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Child and Youth Care instructors help give voice to at-risk children and youth

January 9, 2015

An eye-opening new video project inspired by a pair of Red River College researchers is giving child and youth care professionals valuable insight into the experiences of at-risk children and teens.

Live My Life: See what it’s like is a raw, honest and thought-provoking documentary short focusing on the perspectives of four Manitoba youth who’ve lived the out-of-home group care experience.

The video places the voices of these youth at the core of the care experience, offering a unique look at what they value in caregivers, and their perspectives on best practices. It also challenges viewers to rethink current child welfare strategies, and to incorporate similar voices more readily into practice.

The project was inspired by the experiences and research of Dawne MacKay-Chiddenton and Diane Parris, both faculty members in RRC’s Child and Youth Care (CYC) program. As Mackay-Chiddenton explains, she and Parris have long understood the importance of listening to what youth in care have to say, but felt there was little opportunity for such voices to be heard in the existing child welfare system.

To help rectify the situation, they partnered with Just TV, a local organization that works with at-risk youth through the West Broadway Community Centre.

Based on data collected in focus groups and individual interviews, the partners produced the Live My Life video, giving those profiled a chance to comment on the skills, qualities and attributes that make child and youth care professionals effective.

Their stories — which involve heartbreaking accounts of broken homes, separated siblings, and unqualified foster parents — speak to a broader youth experience that’s often omitted from child welfare programming and delivery methods, say the pair.

“Some of what we have heard in our research has been very disturbing,” says MacKay-Chiddenton. “Sometimes it seems that the child and youth ‘out-of-home-care’ system is worse than it was 30 years ago.”

The video, which is addressed primarily to child and youth care professionals, was showcased at the Council of Canadian Child and Youth Care Associations’ national conference in New Brunswick last October, and has been presented to youth-serving agencies across Winnipeg. It’s also been provided to educators throughout Canada, for use in a variety of curricula.

Click here to watch the video, and here to learn more about RRC’s Child and Youth Care program.