This March, the members of the Youth Voices Leadership Group are participating in a two-part virtual event hosted by Access to Justice BC and the Representative for Children and Youth of BC. The Child & Youth Champions event is part of the multi-sector Transform the Family Justice System (TFJS) Collaborative that is focusing on achieving family well-being. Youth Voices aims to improve well-being by enhancing child voice and participation.
Part 1 of the event was held on March 2, 2021; Part 2 is scheduled for March 16th. Both parts put at the centre the well-being of children and youth experiencing parental separation or involved with the child welfare system. How? Approximately 1/4 of the participants are young people who had “lived experience” in the justice system. They are there as full participants – not observers, panel members or story tellers. They have amazing insights into how the system worked (or didn’t work) for them and they are committed to helping other kids going through the same things. To ensure that we created a safe environment, each young person was paired with an experienced professional.
Part 1 began and ended with the voices of the young people. In the middle, the focus was on three “profiles” (often called “personas” in human-centred design lingo). Each profile described the journey of a young person through parental separation, child welfare or both. While the profiled child is imaginary, their experiences are not – they are an amalgam of real (often painful) stories.
Working in small groups of four or five, participants explored the experience of their assigned profile child and identified pain points and opportunities missed by the system. After sharing in the larger group, different small groups identified patterns and themes. Many themes related to failure to provide children with meaningful participation and voice in decision-making significantly affecting their lives.
We were so excited by the enthusiasm and openness of the participants in this important work. For the most part, they resisted the temptation to jump immediately to solutions but, rather, sat with the child’s experience long enough to create empathy and curiosity.
In Part 2 we will be again centering the well-being of children and youth with a similar group (and an even larger contingent of young people with lived experience). We plan to use the harvest from Part 1 to guide participants to imagine a new multi-sectoral system that says directly to children – this is about YOU. You deserve to part
Youth Voices is very excited to be part of this important work. We look forward to sharing more details soon!
Images: Profile cards designed by Jayme Cochrane (Cloudburst Design)