NEXUS Spring Institute

Overcoming the odds with high-risk adolescents: Research and engagement with street-involved and marginalized youth Smith, Annie


This presentation will focus on a study of marginalized and street-involved youth and will illustrate McCreary’s research approach that entails academically rigorous data collection coupled with youth engagement and knowledge transfer methods. Youth were engaged at the outset in the design and delivery of the 150-item self-report survey. The survey was administered to 762 marginalized and street-involved youth in BC (49% males; average age = 16 years). Knowledge exchange occurred through innovative workshops that youth assisted in developing and where results of the survey were presented and discussed. Youth made recommendations for change and disseminated the findings through multi-media presentations, including youth-friendly fact sheets and films. Findings from this study revealed that despite experiencing challenges in their lives, participants reported strong connections with their families and an interest in making positive changes in their communities. In the workshops, participants identified a number of priority issues and made recommendations for action, including providing more safe and affordable housing and programs for youth turning 19 who ‘age out’ of government care. The workshops led to changes in the youths’ communities. For example, a drop-in centre purchased pet-carriers to make their facility more pet-friendly, in response to the finding that pets are a protective factor in the lives of street-involved and marginalized youth. Street-involved and marginalized youth face many obstacles yet take an interest in contributing to changes in their communities. Listening to the voices of high-risk and marginalized youth and engaging them throughout the research process is invaluable for ultimately improving their lives.

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