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This High Risk Youth Conference was the first of its kind in 2014, and we are pleased to be hosting a second conference in May 2016. The conference is timely as Alberta leads the way with legislation such as The Social Policy Framework, Children First, and the new Education Act, which compel the diverse stakeholders who support youth facing challenges, particularly high-risk youth, to work together in true collaboration to develop and support the policies, research, professional development, and practice shifts that create true opportunities for these young people to reach their potential. Such a shift in practice is an effort to honour the voices of the youth who can continue to inform us as to how practice can be made to be more meaningful and relevant to youth needs.
It is hoped that the learning at the conference will help reinforce such efforts to address the issues and challenges facing our youth. It is being offered for all people who work with youth across Alberta and beyond. The conference is organized as a collaborative effort among a number of government ministries and community agencies and involves youth who also contribute their knowledge and talents. Plans encompass the following values:
• High-risk youth, and all youth, deserve the opportunity to lives their lives in a meaningful way, to feel safe, and experience a sense of inclusion and belonging.
• The current shift in practice toward a relationship-based focus needs to be reinforced and encouraged.
• This work with high-risk youth incorporates the most recent research, literature and trends in areas such as trauma, attachment and brain development in children and youth; harm reduction; resilience; strength-based practice; collaborative, multi-disciplinary practice; trauma-informed intervention.
• Youth can help inform practice and be instrumental in initiating and supporting positive change in policy.
• Youth are the “experts in their own lives” and need to be included in all aspects of service delivery.
• Reinforce the efforts being made to address youth issues in Alberta.
• Youth and conference participants will come together in a “Celebration of Youth.”
The first conference took place in spring of 2014. It brought together service providers, researchers, and experts to focus on the growing population of youth with increasingly complex needs. It was organized by agency staff working with high-risk youth at Edmonton and Area Child and Family Services, Alberta Health Services Addiction and Mental Health, Edmonton John Howard Society, E4C, MacEwan University, Edmonton Police Services, Justice and Solicitor General (Youth Probation and Edmonton Young Offenders Centre), Old Strathcona Youth Society, iHuman Youth Society, Boyle Street Community Services, YESS, McMan and REACH Edmonton.
The conference focused on the dynamics, barriers, issues and needs of the high-risk youth population, which includes vulnerable youth, those involved with gangs, youth struggling with mental illness and addictions, the sexually exploited and the chronically homeless. These youth are more likely to be female, have experienced early trauma, be Aboriginal and live in families suffering from intergenerational effects of colonization, residential schools, and the 60s Scoop. Further, some may be sexual minority presenting with additional barriers to accessing support and resources. Mainstream interventions are not effective and in order to succeed, these often marginalized and excluded young people require specialized resources, programming and care. A conference to build understanding, skills and resources to address these specialized needs is necessary and timely.
The 2014 HRYC focused on emerging practices that encompasses the knowledge and methodology of harm reduction, attachment theory, trauma and brain development, relationship-based practice, and resiliency/strength-based approaches. For more information on the first conference, visit http://hryc.ca/hryc-2014.html.
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