Making The Connection: Harm Reduction and High Risk Youth 11th. Annual Harm Reduction Conference “Courage, Evidence, Compassion” Edmonton, Alberta June 1 & 2, 2011
Presenters • Arlene Eaton-Erickson MSW, RSW Advocate Office of the Child and Youth Advocate • Peter Smyth BA, BSW, RSW Supervisor High Risk Youth Unit Edmonton and Area Child and Family Services, Region 6
“The Disconnected” High-risk youth are “the disconnected.” These youth often report that their needs are not met and that their relationships with social workers and service providers are generally distant and problematic. Many of these youth have been labeled “manipulative” and/or “defiant,” leaving them unable to access services they require….
“The Disconnected” (cont.) These youth typically struggle with authority and have few, if any, people they feel they can trust. They live risk-filled lifestyles characterized by such things as drugs, sexual exploitation, violence, living on the streets and family breakdown. Despite this, all youth have strengths to build on; they demonstrate resilience. Eaton-Erickson & Smyth (2009). Making the Connection: Strategies for Working with High Risk Youth in MaCkay, S., Fuchs, D., Brown, I., (eds.), Passion for Action in Child and Family Services: Voices from the Prairies. Regina SK, Canadian Plains Research Center
Harm Reduction Is: Definition: A set of strategies and tactics that encourage individuals to reduce the risk or harm to themselves and their communities by their various behaviors. Goal: To educate the person to become more conscious of the risks of their behavior and provide them with the tools and resources with which they can reduce their risk.
Harm Reduction Principals • A humanistic approach. • Does not deal solely with behaviours, but the whole person with complex needs. • Accepts that risk is a natural part of our lives. • Places risky behavior on a continuum within context of person’s life.
Harm Reduction Principals (cont.) • Looks at person’s relationship to the behaviour as defined by him/herself. • Accepts that behavioural change is often incremental. • Any positive change is seen as significant. • Interventions are not rigid, require creativity and innovation reflective of a person’s life situation.
Harm Reduction Principals (cont…) • Builds on existing strengths and capacities* • Is helpful for communities most affected to be involved in creating safe places to get help by organizing harm reduction interventions and programs. • Though commonly associated with drug use, harm reduction is applicable to any social welfare and/or public health issue. (*Added by the High Risk Youth Task Force ) Adapted from: Recovery Readiness: Strategies That Bring Treatment to AddictsWhere They Are”, by Richard Elovich and Micheal Cowingand National Harm Reduction Working GroupReport from October 21-23, 1993, meeting
Why Does Harm Reduction Work? • Services and supports meet youth where they are at—youth input is essential. • Recognizes that youth are experts in their own lives • Empowers the youth • “By working with us and not forus, solutions that make sense for our lives will be possible.”
Healthy Client-Worker Relationship • Respect all “clients” • Use a strengths-based perspective • Build rapport • Be patient with yourself and your “client” • Nonjudgmental - accept people’s decisions & lifestyle choices • Separate the drug (behaviour) from the person - this is a person, who happens to use drugs (have difficult behaviours) Marliss Taylor, Program Manager, Streetworks (2010)
Healthy Client-Worker Relationship • Be supportive despite relapse or backward steps • LISTEN to those that have been there - the answers are not in a textbook - hear their stories • Expect the working boundaries to be tested by the “client” • Offer positive feedback • Be generous with time • Acknowledge that people are experts in their own lives Marliss Taylor, Program Manager, Streetworks (2010)
Unhealthy Client-Worker Relationship • Acting superior for having made different choices • Preaching or expecting abstinence - people won’t quit until they are ready • Talking down to people – they are experts in their own lives Marliss Taylor, Program Manager, Streetworks (2010)
Unhealthy Client-Worker Relationship • Having unclear boundaries – communicate boundaries with the individual • Not valuing the individual’s right to self-determination • Pushing your own values onto the individual • Trying to ‘save’ the individual Marliss Taylor, Program Manager, Streetworks (2010)
Individual Outcomes • Restores dignity, self-esteem and a sense of value • Increases a sense of control • Builds trust • Reaffirms that people have a choice • Improves range of options • Provides a “safe place” • Develops a sense of recognition/partnership • Restores future vision/hope • Gives individual a voice – they are experts in their own lives Marliss Taylor, Program Manager, Streetworks (2010)
Community Outcomes • Safer environments • Decreased costs to health care, social service, education and justice systems • Improved overall health of the community • Decreased stigma and discrimination Marliss Taylor, Program Manager, Streetworks (2010)
Worker Outcomes • Honesty in client/worker relationship • Opportunity to learn new skills, language, etc. • Opportunity to provide education to “client” • Encourages self-determination • Better working relationship with all current and potential “clients” • Recognition that you are dealing with a symptom, not the “problem” • Opportunity to see successes on a day-to-day basis Marliss Taylor, Program Manager, Streetworks (2010)