It was a movie that got Trevor talking. For months, his Children’s Aid case worker could not get him to open up. She hoped a male role model might make the difference, so she referred him to Mike in our Youth in Transition (YIT) program.
Our YIT worker Mike learned Trevor liked cars, so he took him to out to a car racing movie. Revved up, Trevor told Mike his life story over a burger afterwards. They spoke about what it was like living with his mom, who struggles with addiction, and losing his dad at a young age. They talked about how Trevor had a kind relative that he might be able to move in with if Mike would help speak with him about it. They started to work together on a plan for Trevor’s future. During that conversation, they built a lasting rapport that would allow Mike to give Trevor the support he needed.
Our innovative YIT program matches a worker to a youth moving into the community to live independently. When kids are experiencing a period of transition in their lives, like leaving child welfare or a youth shelter, they need extra support. We have found that many youth are much less resistant to accessing services when our workers meet with them outside of an agency setting.
“The YIT program helps youth find their place in the world as a citizen,” Mike explains. “Not just how to cook and shop, but also what they want to do with their life and who they want to be. We help set them on a path.”
Darren, a youth with a physical disability, was couch surfing and bouncing from shelter to shelter. Even though he was a bright and social kid, he wasn’t taking good care of himself without help. Darren has a number of physical challenges, so Mike helped advocate for him to get disability support. He also helped settle him into an accessible apartment that supports his needs. Darren recently called Mike to tell him how much it meant to him to be in his own bed in his own apartment watching his own TV. They meet regularly to pick up groceries and to talk.
In a typical day, Mike might run a mock job interview for one youth and teach him to tie a tie, advocate for another kid in court, build a reasonable budget for third kid and hook up yet another youth with a local basketball meet. He might also have to talk a suicidal kid down and take her to the hospital. Every kid is at a different point on the road to independence. It’s Mike’s job to meet them where they are and help them to travel further—just like a caring parent would.
The flexible, youth-led approach allows kids to make the most of the program. Workers and youth determine what the youth hopes to achieve and how much support they would like. The frequency the workers meet with the youth and the length of time they help them is tailored to the youth’s needs and preferences. The workers will travel to meet the youth at a location that is convenient and comfortable. Feedback from the youth after the program has been resoundingly positive.
YIT was developed a couple of years ago when we discovered that youth needed more customized support to establish themselves in the community and move into adulthood successfully. It is a program that is completely unique in Ontario, and the government has taken notice. They have committed to rolling out similar programs across the province modeled on our experience.
Alumni of the program can still meet up with their worker to share how they are doing or ask for advice. This gives them a critical emotional home base to keep them feeling rooted and focused on goals.
“I absolutely love my job helping these youth,” Mike shares. “When you love what you do, you never work a day in your life.”