OKN Logo

All Children and Youth Thrive!

New, comprehensive data on youth wellbeing in Halton

By Connor Clerke, OKN knowledge broker

In May and June 2021, more than 2500 youth participated in the Halton Youth Impact Survey. The results from the survey address an important gap in comprehensive data on how young people are doing across a range of indicators, including mental health, belonging, safety, and connections with their community.

Preliminary results were shared at a Youth Data Party in November 2021 with 44 young people leading a discussion on what the data means to them and how to mobilize the information to improve wellbeing in Halton. Participants shared ideas for taking action, from the community promoting a sense of belonging by helping youth feel at ease, to schools providing additional support for homework, resources for mental health and opportunities for connecting with others through clubs.

Explore new data

Now, the data is available for everyone to access in OKN’s Data Portal. With over 50 new indicators, you can now explore this new data to inform your work with children and youth. For example, did you know that only 3 in 10 Halton youth rate their mental health as very good or excellent? And while 63% of youth report at least one positive interaction in their community, 29% feel lonely. Mental health is so important to a young person’s development and affects the way we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices. How can we support young people struggling with their mental health and sense of belonging? The data will help center youth voices so that programs and services intended for young people are responsive to their specific needs and experiences.

In addition to exploring a wide range of indicators, the Data Portal allows users to make comparisons across different geographies in Halton. This can help identify gaps in services, or programs to learn from. For example, how do youth rate their school experience in North East Oakville compared to South Central Milton? In what communities do youth experience higher levels of belonging? Are there linkages between sense of belonging and access to community services such as libraries and recreation? The map below highlights the sample size of the survey for the different neighborhoods of Halton. Explore the Data Portal to make your own comparisons to better understand the gaps and opportunities for serving youth in our community.

What next?

In the coming months, the OKN team will be rolling out a knowledge translation plan to turn the new, comprehensive data into community action. Our goal is to generate awareness about how young people are doing across a range of indicators, inform evidence-based decision-making that will support young people, and mobilize community action to improve the wellbeing of youth in Halton.

Beginning in March, we will be publishing a series of data action bulletins focusing on the Halton 7. The data action bulletins will summarize key findings in an accessible format with questions to help guide discussion and action at your organization. Do the findings support your programs or policies, or identify gaps in programs or services? In what ways can we develop and foster youth connectedness? How can we work together to build strong community belonging with youth?

The Halton Youth Impact Survey collected comprehensive demographic data that will provide important information on how youth with different backgrounds, abilities, and identities understand their sense of wellbeing. What are the important differences experienced by those living with a disability or those with a gender identity other than male or female? How do newcomer, non-binary, Indigenous and white youth rate their levels of stress, family connections and community safety? And how can we ensure all youth are included in our programs, services, and policies?

The data action bulletins will be accompanied by a series of public events to share findings and facilitate discussion among young people, educators, service providers, policy-makers, and others across Halton. Everyone working with youth has a role to play and no matter your area of work, there is data to inform how to support young people.

In the second half of 2022, OKN will publish a final report, bringing together all the key findings from the survey, providing a comprehensive community profile of youth wellbeing in Halton.

We look forward to connecting with partners across Halton and working together to improve youth wellbeing in our community. To explore the data now, visit the OKN Data Portal and share on your social channels how you plan to use the data with the hashtag #HaltonYouthDataAction. To receive the latest updates on events and reports, sign up for the OKN newsletter.

Let’s work together to see all children and youth thrive!

Explore more resources.

Youth Impact Ambassadors facilitate discussions around key data from the Halton Youth Impact Survey

By Lily Viggiano, former Halton Youth Initiative Project Coordinator

On Tuesday November 30, 2021, several Youth Impact Ambassadors facilitated discussions with other youth in Halton regarding key elements, or ‘data sparks’, from the Halton Youth Impact Survey. During the virtual Data Party, attended by nearly 50 youth, we learned more about relationships and youth mental health in presentations shared by the Research team at Our Kids Network (OKN).

We brainstormed suggestions, shared stories, and discussed how youth and adults could take action to make Halton a better place for all. We listened to the youth as they processed the data that they had received for the first time. We heard their recommendations for tackling key challenges such as mental health and sense of belonging. These reflections will help OKN’s Research team enhance the data statistics as they prepare them to be used by Halton professionals in their work.

