Ai’aoskiikowaata (providing guidance to youth): Supporting healthy transitions from government care to independent living
Janice Victor, University of Lethbridge
CA$85,579.20 over 3 years
Blackfoot Language and Culture Program ; Ministry of Children’s services’ the Calgary Homeless Foundation; The Family Centre, Lethbridge
Disproportionately represented in child welfare systems, Indigenous youth are at higher risk for homelessness, addiction, criminalization, and poor educational and health outcomes. Indigenous homelessness describes a deep sense of dislocation from traditional lands, cultural knowledge, community, family, and identity that are interwoven with intergenerational trauma. Placement in government care magnifies the experience of Indigenous homelessness by disconnecting youth from the cultural resources that provide resilience. In the absence of Ai’aoskiikowaata, Blackfoot for “providing guidance to youth (through ceremony and culture),” Indigenous youth are preemptively pushed into independence without adequate support or resources. This research employs two studies to investigate youths’ experiences of transitioning out of government care in three southern Alberta locations. The first study gathers young adults’ first-hand knowledge of exiting care through a multi-media storytelling project. The second surveys Indigenous and non-Indigenous young adults on their care experiences, exposure to traditional culture, and current life outcomes. This project can inform legislators and knowledge users about: the protective factors associated with culturally-appropriate resources; prevention and support strategies for Indigenous youth; service and programming gaps; and the relationship between youths’ experiences in care and life quality as measured by housing status and the social determinants of health.