Research Bulletin August 2017: Child welfare, mental health, social change

This is the first iteration of the new and improved Federation research bulletins. This member service reviews and shares research that explains, analyzes and addresses issues related to what’s going on in our province—the topics we care about and the things affecting Federation members.

The Federation team has been tracking research, analyses, and evaluations that can inform service delivery in BC. Over the coming months, we will share these reports and articles with context and commentary so members can easily identify the emerging research that is relevant to their programs and services.

The first four reports address youth homelessness, child welfare, youth mental health, community engagement, and poverty reduction.

1. Child Welfare and Youth Homelessness in Canada: A Proposal for Action
2. Youth Mental Health and Homelessness
3. A Renewed Voice for Social Canada
4. Indigenous-Driven Organizations Deliver Better Health Outcomes

Our goal is to share useful information in a useful way. If you have feedback about how we can make this service better and/or if you want to flag issues or service areas for our Research and Policy Analyst to pay attention to, please contact us.


1. Child Welfare and Youth Homelessness in Canada: A Proposal for Action (Canada, 2017)

The recent release of data from the 2016 National Youth Homelessness Survey has provided the first national picture of youth homelessness in Canada. The relationship between child welfare and youth homelessness is striking—almost sixty percent (57.8%) of homeless youth in Canada reported involvement with the child welfare system at some point in their lives.

To address this important finding, the authors of this policy brief have proposed a number of evidence-based recommendations for improving the services and supports for young people in and leaving care that reflect a commitment to human rights and equity.

This paper is an important read as the recommendations demand action from various parties: the Government of Canada, provincial and territorial governments, and child protection services and workers. While many recommendations are directed at provincial governments (and should be shared with our government colleagues and provincial representatives), many are also intended to guide program and practice at the community level.


2. Youth Mental Health & Homelessness (Australia 2017)

This report is a follow-up to a national survey of Australian youth that began in 2015The analysis focuses on the relationship between youth mental health issues and youth homelessness. According to the report, young people with a mental illness are 3.5 times more likely to have spent time away from their home compared to their peers.

A key point made clear by the authors is that the link between homelessness and mental illness among young people works in both directions— young people who are experiencing mental illness are at increased risk of homelessness, while those who are homeless are at increased risk of mental illness. As such, the report focuses on the need for (and the importance of) early intervention in addressing both youth homelessness and youth mental health issues.


3. A Renewed Voice for Social Canada (Canada, 2017)

This paper argues that Ottawa’s recent promise of a poverty reduction strategy must be more than a one-time commitment. According to the author, Ottawa’s strategy must provide for independent continuing appraisal and reappraisal of where we are and where we need to be, as Canada’s economy and society changes.

The paper provides useful historical information about past poverty reduction efforts and, drawing on the successes of those efforts, explicitly focuses on the value of (and need for) community voices in any future poverty reduction models.

Our recent analysis of the mandate letters for BC’s new Cabinet Ministers noted—with concern—insuffient calls for the inclusion of community voices. Because of these omissions, any poverty reduction models that can illustrate the importance of community engagement (and potential ways of doing so) will be valuable and helpful resources for BC’s community social services sector.


4. Indigenous-Driven Organizations Deliver Better Health Outcomes (Australia, 2017)

This new report out of Australia found that better health outcomes are achieved when local community organizations (especially Indigenous-led organizations) are allowed to take charge and lead the efforts. The report detailed how four co-operative community centres pioneered a new, collaborative way of conducting health research in rural Australia.

The findings demonstrated that governments should more often relinquish control and instead focus on building collaborative partnerships with local communities. The report also addresses considerations specific to rural public health efforts and the systemic racism minorities face in many healthcare institutions.

The research project detailed by the report offers a successful community engagement model and contains examples of new ways that BC’s community social services sector and the provincial government might share the responsibility of decision-making when it comes to community-specific programs and policies.