10 Feb Early Intervention and Engagement: Newcomer Youth Support Services (NYSS)

By Wesley Urban Ministries, Hamilton, Ontario

Three years ago, through a National Innovation Call for Proposals launched by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Wesley Urban Ministries proposed an innovative program designed to support the unique needs of 6-21 year old government-assisted refugees (GARs) arriving in Canada. The Newcomer Youth Support Services (NYSS) program, now nearing the end of its pilot period, provides early intervention and engagement to children and youth in the Hamilton region.

With the Newcomer Youth Support Services (NYSS) program, engagement starts in the initial resettlement days, with tailored orientation and rapport-building activities. Refugee youth and the NYSS staff within our Reception Centre stay actively engaged throughout the refugees’ first year in Canada, ensuring that supports are in place every step of the way. By utilizing an intensive case management model, case workers are responsive to each client’s multiple and changing needs.

Refugee youth face numerous challenges upon arrival in Canada, including: being at risk of getting involved with the law, lack of age-specific supports around volunteering and mentoring, and intergenerational issues within families, often due to a faster integration process compared to their parents. Throughout the delivery of NYSS, additional alarming trends with refugee youth were identified, including significant mental health concerns connected with trauma and war experiences. Some families went through serious breakdowns resulting in the involvement of the child protection services leaving long-term negative impacts on the youth.

The Cyclemania Program: NYSS staff and parents working together to support Government-Assisted Refugee (GAR) children with learning bicycle safety and how to ride a bicycle.

NYSS Child Rooms housed in the Wesley Urban Ministries Reception Centre, Hamilton.

NYSS Youth Rooms housed in the Wesley Urban Ministries Reception Centre, Hamilton.

Through a holistic, coordinated approach, case managers play a pivotal role connecting children and youth with youth-specific support services, therefore ensuring that needs are adequately assessed and addressed throughout the settlement process (i.e. recreation, education, mentoring and volunteering, addictions and mental health, employment, etc.).

While developing a service specifically tailored for refugee youth, the importance of including parents in the programming is key. As a result, the NYSS team equally works on building parents’ capacities, enhancing the trust that binds refugee youth and their parents together. This is supported by a number of services and resources meant to improve and stabilize family dynamics.

Wesley Urban Ministries hopes that the NYSS’ early intervention and engagement program will secure new funding beyond the pilot phase.  Additionally, NYSS is very interested in supporting COA’s initiative in its effort to assist youth refugees prior to arrival. A lot could be achieved by connecting refugee youth with the right services available in Canada, and we look forward to working with a pre-departure service provider like IOM and the COA project to improve refugee youth’s access to settlement services upon arrival.

Click here to learn more about Wesley Urban Ministries and our Newcomer services in the Hamilton Region.