Navigating New Spaces: An Evaluation of ISANS’ Youth Life Skills Support Program

Project Researchers

Approved
Catherine Bryan
Associate
Biography:

Dalhousie University
School of Social Work,
Assistant Professor

Project Description

Resettlement entails orientation across intersecting spaces: the personal, the familial, the social, the economic, and cultural. In each, refugee youth encounter challenges and opportunities. Partnered with the Immigrant Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS), this study focuses on ISANS’ Youth Life Skills Support (LSS) Program. Since 2013, 190 Government Assisted Refugee youth, ages 15-25, have participated in LSS, which provides group orientation, links youth to programming, and matches them with a peer mentor. Refugee youth themselves, mentors are causal ISANS staff who, trained in peer support, help newcomer GAR-youth navigate the complexities of initial resettlement. Recently, LSS has expanded to include in-house workshops on financial literacy; Canadian law; volunteerism; transportation; stress management; relationship building; and intergenerational conflict.

Though evidenced by participant feedback, LSS’ success has not been comprehensively demonstrated. Our objective is to redress this with an account of LSS, reflective of the youth’s experiences, an assessment of its outcomes for both GAR-participants and peer mentors, and insight into how it might be strengthened. Such a project is timely as the number of GARs in Nova Scotia steadily rises, and amongst them, the number of youth.

More precisely, we ask:

  • What do youth want to accomplish through LSS participation? (What are their corresponding needs?)
  • What facilitates participation? (What might serve as a barrier?)
  • What are the experiences of LSS for youth participants/mentors?
  • What is the impact of LSS participation? And how do participants use their learning?
  • How are youth participants satisfied with LSS?
  • How can LSS be strengthened?

Qualitative methodology is particularly useful in generating detailed and nuanced information, as well as data that is both reflective and forward-looking. To ensure a fulsome depiction of the needs of GAR-youth, as well as their LSS experience and its outcomes, we will complete in-depth interviews with 30 youth who have completed LSS in the last three years and 20 mentors.

This project fits well with the priorities of the Broader Economic, Social and Political Factors cluster. Taking the “family” as the unit of resettlement, many services obscure the unique needs of refugee youth. This tendency is not anomalous; rather, it is consistent with a social, economic, and political context that defines successful integration in economistic terms. Following from this, adults (as breadwinners) are prioritized. Increasingly, however, front-line agencies are aware of the social requirements of successful resettlement, as well as the critical role of youth in supporting the family resettlement. Prioritizing youth, LSS sets the groundwork for their well-being, and that of their families, across manifold registers. Finally, reflecting the mandate of the CYRRC, this project will provide insight into GAR-youth at distinct, yet connected, moments in time, corresponding to the initial resettlement period (clients) and several years later (mentors). While not reflecting the experiences of a single sample overtime, we will generate important insight into the trajectories of refugee youth, highlighting their strengths, capacities, and the supports and conditions required to maximize their resettlement outcomes..

2019-06-17T14:20:39+00:00