HYI meeting screen shot

Sharing thoughts  

By Leah Minkovich, Halton Youth Impact Survey ambassador and data party guest

This was the first time since working as a Youth Impact Survey ambassador that I had a chance to see the survey results. I was both surprised and disappointed. The results were what I expected, reflecting on the feelings of isolation that I personally, along with the youth I had talked to, were feeling. But to see that I was right, and that mental health had dropped substantially among youth during the pandemic was a disappointment. The registrants in my group echoed similar thoughts. For some, this was what they were expecting, but there were quite a few who were caught completely off guard.

We were able to have an incredibly meaningful conversation about the reasons behind these results, as well as what could be done about them. Many of the registrants had similar ideas about school being the best opportunity for change. Ideas such as extra homework help, a greater variety of clubs, and being more open about mental health were discussed.

From conversation to action

By Shrena Sribalan, Halton Youth Impact Survey ambassador and data party guest

Since the pandemic started, I’ve been to a lot of online events of a similar sort. However, nothing compares to the excitement and passion that burst through my screen on the night of the OKN Halton Youth Impact Survey’s Data Party! As a Halton Youth Impact ambassador, it was so nice to see that we reached so many different young people and that hard work paid off. Seeing the data left me with mixed feelings. It showed me where we must grow as a community and what we are doing well at already.

The best part by far was when we got to deliberate our thoughts in breakout rooms. It was so nice to have meaningful conversations with people who care about issues I care about. It felt like I had known these people forever. Together, we proposed various solutions directed at various community stakeholders whether it be the municipality, the government, the school boards, and even ourselves. I hope that our thoughts get translated to the right people to ensure the voices of youth are heard and a plan of action is set.

Explore more resources.

Halton Youth Impact Survey Demonstrates the Ideals of National Child Day 2021

Including the Reflections of Halton Youth on the Survey Data is Critical to Preparing the Data for the Community 


By Elisabeth Wells, PhD, Our Kids Network research & knowledge mobilization manager

As Canada prepares to mark National Child Day on November 20, Our Kids Network (OKN) calls on the Halton community to support the vision established in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Child, that all children be treated with dignity and respect.

Now, more than ever, it’s important to give young people the opportunity to have their voices heard and to be active participants in their communities and the decisions that affect their wellbeing. The Youth Impact Survey demonstrates the ideals of National Child Day, not only in the information it has collected and how it will be used, but also in the ways it provides opportunities for youth engagement and leadership.

Youth Ambassadors Explain Why the Survey was So Successful

A key to the success of the Halton Youth Impact Survey was its peer-to-peer approach and the enthusiasm of the youth ambassadors involved. In the video, we provide an overview of the lead up to the survey launch and two of our youth survey ambassadors give the details of how youth across Halton participated and what was happening in their communities.

The survey results will be valuable in supporting youth and this gives us a snapshot, especially during COVID-19, of how Halton youth are doing. It’s also important to note that the survey engaged some young people who may not always be heard, such as Indigenous, LGBTQ2+, and newcomer youth, and youth living with chronic illness and disability.



National Child Day has a lot to do with embracing children and their ideas. Everyone is different, and we have different cultures and backgrounds, but the thing we have in common is that we all want to make the world a better place.
Tanvi, a 17 year-old Oakville resident

Sharing the Data with the Community

We want to empower our community by not only sharing the data we collect, but by providing insight, information, training, and guidance on how to understand and use it to work toward positive results. The two key strategies implemented for collecting the survey data last spring (by the community for the community and peer to peer engagement) will again form the foundation for the release of Halton Youth Impact Survey results.

Our process for preparing the data for use includes not only analysis and translation but review and feedback from the OKN Research Committee (taking place now) and an opportunity for reflection and response from youth themselves at a virtual Youth Impact Survey Data Party, on Tuesday, Nov. 30. And of course, youth will continue to have a role in the release of these results as we move forward in the next few months.

In a few weeks, these activities will be complete, and the information and insight gained will be integrated into a comprehensive Knowledge Translation strategy to share the data with professionals like yourself across Halton. We expect to implement the Halton Youth Impact Survey results strategy in early 2022. Read more about the strategy.

More information about National Child Day:



The results are in: What do Halton youth have to say about their wellbeing?

