By Siobhan Laverdiere, Initiative Project Coordinator and Lily Viggiano, Youth Asset-Builder, Halton Youth Initiative
The Halton Youth Initiative connects youth and adult community members in Aldershot, Acton, and through local youth-lead committees. The North Oakville Youth Development Council served as a resource and model for this work.
Meaningful relationships are the foundation of asset-building in Halton. They are the key ingredient to our work with youth, communities and each other. One key aspect of this work is to give youth a voice. And one way we do this is through the Developmental Relationships (DR) framework.
When sharing the framework with the youth committees, we asked the question, “What do youth want adults to know?” This question is an excellent conversation starter to introduce both youth and adults to the 5 dimensions of Developmental Relationships: Express Care, Challenge Growth, Provide Support, Share Power, and Expand Possibilities.
Guided by the DR framework, the four committees’ common goals are to:
strengthen assets in youth.
build meaningful relationships between youth and adults (adult allies on the committees, but also adults in the wider community such as neighbours, teachers, coaches, youth workers).
connect youth with their community through various neighbourhood-focused projects.
Acton: Youth Want Adults to Know that Tone and Style of Behaviour Counts
The Acton committee is called the “Seven Somebodies”. Current membership is more than 7 youth, but the young members think the name is cool and decided to keep it as their numbers grew. This group focused on the tone and the style with which adults can control young people. They talked about how they felt adults did or did not Express Care.
There were discussions about how they will tune in to adults who acknowledge their presence, seem happy to see them, and have a good sense of humor – especially in moments of stress. They noted that a smile and warm welcome goes a long way to effect the overall tone of groups. They said that adults must find creative and upbeat ways of shutting down undesirable group behaviour, such as disruptions and staying on topic. These youth felt that they want adults to be in charge, but also be aware of their power to set the tone for the group.
“I can tell when adults go the extra mile, and it means a lot to me. Jenna, Seven Somebodies committee member
Aldershot: Survey Says…Tune into How We Feel and Take Action!
The Aldershot Youth Crew established in April 2019, wanted to pose the question “What do youth want adults to know?” to the larger community of youth. So on September 14, at Alderfest, an annual neighbourhood-building event, our team members took up their clipboards and interviewed 56 local youth.
The results reflected two DR dimensions: Provide Support and Expand Possibilities:
Youth need their voices heard in their households, classrooms, and community.
Give youth more freedom to explore their community and interests.
Kids are awesome!
Tune into how we feel and take action.
“My older cousin takes me to Halton Conservation parks and always points out the signs and information. She tries to teach me new things even though she doesn’t have to. That’s how I know she cares” Chase M., Aldershot Youth Crew member
Milton: See the Best in Us!
The Milton Youth Action Team discussed what they wish adults (in particular program coordinators and volunteer managers) knew about young people. This team wants adults to see the best in them; to see their ability to take advantage of opportunities and to leverage adults’ wisdom and experience to help young people. These statements reflect the Provide Support and Share Power DR dimensions.
“In terms of ideas, youth are good at coming up with ideas and need some authority to make it happen. Adults and youth are a powerful combination – youth power the ideas and adults can make it happen” Rayyan, Milton Youth Action Team committee member
North Oakville: Support and Guide, but Give Us Our Space Too!
The North Oakville Youth Development Council (NOYDC) started in June 2017 and paved the way for the other developing youth councils in our other communities.
In discussions about support and guidance, Daniella a NOYDC member, explained that young people want adults to show that they care about youth and are there to support them. Youth welcome support and guidance but also want personal space to figure out for themselves what they want to do.
Expressing Care and Expanding Possibilities are reflected here. In the discussions with young people at the North Oakville Youth Development Council, they said that expressing care could also be about providing youth with the space they need to think things through in order to form their own identities and perspectives.
“As a youth, I would like adults to know that youth value their community and want to help assist in its proceedings. They like participating in political discussions and love being able to share their opinions, especially if people are willing to listen.” Hargun, North Oakville Youth Development Council member
how Halton youth are doing? where are the fastest areas of growth in Milton? how many children under the age of 5 live in Burlington? what are the social demographics of Oakville neighbourhoods? if you should expand your program or what community should you try to reach? how to convince a funder about the needs of your neighbourhood?
By Elisabeth Wells, PhD, Our Kids Network Researcher & Knowledge Broker
Data is more than just numbers. It is about asking questions, telling stories and then inspiring action. For years, Our Kids Network has been using data to better understand the “why, when, where and how” of helping children and families do well. The original OKN Data Portal was designed to be another resource to help us access, visualize and use data to improve the lives of children, youth and families in Halton. Since 2014, Halton professionals have been using the Data Portal as a resource for program planning, resource allocation, to identify needs and to support funding applications and reports.
