By Elisabeth Wells, PhD, Our Kids Network Research and Knowledge Mobilization Manager
The Halton Youth Impact Survey is our opportunity to understand how our young people are doing, and how decision-makers can support young people in our communities.
Halton was invited to participate in the UNICEF Canada Child & Youth Wellbeing Survey (Halton Youth Impact Survey), supported by UNICEF Canada, the Canadian Index of Wellbeing, Medivae Foundation, and the Ontario Trillium Foundation. Halton is one of four communities participating in this project, which will be used to develop a national index of child and youth wellbeing. OKN is leading the implementation of the survey here in Halton and helping UNICEF build a survey that will be used across Canada.
Important NEW data
Our community has been facing a gap in comprehensive, local data about child and youth wellbeing. The Halton Youth Impact Survey provides an opportunity for OKN and Halton to collect and share new, quality, local data and evidence to support the delivery of programs, services, policies and initiatives that are critical to the wellbeing of children, youth and families in Halton.
The survey is for children between 9 and 18 years-old. It measures key factors related to child and youth development and wellbeing, such as connection to family, schools, community and peers, physical and mental health, participation in extracurricular activities, safety and leisure, and risk behaviours such as smoking and drug use.
OKN is deeply committed to making data free and accessible to anyone who wants to use it. We will use the data to support the needs of all of our community partners working with young people. We expect to start sharing the results back with the community in late Fall through various learning events, reports, webinars, workshops, community presentations and in the data portal. Not only will we be sharing the results, but we will be providing tools and resources to help professionals access and use the results to support their work.
By the community, for the community
We built this survey with you and for you. The survey content, and the promotional strategy, have largely been developed by our community partners. Over the last few months, we reached out and met with numerous professionals and youth to ensure your voices are at the center of the project. Through these meetings, we heard loud and clear about how our community partners are supporting youth engagement, and how critical it is to have new data about youth wellbeing. Read about how our community partners are planning to use the results from the survey!
There are just over 76,000 youth in Halton between 9 and 18 years of age. My goal is to hear from as many of our young people as possible. We need many diverse youth voices from across Halton to participate so we can learn what life is like for youth right now. We have 27 different neighbourhoods in Halton, and we know that each community is unique. That’s why we want to hear from youth across Halton – tell us about your community and what wellbeing means to you in Acton, East Milton, South East Oakville or Aldershot, for example. We want all youth to have a strong voice in the project so that, ultimately, they will have a strong voice in the programs, services and initiatives that impact them in their communities.
To help us do that, our peer-to-peer engagement strategy was developed in partnership with the Halton Youth Initiative through youth labs, community meetings and the creation of our Halton Youth Impact Ambassador team. Youth are promoting the survey in their own networks, and our team Ambassadors are leading this campaign.
Make an IMPACT! Help us get the word out!
The campaign runs until Monday, June 14. As a professional working with children and youth in Halton, we know you want to have a positive impact on the lives of young people in our communities. You can make a difference by encouraging youth in your networks to do the survey and have a say in matters that effect them. The Community Partner Promotional Kit is full of information about the survey and resources to use in promoting it. Download your kit from Dropbox or Google Drive or visit the Halton Youth Impact Survey webpage.
By Nikki Taylor, Senior Manager, Early Years and Family Supports, Oakville Parent-Child Centre
As a child, I frequently watched the children’s television show Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. Of course, I never met Mr. Rogers, but like many children I felt that I knew him and that, somehow, he knew me. Now, as an adult, I remember his stories and advice and have a deeper appreciation for the lessons he taught. “Be kind, smile, be a helper, and look for the good in yourself and others,” he told us. These are simple and meaningful messages that stand the test of time.
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping’.”
Our shared experiences over the past year with our families, neighbours, communities, and indeed the world, have united us. This is one of the unexpected benefits that the pandemic has offered us for the taking. In this time of continued uncertainty, stress, and change, I suggest that there is no better way to respond than with Fred Rogers’ lessons of empathy, connection, and the opportunity to help others. I believe that this is the real work of humanity and that it preserves and heals the soul.
Family Day 2021: Hello Neighbour!
As we look to Family Day 2021, we can take some of these lessons to heart and act on them. We can find inspiration and inner-strength in Mr. Rogers’ example, and extend our family to include our neighbours, friends and even strangers along our path.
While we continue to maintain physical distance for everyone’s health, each of us still has the opportunity to make a difference for others. As we continue to spend most of our time with family in our own homes, let’s think about how we can become helpers and better neighbours.
Family Day 2021 Challenge!
In previous blogs, I’ve sent out a challenge to readers and here’s one for 2021! On Family Day, this Monday, February 15 (and every day), be a helper! Try some of the suggestions below and see how the people you come in contact with (either within 6 feet or virtually, of course) feel cared for and connected. I hope you’ll find these ideas useful and share them with your families as well as the ones you support in your work.
