Strengthening Today; Building Tomorrow Conference on January 28 and 29th, 2016

A.1: Working with Vulnerable Youth to Enhance their Natural Supports

A.1: Working with Vulnerable Youth to Enhance their Natural Supports

Family, community, and peer relationships have a significant impact on our sense of identity and belonging, and provide a rich array of resources and supports on which to draw. While the idea of natural supports is intuitive, the practice is not: Research suggests that practitioners understand the importance of natural supports, but often struggle to effectively engage them. So, while a growing body of research clearly demonstrates the linkages between positive natural supports and healthy youth development, the practice of helping youth to identify, strengthen and extend their social networks lags far behind.

Based on 2 years of collective efforts from representatives of 13 youth- and family-serving agencies in Calgary, and drawing upon academic and practice literature in the field, a practice framework was developed to help strengthen the capacity of human service professionals to support youth to connect with and sustain a network of social supports. This interactive session will go over the material contained in the Framework and provide practice strategies for agencies and front-line staff. Participants will have an opportunity to learn about the Natural Supports framework and how it has changed practice among the agencies who have participated in the Change Collective.

This session will include reflective practice and collaboration with peers to deepen participants’ understanding of the framework. Participants will learn practice strategies they can start implementing as well as approaches for speaking with agency leadership to garner support for shifting to this way of working.

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