We’re excited to share that we have recently upgraded the Data Portal to version 2.0. This upgrade has the same features you know and enjoy using, but gives you more options and control. New and improved features include the complete customization of your maps, charts and graphs in the way you visualize your data. The streamlined and simplified look makes it easy to find the data you’re looking for, and work with it to tell even more compelling and meaningful stories about the children, youth and families of Halton.
You can continue to use the Data Portal 2.0 to better understand and interpret data. Ask questions, spark conversation, plan and design evidence-based services and program, and turn research into action.
Here are a few examples of how Halton professionals have been using the Data Portal 2.0:
Halton Region Children’s Services have used the original Data Portal at team meetings to respond to staff questions about their clients and service delivery, and to help visualize their caseloads.
The Neighbourhood Groups program used the Data Portal to explore their neighbourhood groups locations, and develop plans to address any gaps in programming. They looked at Early Development Instrument scores, neighbourhood demographics and the Map my Data feature to plot program participants.
Milton Community Resource Centre used the Data Portal to make a strong case for funding. They used the Map my Data feature and demographic data to demonstrate the need for transitional funding to convert a preschool room to a toddler room.
Burlington Public Library used the Data Portal to support collaboration and partnership with their community-led model of library service delivery. They explored OKN early years data and plotted schools and their branch locations to give staff a greater understanding of the schools within their catchment and the challenges and opportunities they face.
And of course, we’ve added our latest data from the Kindergarten Parent Survey, Tell Them From Me (TTFM) / OurSCHOOL elementary survey, and the latest Census data from Statistics Canada.
This blog was distributed as the year-end message to our network in December. We can’t say thanks enough so here it is again for anyone who missed it in their inbox!
By Beth Williams, Our Kids Network Communications Manager
Our Kids Network people are creating a hopeful future for Halton children and youth. In 2018 we saw steady progress and it’s clear in our many initiatives and activities that, as a network, we are more connected and aligned in our work. We are intentional when putting knowledge into practice, and we are seeing the results in our data, planning and action going forward.
Thank you for your contributions throughout 2018. As Our Kids Network, we have much to be proud of and we can count on each other continue to be as involved and committed in 2019 as we were in 2018!
2018 Highlights: Our Kids Network’s Committees and Community-based Groups
2015-2016 Tell Them From Me / OurSCHOOL surveys give us important knowledge about the wellbeing of children and youth in Halton. ElementarySecondary
Youth Voices Matter! The North Oakville Youth Development Council (NOYDC), established by youth and aided by adult allies, engaged the community in creating positive change in the neighbourhood and beyond.
Asset-Builders Tell their Stories. Five Halton asset-builders tell their exceptional stories about what building assets means to them.
Learn much more about Our Kids Network on our website.
By Alison Hilborn, Our Kids Network Acton Community Hub Coordinator
Around the Acton Early Years Committee table, making a positive difference in children’s lives is what we all want. We want young children in Acton to grow and flourish, and ultimately become successful, happy adults. We work towards this vision through the many strong partnerships around the table. Over the past four years we’ve met once a month. We’ve brainstormed, discussed, critically analyzed, grown closer, and developed supportive, mindful relationships – relationships with “heart”.
It’s important to recognize that the partners on this committee come from organizations that have their own mandates, and yet these organizations all see the tremendous value in working together to bring change for the good to the community, and to young children and their families. We’re grateful for these Halton organizations* that support their staff to participate at the Acton Early Years Committee table. The benefits from their knowledge, expertise and perspectives on child development and this community’s unique needs are invaluable. We’ve progressed from speculating on possible solutions to grounding our discussions and actions in experiential learning, best practice efforts, and strategies.
It’s easy to see how our evidence-based initiatives that support young Acton children reflect the heart and creativity of the Acton Early Years Committee:
Fine and gross motor skill activity kits that respond directly to the Early Development Initiative (EDI) vulnerabilities.
Annual Kindergarten Fun Fairs to engage with new parents and to provide necessary service support information.
Connect, Play & Learn Every Day! Messaging that speaks directly to parents.
We know it will take more time, and lots of hard work, to improve on current EDI results, but the Acton Early Years Committee is dedicated! We will use our partnerships, what we’ve learned, and our “heart” to continue to work toward addressing the underlying factors that impact young children’s developmental readiness for school – and to ensure that, in Acton, all children thrive!
Approximately 280 people attended the 2018 Acton Kindergarten Fun Fair including 89 brand, new kindergarten children!
*Acton Early Years Committee
Halton Catholic District School Board
St. Joseph’s Catholic Elementary School
Halton District School Board
McKenzie-Smith Bennet School
Robert Little Public School
Halton Region, Children’s Services and Healthy Families