Make cards to share. With your family members, create cards. Encourage your children to join in with their own pictures and messages. Deliver the notes to your neighbours; perhaps a local senior’s residence or hospital. Hand them out to strangers you see on your travels. Imagine the lasting impact of this simple gesture.
Share in a project. Many groups are already rallying friends and neighbours to share in common projects and activities. Capture your outdoor adventures on video or in photos, create a community time capsule, or build birdhouses to keep our feathered friends sheltered from the cold February days. Connect on a virtual platform like Zoom to share your ideas and progress.
Take a walk and SMILE at everyone you see. Smiles are contagious and make everyone feel better.
“Be a helper” coupons. Handing out coupons for helping with everyday tasks like shoveling driveways, preparing a meal, or reading a story together will surely lift spirits – the coupon recipients and yours. Be creative.
Commit to regular check-in calls with those who may be alone and lonely.
Plan a virtual games night with family, friends and neighbours. There are lots of apps and ideas online for virtual all-ages fun.
Welcome to the neighbourhood! Come on in!
One of our collective tasks in raising the next generation is to create an understanding of what it feels like to have empathy, compassion, and to care for those around us – in good times and in bad. Let’s make an effort to share generously the good in ourselves and our families, and see the good in others.
By Siobhan Laverdiere, Halton Youth Initiative Coordinator, and Lily Viggiano, Youth Asset-Builder
The Halton Youth Initiative (HYI) completed its second year at the end of 2020. At this point, we wanted to share with Our Kids Network and the Halton professional community, the valuable knowledge and insight that we, and our colleagues and community partners, have gained. Practical resources, programming ideas, and approaches to engaging youth can all be found on the HYI website. And as HYI leaders, we’re both available for consultations regarding youth programming and engagement. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
As HYI begins its third year, we look forward to even more community connections and partnerships that will play a role in sustaining this important work in the future.
Siobhan and Lily
Youth Voices Matter in North Oakville!
It all started with the slogan Youth Voices Matter in North Oakville! The idea was to elevate youth voice and empower youth to have a positive impact in the neighbourhood of North Oakville.
Since 2017 those youth voices have grown louder and louder to include the Acton, Aldershot and Milton neighbourhoods. Today our 94 (and growing) youth volunteers’ thoughts, opinions, ideas and creativity can be found on the HYI website and across social media channels, HYI blogs, podcasts, YouTube , and associated Instagram pages such as @miltonactionteam @youthaldershot @sevensomebodies @northoakYDC.
Website as a Forum for Youth and a Resource for Professionals
The HYI website is packed with information about the activities of HYI over the past 2 years. It includes so many stories that reveal what youth learned and felt as they expressed their views about tough topics such as mental health, Developmental Relationships, and Indigenous Truth and Reconciliation in blogs and podcasts.
Professionals who work with youth will find the HYI website useful for information on program planning, ideas on youth engagement and leadership, as a practical community development model, and much more.
Info & Links resources on mental health and developmental assets, description of the adult ally role and the 2018 results of the Youth Voices Matter in North Oakville survey
Events archived database of community and youth events from 2017 to present.
Youth Council information descriptions of each of the four youth councils prior to transitioning to virtual teams post-COVID
Subscribe to our e-newsletter to receive special resources and information.
Put Developmental Relationships at the Centre of your Work with Youth
HYI’s success with youth engagement is founded on the five elements of the Developmental Relationships (DR) framework: Expressing Care; Challenging Growth; Providing Support; Sharing Power; and Expanding Possibilities. When we center our work on relationships, all the rest seems to fall into place.
As you explore the website, we encourage you to view it through the lens of DR and consider the positive effects of youth working with adults (while the adults demonstrate one or more of the five elements of the DR framework). We believe this approach has made a significant difference in the motivation and enthusiasm of HYI young people to become actively involved in their community (currently virtually). Some even take on leadership roles. If you haven’t already, consider putting Developmental Relationships at the centre of your organization’s work.
“At the Halton Youth Initiative, we are avid participants who empathize and advocate for the empowerment of ourselves as youth and for others in the community. We are inspired by the voices we are bringing to youth around Halton and the happiness we can bring into people’s lives.”
Angela, HYI youth volunteer
Partner Support is the Key to Engaging Youth in the Community
Welcoming caring community partners into the work of HYI has also been pivotal to our success. These agencies and organizations are stakeholders in the community who want to be involved with HYI other than as adult allies. We hope to welcome even more exceptional partners in the future.
Community partners provide support to HYI youth councils by:
- building connections between the youth council and their organizations (generating awareness about the youth council and related activities, advocating for youth mentorship opportunities, and increasing youth Developmental Assets).
- promoting the initiative in the community.
