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.
“Be kind to everyone. You don’t know what battles they’re fighting.” is paraphrased from a quote written by Scottish author Ian MacLaren in 1897. It still rings true today and never more than when we are working with adolescents. Life is hard enough through this period of development, but these days youth contend with social media and the tremendous impact that it has on their lives. School yard bullies wait for them now via social media. Too often home is no longer a safe place to hide at the end of the day. Keyboard stalkers are there at every click to criticize and bully. The pressure is on to fit in and get noticed by the number of likes and views on hundreds of social media and gaming platforms. Youth struggle to be “unique” in a world where rich media celebrities and music icons promote unattainable luxury lifestyles and model shallow, destructive behavior.
The competition to get into a post-secondary school and find a good job is substantially more stressful now than it was even fifteen years ago. And both families and young people are bearing the financial burden of higher education.
Adults are more stressed these days for their own reasons, and that affects the young people around them. All of this adds up to much higher rates of youth struggling with depression and anxiety at younger and younger ages.
“Be kind to everyone, you don’t know what battles they’re fighting.”
Imagine yourself as a youth: you arrive at school and not one adult smiles as you walk in the door. Not one adult addresses you by your name or asks how your morning is going. Not one adult takes an interest in you, guides you, or supports you. No one seems to see or care about the battles you’re fighting. They are preoccupied with imposing their own agendas on you, and might criticize you if you can’t follow through. You would certainly feel disheartened and hopeless, and overwhelmed. The pressure would seem unbearable. Then you arrive home and encounter stressed parents, who may be dealing with the needs of their own elderly parents and have no time for yours. When you imagine yourself in this situation, it’s easy to understand how anxiety and hopelessness can build up.
“Be kind to everyone, you don’t know what battles they’re fighting.”
Now let’s think about this quote when we look at interacting with young people, including our own children. Let’s be the adults that smile when a youth walks into the room. Let’s make an effort to know their names and learn something about them. Let’s guide them and always support them. We’ll ask them how they’re doing and, if we’re concerned that they may not be doing well, we’ll ask them privately and find out how we can help. It’s possible that you may be the only person in a young person’s day that reaches out to them, praises them, and sees the good in them. Let’s model how to be caring, empathetic and supportive for all youth that we encounter each day.
“Be kind to everyone, you don’t know what battles they’re fighting.”
When we meet youth that may need more support than we can offer, we want to be able to provide them with information about professional supports in the community. It’s important for us to know where to find information or who to ask for the appropriate supports so we can respond quickly to their needs. The Our Kids Network website is an excellent knowledge-building resource that includes Developmental Assets and Relationships First, found in the Building Relationships section.
Most of all, remember, the easiest way to make a connection – smile and simply ask how they’re doing today.
Wonderful community partners have made the Milton Hub the success that it is today.
Partnerships are what make our outreach into the community work. The Milton Hub’s partners come from the social service sector, not-for-profit sector, the faith community, the Town of Milton, the Halton District School Board and the Halton Catholic District School Board. This amazing team of partners all share a strong interest in supporting the community and working together to better serve the children and families of Milton. This shared focus is what makes us a “backbone” community table.
Our team of Hub partners meet often to discuss programs that they themselves are running in support of the community, or to learn about programs run by other service providers. This way everyone is knowledgeable about all programs taking place in the community, so partners can better serve their cliental and avoid duplication.
A key aspect of our meetings is the resilient connections forged between agencies and partners that lead to further partnerships and potential programs. Our Kids Network and Halton agencies and organizations are unique in that a majority of agencies serving the community are so very willing to work together to identify issues. They plan and develop programs and then deliver them in unity. They are dedicated to working together rather than in their own individual funding silos. This makes for a better community for everyone – but most of all for our children, youth and families.
Crosstowne Community Church Building on Caring for the Milton Community
One of the Hub’s community partners is Crosstowne Community Church – a strong partner for many years. Each August, the Hub hosts a Backpack and Community BBQ program with Crosstowne, and this past August, we provided over fifty backpacks to children in need.
We’re excited about this November 10, when the Milton Hub will again host a winter clothing pop-up shop and coat drive in partnership with Crosstowne Church at “The Corner”, 100 Nipissing Rd., Unit 3. The focus of the pop-up and coat drive is newcomers to Milton and Canada, and community members accessing mental health support.
In the past two years, while the church organized the event, the Hub contributed its extensive community contact list to help spread the word and ensure the Hub team partner agencies let their clients know about the pop-up shop. As well, Hub partners, such as schools, helped acquire donations.
Last year’s events were well attended and many people in Milton were able to have and enjoy winter clothing that they are not able to afford.
This is only one wonderful example of the spirit of partnership at work in Milton!!