We are excited to launch this blog page as we prepare for the May 2020 conference, as a way to share insights and best practice and support pushing the change to relationship-based approaches to working with youth. We also strive to honour the voices of youth by having the youth contribute their ideas, suggestions and insights.

When you access the website, you used to see all of the information for the Allies 4 Youth Connections Conference. You will still be able to access this, perhaps to look back on the 2018 conference (we have added photos from 2018), and soon see what we are planning for the 2020 conference. But, we are developing a resource site aimed at all of you who are working with youth, or are interested in this challenging but wonderful area of practice.

The site will have information and links to resources, articles, book chapters, videos, poetry and other art forms. Those of us on the Steering Committee are aiming for A4YC to have more of a presence and support the development of the youth-serving community in between conferences, which take place every two years. We hope that this builds on the energy gathered at the conferences so we can continue to evolve our practice and our thinking, and never stop on our learning journey. We aim to enhance our skills in working with our youth to make support and services more relevant in our efforts to best meet the needs of our youth. As a reminder, our key themes for the conference are:

  • High-risk youth, and all youth, deserve the opportunity to lives their lives in a meaningful way, to feel safe, and experience a sense of inclusion and belonging.

  • The current shift in practice toward a relationship-based focus needs to be reinforced and encouraged.

  • This work with youth experiencing high-risk circumstances incorporates the most recent research, literature and trends in areas such as trauma, attachment and brain development in children and youth; harm reduction; resilience; strength-based practice; collaborative, multi-disciplinary practice; trauma-informed intervention.

  • Youth can help inform practice and be instrumental in initiating and supporting positive change in policy.

  • Youth are the “experts in their own lives” and need to be included in all aspects of service delivery.

  • Reinforce the efforts being made to address youth issues in Alberta, and create a forum to showcase progressive examples of practice that have demonstrated success in engaging youth.

  • Youth and conference participants will come together in a spirit of learning and sharing, while celebrating the gifts that each of us have to offer.

Our efforts, in collaboration with the amazing Pixel Blue team, will focus on maintain the site as best we can while balancing our ongoing work. We think this is important to continue shifting practice from traditional deficit-based and punishment-oriented interventions to relationship-based, trauma-informed, and strength-based practice, guided by feedback from the population we serve.

Part of this will be a blog. Initially, contributions will be made by members of the conference Steering Committee, but we want to reach out to youth, and people in the field. This will be a forum to discuss practice; share front-line experiences (good, bad, sad, challenging and so on); share innovative practice examples; work through barriers to serving youth; present thoughts and ideas from hearing speakers, reading books, articles, research, or doing or receiving training; offer examples of partnering with youth in creative ways; or any variation on these themes. However, there may be a temptation to simply vent frustrations. Pointing out challenges and barriers, systemic problems, lack of resources, accessing services, oppressive practice, for example, can be valuable learning, but we hope writers can also discuss how they worked around these challenges, or also offer solutions. The key themes noted above should help guide your thinking and writing.

These do not have to be simply written articles, stories or reflections. You can be creative and submit poems, memes, links to videos (with context provided), relevant cartoons, artwork, songs, spoken word and more. Whatever the form, these will be reviewed by the A4YC Communications Subcommittee with minor editing for clarity if necessary. We do want to generate discussion and while not wanting to overly censor, a blog could be rejected if not deemed relevant, or abusively/inappropriately targets any person or group. Comments on postings will be also welcomed as a way to promote discussion and show respect for differing opinions and thoughts. However, as with blog posts, offensive or inappropriate comments will be removed.  We want to create a productive space for honest and respectful discussion.

The articles, stories and reflections can be as many words as you feel is necessary to convey your point, acknowledging that being too short could leave out important information and misrepresent your thoughts, while too long can result in being repetitive or getting off topic. If working in the field, or an adult interested in work with youth, it will be expected you use your name. This is optional for youth. We also recognize that for youth under 18, by law, we cannot contribute to revealing their involvement with government child protection or the justice system. Youth making submissions could self-identify such involvement if their story or poem is about their life and they mention involvement in these two government departments. In such cases, their real name cannot be used. Youth over 18 can make their own decision on whether they do use their real name. Writers are expected to spell check and proofread their material, allowing creative license to make a point or statement, of course.

We will notify the public when releasing a blog or adding resources to our web page. We hope the resources not only help generate ideas around practice, but also help academics and students with research for articles and papers, and perhaps nurture peoples’ interest in entering this field of practice.

Please join us as we work toward the 4th A4YC Conference on May 25 & 26, 2020.