- encouraging and welcoming youth in the community.
- participating on subcommittees or workgroups.
- providing in-kind resources.
- attending meetings as a guest occasionally, as invited by youth members.
The Halton Youth Initiative partners below have made a world of difference to the youth members over the past 2 years. Thank you!
Special thanks to Pat Howell-Blackmore of PHBSpark Consulting, and Josh Taylor-Detlor, Indigenous Environmental & Youth Engagement Consultant, for their dedication and ongoing support.
Our Kids Network provides management and administrative services to the Halton Youth Initiative which is funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation.
By Angela Bellegarde, Our Kids Network Indigenous Lead
Have you ever thought about the name you were given? Is there a story behind how you came to have your name? What about the children, youth, and families you work with? Do you think about the significance of their names? For many Indigenous people, our naming story is one of the most important stories that form our identity. Indeed, how we receive our name is important to everyone. For many Indigenous people, the story of how we received our name and what our name means is very important to our individual identity and shapes our place in the world. Indeed, how we all receive our name is important to every person, Indigenous and non-Indigenous.
Some of you may think I am referring to my traditional Indigenous name – the name I received as an adult in sacred ceremony. I choose to not share my traditional name widely, but some Indigenous people prefer to be known by their Indigenous name. This choice is significant to them, to their family, and to their community. Many Indigenous people also indicate the name of their people, such as Anishnaabeg or Cree, when introducing themselves. Pay attention when you hear them pronounce their Indigenous name, the name of their people, and their First Nation. They are sharing an important part of who they are with you. Learn how to pronounce these names properly. Ask them to repeat their name if you need to. Say it out loud. Be courageous and take the step to learn.
It’s important to note that not all Indigenous people have been honored with their Indigenous name. Colonialism has interfered with this traditional practice. Some of us were taken from our communities and families and we are still searching for who we are.
We often indicate the name of our First Nation in our introductions. You will hear me say that I am a band member of Peepeekisis Cree First Nation. There is a lot of Canadian Indigenous history wrapped up in those four words. I recently met with a community partner who used her historical knowledge of my reserve to set the tone of our meeting. It was wonderful. Have you thought this way about the name of your workplace, home, and community? Not the traditional Indigenous name but the current name being used? What does “Halton” mean to you?
Reclaiming our names
The government changed our names at the time of treaty signing, and religious and government-appointed administrators at residential schools Christianized our names. This is well documented. In fact, Call to Action number 17 addresses these facts by calling on the government to waive administrative costs for those who want to reclaim their names. Think about this for a moment. What would you do? This is the dilemma that my uncles and aunties are contemplating now. Their current names have come to mean just as much to them as the traditional names that were changed.
Nicknames and movie stars
The importance of nicknames for Indigenous people cannot be understated. For some Indigenous people, a nickname is the only name they are known by. When people ask who my father was, I must identify him by his nickname and his given name.
I love the moment of realization when I meet someone who knew my father by his nickname. It means they knew him when he was young, and as a player on the notorious Lebret Indians hockey team. In those days, nicknames meant you belonged to the team, even if it was “Team Residential School”. Having a nickname still means that you are accepted and acknowledged by your peers and, to us, are part of a family within an oppressive system.
Let me name drop a little and tell you about the time I met Hollywood actor, the late Gordon Tootoosis at a powwow my father and I attended. I was star struck as he greeted my dad with a thundering “Jojo!”, my father’s nickname. Gordon knew Brad Pitt, for heaven’s sake, but I was in awe of his many references to our people. “Skin is here. Did you see Skin? I heard Cannonball wasn’t well. Have you heard anything?” he queried. Skin? Cannonball? Who were these people and how did they get those names? Their nicknames were their stories and I cherished the times when my dad shared these moments of our history with me. These stories also provided insight into his time at residential school, something he didn’t speak much about.
More than just a name
The name on my birth certificate is the name I’m writing about today. There is a history to my name that tells you where I’m from, who my people are, and my place in this world. When meeting other Indigenous people for the first time, our names will be the starting point for conversation.
When I lived in Alberta, people knew that I was from Saskatchewan because of my last name. “Bellegarde. A cousin from next door over, eh?” In turn, I know an Indigenous person from Alberta by their usually, very descriptive last names given to them by government agents: Weaseltallow, Littlebear, Shotonbothsides…Alberta Indigenous people for sure.
My children know their name stories and we talk about them frequently. I have taught them that when they are asked their name, they are to say it loud and clear. This is meaningful and is a part of Canada’s history. All our names are.
I encourage you to spend some time thinking about your name. What is its origin story? What about the names of your clients? Have they anglicized their names because it’s easier to apply for employment or be accepted in the community? Were they given a different name at birth than the one they have now? What does that mean to them? Knowing a person’s name is an opportunity to learn about them and who they are. Use your clients’ names as often as possible when meeting together. This acknowledges their whole being.