By Connor Clerke, OKN knowledge broker

In May and June 2021, Our Kids Network, in collaboration with UNICEF Canada, the Canadian Index of Wellbeing, Medivae Foundation and the Ontario Trillium Foundation, launched the Halton Youth Impact Survey. The survey was piloted in Halton, Waterloo, Ottawa and Digby, Nova Scotia to better understand the wellbeing of youth in Canada with the aim of rolling it out across the country.

The survey provides an important opportunity for us to understand how young people are doing across a range of indicators based on OKN’s Halton 7. The survey was informed by a series of youth engagements during the design and implementation phase to ensure youth voices are centered in how the community responds to the needs of young people in Halton.

…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…

Liz Wells, Our Kids Network research and knowledge broker.

Read the full blog.

Youth Ambassadors hosted events for peers, made videos and spoke with local reporters about the importance of hearing directly from youth during these difficult times.

The results are in

Thanks to Halton youth, parents, community partners and everyone who shared the survey with young people, more than 2500 youth between 9 and 18 years of age shared their voice through the Halton Youth Impact Survey.

The results provide new, in-depth, Halton-wide data about how our young people are doing on a range of indicators including physical and mental health, food security, bullying and discrimination, connection to community, and much more. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the survey also provides much-needed information about how young people are coping with changes to their school, home and social lives, and insights on what Halton organizations can do to support youth.

What information do YOU need to support youth?

The comprehensive survey asked more than 30 questions, providing us with responses to questions about anxiety, safety, the environment, activism, school life, friends, bullying, substance use, housing and much more.

What are the key priorities for youth in Halton? Where are they facing challenges and where are the opportunities to support the development of healthy, connected young people?

In addition to questions about individual experiences, we also asked youth to specify their personal characteristics to help us understand how the intersections of race, gender, ability, nationality and other characteristics impact their well-being.

What do youth want us to know about their mental wellbeing? How many youth feel supported by their peers, family and community? What important differences are experienced by Indigenous or newcomer youth in our communities?

How are the youth that YOU serve doing?

Now that we have heard from the youth in Halton, what information does YOUR organization need to better support the youth in your network? And how will YOU use the data to improve programs and services for young people in Acton, Burlington, Georgetown, Halton Hills, Milton and Oakville?


From research to action

Now that the results are in, we at OKN are excited to share the new, comprehensive data with community partners across Halton. In the coming months, we will be organizing youth data parties, launch events and presentations for partners in Halton. The data will also be uploaded to the OKN Data Portal so that you can explore, analyze and utilize the data to support the work of your organization.

If you would like to learn more about using the OKN Data Portal, join our virtual introductory workshop on November 9th.

When the survey was launched, our community partners shared how they planned to use the data. Many partners committed to better understand the needs of children and youth in order to plan and implement effective programs and services.

Social and Community Services at Halton Region are planning to compare the data with existing early years data to understand the relationship between early years and older youth in order to help local governments plan programs and services. The Oakville Public Library hopes to understand what volunteer opportunities are important to youth and how to ensure they are accessible to all. For the Halton Multicultural Centre, the survey will provide important information about how to create programs that provide a warm introduction to newcomer youth. And the Milton Community Resource Centre will use the data to understand the specific needs of girls in our community to help inform their She Can! Girls Empowerment Program.

What will YOU do with the data?

HYI Community Builder Team Puts Trust and Truth into Action

By Siobhan Laverdiere, former Halton Youth Initiative Coordinator

“It’s often said before there can be Reconciliation, there must be Truth. I would challenge that, even before Truth, there must be Trust.”

Robyn Ward, Director of People Operations, Animikii

As a former Halton Youth Initiative (HYI) coordinator, this statement came to mind back in June 2020 when I was thinking about how to approach the topic of Indigenous Truth and Reconciliation with some of our youth volunteers. They had expressed keen interest in knowing more about Truth and Reconciliation and were considering reaching out to the Indigenous community.


Reflecting on Truth, Honesty, Love, Humility, Respect, Wisdom, and Bravery: Pathways to Trust

Before we began our journey, the Community Builders team took some time to think about building trust and seeking the Truth. Their reflections were framed by the Grandfather Teachings of the Anishinaabe People; Truth, Honesty, Love, Humility, Respect, Wisdom, and Bravery.

