YCC Magazine

Vol.2 Issue 2

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w w w . y o u t h c e n t r e s c a n a d a . c o m 17 What is an "at risk youth?" ChildTrends.org reports that the definition of an "at-risk youth" is flexible. The level of risk a youth faces can depend on 3 factors: themselves, their families and their communities. It is important to realize that "at risk" is a term that implies probability, not certainty, as using the term "at-risk" can sometimes be misconstrued as a stigmatization of certain groups. (ChildTrends: Publication #2006:12, 2006) An at-risk youth is more likely to engage in (self)destructive behaviours that may endanger themselves or those around them, who may be less at risk. To an extent, all youth are exposed to a certain degree of risk and it is surprising how circumstances beyond a youth's control can quickly put them into the at-risk level. However, some are more prone to being at risk than others. According to a study done by the University of Nebraska in 2007 (revised in 2014) high risk behaviours include self-injurious behaviour, suicide, violence, substance use, risky sexual behaviour and unhealthy dieting that can lead to obesity. Whether an at-risk youth participates in these behaviours depends on the surrounding risk factors and the number of resources and level of assistance available to them. (High Risk Behaviours in Youth: Maria Rosario T. de Guzman, Lyndsey Pohlmeier, University of Nebraska. 2014.) Where are we needed most? According to Stats Canada, as of 2011, 81 percent of Canada's population reside in urban areas while only 19 percent reside in rural areas. A rural area in Canada is officially defined as a community populated by less than 1,000 people, with a population density of less than 400 people per square kilometer. Urban cities, or Census Metropolitan Areas (CMA's) have a total population of 100,000 or more with at least 50,000 in the urban core. A Census Agglomeration (CA) has an urban core of 10,000 or more. Any region that falls outside of these 3 classifications is known as a Rural and Small Town (RST). An RST is bigger than a rural community but smaller than a city. (Stats Canada 2007) In 2006, Youth Centres Canada conducted a report that concluded "street youth" in cities are less likely than their rural counterparts to engage in high risk behaviours that included heavy drinking, early school-leaving, smoking and substance abuse. In fact, a majority of "street youth" in cities actually came from surrounding small towns and rural areas. (TYPS 2006 Background Paper: Rural Youth Facts) The reality is that small towns generally provide less resources to at-risk youth, because most expect the risk to be higher in the city. This is not the case, however, simply because of the fact that in a small town, there are less opportunities for youth, so they are more likely to engage in high-risk behaviours. As of May 2015 there are 454 youth organizations across Canada, and each one of them provides the necessary support and resources to help at-risk youth. 49 percent of youth centres across Canada are in rural and small town areas, while 51 percent are located in urban cities. Although this is not a huge difference, research shows that it would be beneficial to focus our attention a little more on smaller towns and rural areas. This is where Youth Centres comes in! Youth centres provide a variety of resources for youth, including workshops, clinics, and many different programs and activities that reduce risk factors leading to high risk behaviours. Youth centres provide somewhere for youth to go, often when they have nowhere else to go, where they will feel safe and included. Youth Centres' after-school programs help youth remain engaged with their school work and provide assistance they may need to help them achieve their best. Many youth centres have access or referrals to medical clinics, provide workshops and seminars that help educate youth on relevant issues, and facilitate programming such as YCC's Challenge Program and a variety of other activities that reach out to youth of all ages and backgrounds. YCC partners with organizations such as TakingItGlobal, Provincial Advocates for Children and Youth, Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity, Ontario Centre of Excellence for Youth Mental Health, and many other organizations that work to benefit youth. Youth Centres Canada has done a great deal of work to help at-risk youth, and will continue to do so…always taking into consideration where and what is needed most. How can YOU help? You can become a YCC member via our website (www.youthcentres- canada.com) for only $50 per year if you are a youth-serving group (Accredited/Associate) or $500 for an affiliate membership. All of our memberships allow you to put articles in our magazine and affiliate membership means you will be listed on our website with a clickable link back you yours. Membership helps us to support the youth centre movement so that young people have access to meaningful opportunities in their community. You can even start your own youth organization in your community! Contact Youth Centres Canada or Boys & Girls Clubs of Canada (www.bgccan.com) for more information on how you can help provide assistance and resources for at-risk youth across the country. AT-RISK YOUTH IN CANADA: Where are Youth Centres needed most, and how can we help at risk-youth? By Victoria St.Michael

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