Link between child protection services and youth homelessness to be discussed April 5

homeless youth sitting in the streets

homeless-fp-VConnecting the dots between child protection services and youth homelessness is the topic up for discussion at the third installment of the Responding to Youth Homelessness Learning Series: A Systems Approach on Friday, April 5. A York University and United Way York Region joint project, the series seeks to expand the focus on homelessness toward prevention with a move away from emergency-only response.

Keynote speaker Naomi Nichols (PhD ’11), an applied social scientist working at the Learning Institute at the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and an adjunct professor in the Queen’s−Trent Concurrent Education Program, will examine child welfare policy and practice from the perspective of homeless youth.

Nichols will share the stories of four young people who were homeless in 2008, whom she met as a student and researcher in the graduate program in education at York University. As part of her remarks, Nichols will respond to the recent Ontario government announcement about new services and support for young people living in care, following the 2012 Youth Leaving Care Working Group report.

In her two-part presentation, she will talk about a knowledge-to-action project she spearheads at SickKids that is geared to improving inter-professional learning and planning, and how it may be used to address the problem of service integration for youth at risk.

“One of the things we know about youth homelessness is that many who have been involved with child protection services wind up on the streets once they leave care,” says York University Professor Stephen Gaetz, director of the Canadian Homelessness Research Network (CHRN), who is leading the learning series project. “Nichols’ research speaks to the problems young people face in transitioning from care, and how many wind up slipping through the cracks. If we want to effectively deal with youth homelessness, we need to support better transitions from care.”

The learning series was organized to “unpack the many issues relating to homelessness,” says Jane Wedlock, Knowledge Mobilization Officer, United Way York Region. “We’re trying to connect to all sectors. We’re trying to go upstream to understand issues and do preventative work.”

At a United Way York Region − York University conference in November, leaders in the field concluded that it makes sense to focus on  preventing youth homelessness and providing appropriate accommodation and supports for young people who become homeless. This will help reduce the focus on an emergency response model.

The talk will take place at the Markham Convergence Centre, 7271 Warden Avenue, Markham, Ont., on Friday, April 5, from 9 to 11am.