Truth and Honesty

“To me, Truth means to fully understand and honour what happened in the past, and not avoid it just because those actions weren’t caused firsthand by you. I think Reconciliation means to build the trust again, and make what was wrong right.” Senoli Jayaratna


“How would I feel if I were forcefully relocated to a different area? How would I feel if one of my family members went missing and no one responded or made an effort to find them? I deeply empathize with these questions since we all have our family whom we love and would go crazy if they are missing. And it would be worse if my government refused to provide me with any help because of my color and my nation.” Melissa Ban


“For hundreds of years, Indigenous Peoples have been disrespected and discriminated against by settlers. Their culture and people suffered, from many languages being lost and thousands of lives being taken away. The terrible actions must be discussed, the truth must be discussed. But, trust must be built first, since racism and discrimination are still a prominent issue of today. I think it’s expected for a community to not trust easily after facing centuries of mistreatment, and that is why this trust should be rebuilt first.” Ekaterina Stepenski


“I think we should first start by trying to learn and understand to the greatest extent the life of Indigenous people in the past and present. I also think that while we are doing so, we should attempt to build connections between us and our Indigenous allies, to establish the trust that was the focus of the article by Robyn Ward. Reconciliation means making up for the mistakes that we have made, so once we have learned more about the perspectives of some Indigenous people, we can find out what more we can do to help the Indigenous community.” Senoli Jayaratna


(On the knowledge and wisdom she learned from Robyn Ward’s article) “I found the analogy about the vault aspect of trust very interesting. Referring to it as a trust bank account helps to really understand the concept of withdrawals and deposits in terms of trust (efforts that violate or build/strengthen trust). Keeping this in mind will help us to be better allies who actively make efforts towards making deposits through being kind, good listeners, respecting boundaries, respecting decisions (especially when someone does not want to share), and more. It also can help us to understand the impacts of our mistakes and the toll they take.” Romina Mirsaeidghazi


“I was born and raised in a country where freedom of expression was limited and the government acts more as a dictatorship rather than a democracy. I know that if my people suffer in the same way that Indigenous peoples in Canada and North America have, I would want others to bravely advocate and support my people too. This relates back to “treating others the way we want to be treated”. As someone who is working on becoming a good ally, I feel as though I have an obligation to educate myself and others if I get a chance in order to stand for justice. I would want the same if this was me who was suffering.” Romina Mirsaeidghazi


We Begin…

Having had experience working with Indigenous organizations such as the Métis Nation of Ontario and the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres, I quickly realized that it would be important for these young people to connect with Indigenous teachers and leaders and the Indigenous community in Halton and beyond.

Our aim was to show our commitment to the Truth in order to build future Trust.  What better way to do this than by approaching this learning with:

Humility: Admitting that we needed to learn more, and to listen to the stories of Indigenous People, especially those of Residential School Survivors
Accountability: Taking it upon ourselves to find these stories and do our own research.
Empathy: Taking the time to reflect on ways we can make connections between our own personal experiences and those of Survivors in order to build emotional links.


This is what we did…

After our preparatory learning and self-reflection, the HYI Community Builders virtual team felt confident to contact Angela Bellegarde, Our Kids Network Indigenous lead. This new relationship led to other connections within the Indigenous community.

The experience of taking the time to learn and reflect, engage with Indigenous leaders and teachers and then have the opportunity to express their emotions and knowledge in concrete ways was absolutely transformative for these passionate young people. You can hear the sadness, anger, reverence, and courage in their voices in the reflections above.

As a result,  the Community Builders team put their learning and inspiration into action with a podcast series titled Halton Youth Share the Truth and a video Land Acknowledgement Resource for anyone who is called upon to acknowledge a Territory. These valuable community resources will remain available to help other youth and adults as on their journeys to seek Trust, Truth and Reconciliation.

Halton Youth Initiative Youth Volunteers

Ekaterina Stepenski
Angela Gerada
Isabella Zeppieri
Caroline Muileboom
Karen Jiang
Ashley Oyewole
Nishita Paillai
Melissa Ban
Senoli Jayaratna
Romina Mirsaeidghazi
Warday Ijaz
Juia Cooley
Ethan Potter Ruggiero
Hargun Kaur Rekhi
Nathan Hrenceniuk
Josh Gagu

Halton Youth Initiative Adult Allies

Angela Bellegarde, Our Kids Network Indigenous lead
Pat Howell-Blackmore, Consultant, PHBSpark Consulting
Stephen Hurley, Founder, VoicED Radio