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Youth Voices Initiative – Framework for Change

Long-term Goal:

To improve the well-being and resilience of children & youth experiencing parental separation.

Design Hypothesis

If we find a way to have the system and the parents focus on, and act on, the voices of their children, then the children’s well-being will be preserved or improved.


Research says that interaction with the BC Family Justice System often harms the well-being of families & children.  The formal separation and divorce process can exacerbate parental conflict causing trauma in young children – a significant Adverse Childhood Experience.

Resilience requires protective factors (including opportunities for voice, personal competence, agency & peer support), a community of concern & strong social policy creating opportunities for young people.

The FJIL’s research showed that being left out of discussions that significantly impact their lives can harm children; engaging with them about concerns can be healthy and empowering. 


The Youth Voices initiative is led by youth and for youth.  It aims to improve the well-being & resilience of children & youth experiencing parental separation by developing opportunities for them to express themselves in ways that:

  • Empower children & youth
  • Create a supportive community
  • Educate parents and system actors about the importance of listening to children’s views to shift their mindset/culture and behaviour
  • Influence (justice) system-level decision-making.

The concept to be prototyped

The proposed approach grew out of an innovative child-centred design process. No similar platform or service exists to our knowledge in BC.

The concept to be prototyped is an online digital platform supported by a social media campaign which will:

  • Encourage young people to find and express their voice in a variety of creative ways
  • Showcase youth stories and creative content in many formats (video, written, music, poetry, art etc.)
  • Partner with others advocating for child rights and the benefit of child voice in the separation/divorce process
  • Develop and host activities and campaigns for youth including a peer community of support and online mentoring services
  • Build a library of creative content demonstrating the voice of young people
  • Provide education for parents (including partnering with organizations and agencies working with parents)
  • Offer input to justice system leaders and practitioners about how to embed child voice into the system

The Youth Leadership Group (currently 9 young people) are leading this initiative, supported by the FJIL team.  All have experienced their parents’ separation. The Youth Leadership Group will expand, and they will engage with other youth, design and implement activities and campaigns to support youth and educate parents and others.

Other young people will be invited to submit stories to the platform, connect with the Youth Leadership Group and other youth, participate in activities and workshops offered by the initiative and, hopefully, become ambassadors for youth voice in their communities.

Additional Outcomes include

  • Increased public awareness of child rights, well-being and resilience in the context of separation and divorce
  • Useful content and approaches for others who are supporting families and children
  • Articulated lessons learned about:
    • The Lab’s human-centred design model, including prototyping and scaling
    • The use of developmental evaluation
    • Engaging young people in this context

Values – June 24 2020[1]

A list of five primary values plus a more detailed description to flesh out the meaning of each in this context.

Value / Description

  1. Youth resilience & well-being: Opportunities, supports, growth, learning, mental, physical and spiritual health (also the initiative’s primary goal/outcome)
  2. Youth empowerment: Primarily led by and for youth; youth-driven, respect, self-respect, authenticity, leadership, variety of participation approaches
  3. Collaboration: Building and operating in community; support; belonging/connection; inclusion/diversity; you are not alone; hope; teamwork; care, love, support, encouragement  
  4. Power of being heard and seen: The critical importance of expressing voice and for the voices to be heard and acted on; feeling valued; stories, self-expression, creativity; courage; authenticity, vulnerability
  5. Justice: Responding to injustice for youth; seeking and honouring children’s views; child rights in practice; influence; courage; action

[1] Based on brainstorming sessions of the Youth Leadership Group May 21 2020 and June 18 2020. 

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