Giving my children Cree names is a powerful act of reclamation | CBC News
Chelsea Vowel (BEd, LLB) is a Métis writer and educator from Lac Ste. Anne, Alta., currently doing her graduate studies in Edmonton. Mother to six girls, she co-hosts the Indigenous feminist sci-fi podcast Métis in Space and is the author of Indigenous Writes: A Guide to First Nations, Métis & Inuit Issues in Canada.
OKN resources to increase Indigenous literacy.
By Beth Williams, Our Kids Network Communications Manager
While physical distancing, masking, and staying home became typical, it was encouraging and inspiring to see Halton professionals using innovative ways to continue their work supporting children, youth and families. Our strong and resilient partnerships and communities are getting us through this! We have adapted to our new routines and not only stayed connected, but have become more interconnected over the last 10 months (and counting).
In survival mode, we’ve all become experts at using Microsoft Teams, Webex, Zoom and other platforms, and used these venues well to continue to build relationships and partnerships, get work done, and even start brand new initiatives. We quickly learned that the chat feature gives everyone at the meeting a voice!
In the absence of face-to-face committee meetings, where so much information is shared, we launched the OKN Community Message in March. The intent was to keep everyone updated and linked to OKN’s key activities and news. At the time, we believed this would be a short-term solution. Here it is December and the OKN Community Message continues to serve us well, with one due out this week.
With gatherings allowed in only very limited numbers, virtual (live and recorded) is now the media of choice for OKN staff offering workshops and information sessions. Recently, Angela Bellegarde, OKN Indigenous lead, partnered with staff at the Town of Oakville and Oakville Public Library to produce videos on Indigenous literacy and territorial acknowledgements. Liz Wells, OKN Researcher & Knowledge Broker, and Eileen Palermo, OKN Program Administrator, produced a live webinar on the Early Development Instrument (EDI), and the popular Relationships First workshop went virtual with facilitator Steve Levac, Manager of Youth Services, Halton Children’s Aid Society.
The Halton Youth Initiative used social media to embark on a year-long Truth and Reconciliation journey that resulted in increased participation from the members and expanded engagement of youth across Halton.
In November, OKN called together professionals from Halton community organizations and agencies to help determine the key priorities that OKN will focus on to positively impact children, youth and families in the future. This was an interactive and thought-provoking virtual conference. The primary focus was ensuring that professionals who work with children and youth have a role in decision-making. We then have a common agenda across Halton.
“I believe that it will be about the chance to strengthen our resiliency and relationships, and build deep, nurturing interdependence. Now more than ever, we understand how interconnected and reliant we are on each other – in our families, in our communities, and on a global level.”
Senior Manager, Early Years and Family Supports, Oakville Parent-Child Centre
In her September blog, Nikki Taylor looked at the impact of the pandemic on Halton children as they returned to school. The longer-term impact of COVID-19 on children was also a key, common concern across professionals during the OKN Planning Conference in November.
We recognize now, while we all share this life-changing experience of the pandemic, how important we are to each other – in our families and friendships and, just as significantly, among our colleagues. At the OKN Planning Conference, participants pointed out that professionals working with families, youth and children are also members of their own families, and are in need of care themselves.
Our Kids Network leads the Asset-Building movement in Halton, a community investment in positive child and youth development. Building on this work will be paramount in the years to come.
“When this pandemic has ended, what will stand out most in our memories is how we treated each other.”
Resilience: Change happens – what’s next?
Among many other accomplishments, OKN Executive Director, Elena DiBattista has led the OKN plan to grow and strengthen the network by introducing and implementing fundamental frameworks and strategies. In this way, she has built the platform that will launch the next generation of OKN’s work in Halton. And through 2020, she has always been at the helm helping us navigate these challenging new times.
Having announced her retirement, she is preparing (and helping us prepare) for what is next. For Elena, we know that well-deserved time to focus on family and friends is in her future and when it is safe, she will travel to the few exotic locations in the world that she has not yet visited.
We can’t thank you enough, Elena, for your dedication, passion, compassion, and visionary leadership over the past 10 years.
Especially now, it’s critically important that, as a Halton-wide collaborative, we have a view of the overall well-being of children and youth. As committee members work on identifying priorities, they are in the final phase of the restructuring of the network. This final phase represents a new direction for OKN, in aligning the work we do with our refined role and renewed mission and vision.
We are thankful to you, the countless, compassionate professionals who continue to provide essential services to your clients. To support the important work you do, OKN is continuing to focus on building capacity in the professional community, sharing knowledge, and developing resources to assist you.
OKN Resources for Information and Connection
Information on the OKN Community.
Information about OKN Champions.
Structure of Our Kids Network.
Explore the OKN Research.
Information on Asset-Building.