REACH Edmonton

Nearly 500 people gathered at Grant MacEwan University May 16-17 for the second sold-out High Risk Youth Conference (HRYC) in Edmonton.

The theme of the 2016 conference was building connections, and focused on the value of relationship-based practice.

Keynote speakers included Cindy Blackstock, Dr. Stephen Gaetz and Dr. Sophie Yohani.

Going forward, the High Risk Youth Conference will be referred to as A4YC, which stands for the Allies for Youth Connections Conference.

“We wanted to remove any stigma for the kids as they move forward and by calling them high-risk, we were actually creating barriers for them by creating a label,” said Heather Peddle, co-chair of the committee of service providers that plans the conference, and a youth caseworker with Alberta Human Services.

“Allies are exactly what we want to be for these youth. We want to walk their path with them and support them as they walk it.”

The emphasis on allies speaks to the importance of relationship-based practice, which is critical to engaging and working with youth who have experienced trauma from an early age and need a safe space to take the risk of involving adults in their lives.

The 2018 A4YC conference will reflect this focus on youth workers acting as allies for youth while connecting them to the supports they need to be successful in their individual journeys.

REACH Edmonton, as a council for community safety, supports this conference because meeting the needs of youth plays an active role in preventing crime in the community.

At the 2016 conference, two REACH initiatives contributed to the sharing of knowledge and experiences. Presentations about WrapED (Wraparound Edmonton) and the Police and Youth Engagement Program (PYEP) were made in breakout sessions.

These initiatives are demonstrations of partnerships that focus on building relationships both with the youth and between their various support systems, to better meet their needs.