How youth support staff are using their sleuthing skills to connect teens with family
The Eternal Roots program aims to provide a support network into adulthood
A new CBC Docs POV documentary profiles a bold initiative that helps young adults at an Ontario shelter connect to lost family members.
"The idea behind the program is to try and connect youth with a support network," Nadine Pequeneza, the documentary's director, told The Current's guest host Piya Chattopadhyay.
"Kids that end up at the RAFT, they come from broken families, typically. And they really don't have any sort of social network around them — often they've dropped out of school, they're not working, so they don't have any context to build that network," Pequeneza said.
Staff search through government records and databases, social media networks, phone directories and newspaper obituaries, hoping to find a lead that can result in a family connection.
After seeing youth cycle through care and the shelter, former Eternal Roots staffer Jackie Winger said she realized the importance of connecting to someone who wasn't paid support — available only during weekday work hours.
It was Winger's goal to find, even just one person to, call and check in on a youth at the shelter.
"Just to say, 'Hey, I'm interested in what's going on with you and I really am glad you're in the world, and I want you to know that you're valued,'" Winger said.
"Even if we can connect them with one person, it makes all the difference in the world."
As family dynamics can be complicated, RAFT workers don't always find a happy ending for the youth in the shelter.
But Pequeneza said the Eternal Roots program works in collaboration with other programs run by the shelter to support youth and their needs.
"It's difficult to say that any one program is going to provide the solution in a young person's life when it is so complicated," she said.
With youth grappling with so many issues like housing, getting back into school and mental health issues, Pequeneza said, "you need a whole raft of programs."
"It's very hard for young people to get mental health help and services that they need."
CBC POV's Next of Kin airs on Nov. 9, 2018 at 9 p.m. on CBC-TV
Listen to the full discussion near the top of this page.
Produced by Karin Marley.