Challenging Our Thinking About Family

Why Prevention Should be Part of our Approach

  • Youth want family connection
  • Families can offer long term support
  • Supporting youth and families builds community
  • Prevention is integral to ending the cycle of youth homelessness

Canadian youth homelessness sector assumptions and practices have often followed the notion of good kid/ bad family. According to these assumptions, youth arrive at our programs from abusive homes with no redeemable family relationships and as a result, need to become self-sufficient.

We know these struggles of abuse intimately. We also know that youth can be great story tellers, and that they use this skill to protect themselves and find resiliency. Developmentally, they are coping with peer pressure, lack of impulse control, developing problem solving skills, and are attempting to develop their own identity.

For a long time the focus has primarily been on emergency services – on housing, employment and income support, similar to the adult system. As staff, we work hard in the context of the services offered to best support youth. While we are able to address some of the needs of the young people we work with using our current approaches, we certainly can’t address them all. As our sector and national policies continue to evolve, it is critical to consider alternative approaches.

One such approach is involving family in the responses to, and prevention of, youth homelessness. While treatment options for substance use and mental health have evolved considerably, family continues to remain an unexplored option in working with youth – and is noticeably absent in our national approach when compared to many countries.

Not all of the youth we work with come from abusive households, and many of the youth who have experienced abuse still value family in their lives. Over the past few decades, a number of studies have identified protective factors that increase the likelihood of healthy development for youth. In a 2006 British Columbia study Building Resilience in Vulnerable Youth by the McCreary Centre Society[1], family and school connectedness were two of the strongest protective factors ( things that increase a youths ability to avoid risks and promote resiliency)  for youth who were abused and youth who experience challenging home lives.

Download the complete PDF of Toolkit Section 2 – Youth Homelessness


[1] McCreary Centre Society(2006) Building Resilience in Vulnerable Youth

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