York to help youth at risk

Youth at risk in the Jane-Finch area will receive some special support from York University and the TD Bank Financial Group with a new project geared to addressing their particular needs. Funded by a $78,000 gift to the York University Foundation by the TD Bank Financial Group, researchers from the Atkinson School of Social Work at York have launched an initiative to help agencies in the Jane-Finch community develop new strategies to deal with key issues in the neighbourhood.

The Leveraging Our Strengths (LOS) project will help community leaders identify priorities based on research into issues such as youth at risk. The goal of the dual-phase, 18-month pilot project is to establish a partnership between the school and organizations in the Jane-Finch community.

In Phase One of the project, researchers from the School of Social Work will study how other universities in North America collaborate successfully with their communities in order to create a model of ‘best practices’ for developing the partnership. In Phase Two, researchers will implement and evaluate this model through two community projects: the PEACH (Promoting Economic Action and Community Health) Wraparound Project; and the Black Creek Capacity Building Project.

The PEACH Wraparound Project is designed for students who have been adversely affected by the Safe Schools Policy. The Wraparound process assists the students in formulating a support team of formal members (teachers, social workers) and informal members (parents, siblings, friends) that can help students meet their goals.

“This is a wonderful initiative that will provide the necessary research to tackle serious issues of youth violence and youth marginalization,” said Roger Rowe, PEACH Chairperson. “The LOS project will allow the Jane and Finch community to benefit from York’s knowledge in this area as the community and the University work together to find innovative solutions to this complex problem.”

The Black Creek project is a coalition of local community groups, public sector institutions, the City of Toronto and York’s School of Social Work. Together, these groups will develop a process for community-based planning that will identify socio-economic vulnerability in the community and assess what is needed to address it.

“The challenge in the case of community initiatives is finding the resources to evaluate their effectiveness,” says Rhonda Lenton, dean of Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies. “Thanks to the generosity of TD Bank Financial Group, the LOS project will provide the opportunity for members of the community and members of the School of Social Work to identify and act upon community research priorities early on.”

TD Bank Financial Group’s Community Giving program supports education, health and the environment, with a focus on children and youth. TD Bank Financial Group sponsors four flagship programs — TD Canadian Children’s Book Week, TD Canada Trust Scholarships for Community Leadership, the Children’s Miracle Network and TD Friends of the Environment Foundation — as well as a host of national, regional and local children’s programs across Canada.

“This project is a rare opportunity for community agencies to work collaboratively with University researchers on issues that will improve their practices and the well-being of the Jane-Finch community,” said Scott Mullin, vice-president government & community relations, TD Bank Financial Group. “Hopefully, the outcome of this project will encourage others to finance work of this kind.”