Vulnerable-Youth-Learning-Report-executive-summary - page 3

Shifting negative perceptions of
evaluation is an important step in
the learning process.
Many of the staff involved in the
Learning Strategy initiatives perceive
evaluation work as disconnected
from their “real” work. The work
of the DE will be to help make
evaluative processes meaningful
and useful to the program staff.
Ultimately the teams need to be
ready, willing and able to be part of
the learning and adaptation.
Family & Natural
We need to reframe family as part
of the solution.
Professionals who
serve vulnerable youth tend to see
family as the problem and youth as
the victim. Their first impulse is to
connect youth to other professional
supports. They are not expected or
encouraged to think about family as
a potential asset, a source of support
for the youth they work with.
Family work and youth work
are disconnected.
This divide
reinforces tendencies to work with
youth in isolation and makes it more
challenging to find staff who can
bridge the gap between vulnerable
youth and their families. Challenging
these silos will be an important part
of this innovation.
Systems tend to create and
reinforce the disconnection
between vulnerable youth and
Systems that are meant
to protect and serve youth may
exacerbate their disconnection
by taking them out of their
communities and connecting them
only to professionals. We need to
understand more about how we
might support families so that they
can effectively support their youth.
We need to recognize peers as
an important part of networks
of support.
This is especially true
for older youth and for youth where
family is not a healthy or viable
Engaging Vulnerable
Engagement takes time.
Engagement takes more time with
vulnerable youth than with more
typical youth. This means that staff
cannot support as many youth as
when working with less-acute youth.
Progress towards healthy outcomes
will take longer and will be non-
Relationship is everything.
Without an authentic and trusting
relationship these youth will not
engage. Workers need to remember
that fostering and protecting
a healthy relationship is more
important than any other program
Supports are unconditional.
Engagement with the program
needs to be barrier-free. This
means intake requirements are
minimal; youth do not have to meet
conditions to access supports;
staff work with youth and their
families without judgement, and
programming will include “whatever
it takes” supports and case
Family and natural support
connection is compelling for
vulnerable youth.
Early experiences
suggest that a surprising number of
youth want to reconnect with family,
want to find “their people”, and
thus are interested in being part of a
program designed to facilitate that
Staff & Team Qualities
Humility and the ability to really
listen are most important.
who do this work well understand
that it is only the youth who can find
their own solutions. The staff’s job
is to listen for these solutions and
then apply skills and knowledge to
support the youth to get there.
This work is not for
inexperienced professionals. It
requires a breadth of skills and
knowledge, credibility, and the
confidence to do things differently.
Multi-dimensional and atypical
Teams who do this work
well are comprised of staff who have
experience working with families
and with vulnerable youth. Teams
understand a relationship-based
approach and work from these
principles. Teams are committed to
learning, reflecting and adapting
their practice.
Mentoring Vulnerable
Build on existing research.
YES team will have the benefit of
drawing on promising practices and
tools related to vulnerable youth
that have been identified through
research and evaluation of programs
in the US. Integrating and adapting
ideas from this work will contribute
to the strength of YES at the same
time that the learning will contribute
to this broader area of inquiry.
Mentoring is being re-defined
by this work.
More conventional
approaches to mentoring as
instrumental will be challenged
by this work. Youth need the
opportunity to engage in supportive,
non-professional relationships that
are reciprocal, youth-directed and
long term. The YES program will
take this opportunity to test different
ways of engaging and supporting
mentors while safeguarding a space
where a natural relationship can
grow and evolve.
New tools will need to be
developed to support this
Working from the extensive
knowledge of BBBS, YES staff
will need to build new tools and
strategies to reflect the unique
needs of this program, and the
youth and mentors it intends to
serve. Development of these
tools will take time and the right
Partnerships are valuable,
perhaps essential, to this work.
Early experiences with the YES
program suggest organizational
partnerships are important for
innovative mentoring work. This
work requires a combination
of expertise, resources and
connections that are not likely to
be present in a single agency.
``Innovation comes out of ruffled
feathers and nobody likes getting
their feathers ruffled. We are
sensitive to being challenged… It’s
hard to sit in the discomfort and
yet that is what it takes to
– Learning Strategy Stakeholder
``How do we talk about
something, our mistakes,
without fear of getting fired or
fear of losing funding?``
– Learning Strategy Stakeholder
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