – Canada’s first social research and development collective that integrates person-centred social science research and design to generate meaningful social innovation. For the past two years, Charlesworth has a been working with Chief Wedlidi Speck, and many other leaders, to inspire culturally safer workplaces and services for Indigenous staff, and people served.
Charlesworth has a PhD in child and youth care from the University of Victoria, and an MBA from Oxford Brookes University in Oxford, England. She is an award-winning teacher, author and activist, and – most importantly – a parent of two vibrant young women, who remind her daily of the power and promise of young people.
“Her professional and personal experiences, along with her values and principles, will support her as the next representative for children and youth,” said Stephanie Cadieux, committee deputy chair. “We also thank Mr. Bernard Richard for his service to the province as representative, and wish him well in his home province of New Brunswick.”
The representative for children and youth is a non-partisan officer of the legislature, responsible for: providing advocacy services to children, young adults and families regarding designated services; monitoring reviewing, auditing and publicly reporting on the effectiveness of designated services; and reviewing, investigating and reporting on the critical injuries and deaths of children. The appointment is for a term of five years.