CCVT Youth & Children Afterschool Program and Supportive Counselling
Report Prepared By:
Am y Soberano
Child & Youth Counselor | CCVT
Community Planning & Policy Professional
Consultant | actionforchange
The Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture was established in 1983 to provide supports and services to individuals and families who have survived torture and/or war in their country of origin.
The organization serves between 1600-2100 clients annually, and provides specialized programs and services related to mental health, settlement, language and skills training. A key population served are youth and children.
This report summarizes findings from an evaluation conducted in 2015, highlighting some strengths and needs in service planning related specifically to CCVT’s supportive counselling services and After School Program for youth and children.
Youth & Child Service Background
CCVT provides a range of services specifically targeted to children and youth survivors of torture and/or war, and family members of survivors, currently residing in the Greater Toronto Area. The organization employs one full-time staff who provides one-to-one counselling and case-management services to over 90 youth (aged 14-24) annually, in addition to coordinating and overseeing a weekly After-School program between September and June that annually serves approximately 60 children (6-13yrs) and youth (14- 17yrs).
This review was conducted to better understand the strengths and challenges of current program delivery for CCVT's Youth After-School Program and its supportive counselling services, and to identify opportunities for future program and service development at CCVT.
Part One: After-School Program Review
To review CCVT's after-school program, a series of semi-structured key-informant interviews were held with 31 regularly attending children & youth program participants. In addition, survey questionnaires were completed by five parents and eight program volunteers.
Each interview took approximately twenty minutes and each interviewee was asked eight questions about the program. The questions were focused on identifying program strengths and weaknesses in addition to identifying and discussing ideas for program development and refinement.
Volunteer questionnaire contained eight questions, asking volunteers to identify program strengths and weaknesses, and opportunities to strengthen the model moving forward.
In total, 44 people were engaged in the after-school program review: 31 program participants, 5 parents and 8 volunteers.
Program participants consisted of 19 children and 12 youth: 16 female and 15 male. Seven participants or 23% had arrived to Canada within the past 12 months. 50% of participants had been living in Canada for more than four years when they were interviewed.
Participant countries of origin included Kenya, Cameroon, Haiti, Ethiopia, Angola, Senegal, Somalia, Eritrea, Djibouti, E Gambia and Syria.
Role that After-School Plays in Participant Lives
“I came to the After School Program to get support, have fun, and meet new people”
Research participants were first asked to identify the overall role that the afterschool program plays in
their lives. They were asked why they were part of the program.
Most youth interviewed responded that they attend the Afterschool program at CCVT to access support, particularly around school work. Interviewees talked about building social connections through the club, and identified their peer cohort as an important social network in their lives. For some, the program was also identified as an opportunity to reduce their stress levels and have some fun. Children interviewed spoke about the benefits of the program in providing a structure and environment for completing homework assignments. Many described the environment as 'fun' and highlighted art, theatre and music as important aspects of their experience.
All parents interviewed responded that they send their children to the CCVT Afterschool program for educational support. A number also spoke to the role that the program was playing in their children's social development.
Volunteers interviewed spoke about the sense of community and positive socialization that the program fosters amongst participants and between participants and staff/volunteers.
“I’ve gotten help with homework and new ideas. I learned piano. I loved it.”
Research participants were asked to identify what they were learning or gaining from being part of the
Most youth interviewed emphasized the afterschool program as an opportunity to enhance their social skills. A number of participants highlighted the role the program played in improving their English language skills. Participants also spoke about improved confidence in school and in their personal lives as an outcome of being involved in the program. Children interviewed spoke about skills development in English reading and writing. Several participants also talked about their growing interest in music and theatre through the arts program, one aspect of the club.
All surveyed parents talked about the improvements they had seen in their children's academic and social
skills since becoming involved in the after-school program.
“Whenever I come, I never go back the same. If I were angry, I get over it after. My friends are here. It is definitely a great place to be.”
Research participants were asked to identify what works well in the program.
The majority of youth interviewed identified the sense of community created by the afterschool program as a major program strength. They also spoke about the value having access to a regular and consistent supportive environment. Similarly, children interviewed talked about the sense of community they experienced through the program. They also talked about opportunity to learn new instruments and art forms as an important component of the program.
Parents identified schoolwork guidance and support and the positive atmosphere as program strengths. A number of respondents also highlighted the role that the program played in building community.
Volunteers interviewed highlighted safe space and mentorship for participants as key program strengths.
“I would like to extend the hours so we can stay longer or come more often”
Research participants were asked what aspects of the program could be improved.
Some youth interviewed felt that the program should be longer and hours should be extended. Others spoke about a lack of volunteer support at certain points throughout the year. Some children had concerns about the behavior and noise level of other children.
Volunteers interviewed identified challenges with adequately supporting children with learning disabilities and challenges related to supporting students who did not want help and support in their areas of weakness/need.
Ideas for Improvement
“We need outdoor activities like running and playing soccer, basketball, and tennis”
Research participants were asked to suggest ways the program could be improved.
Some suggestions for improvement were related to material resources, including snacks, computers, and conditions of the workspace. Others indicated that they would appreciate more opportunities for socialization with other youth through field trips, workshops, and extended hours. The majority of participants suggested that the program be expanded to accommodate more participants and extended in length and/or frequency of sessions. Children interviewed identified needing more opportunity to play outdoors and a quieter environment with less distractions for the homework portion of the program. They identified a need for 'more time' and 'more activities'.
Parents interviewed identified more staff support in the form of tutors to ensure that each student gets adequate attention and support. There was some interest in being directly involved in the program so that hours could be extended or the program could run more frequently.
Volunteers highlighted the need for a quieter environment with less distraction from other children as important. Opportunities and dedicated time for volunteers to socialize with participants was also highlighted. Some felt that academic goal-setting and tracking achievements would help boost confidence and keep kids on track. Others highlighted a need for more outings and field trips.
Interview data highlights the important and multifaceted role that CCVT's After-School program plays in the lives of its participants.
Both youth and children involved in the After-School Program reported it playing a significant role in their academic and social development and highlighted a sense of community and belonging, friendship development and stress relief as important outcomes of being involved in the program. Many also identified improved English skills, new or renewed interest in music, theatre and art. The interview data indicates that this program plays a strong role in contributing to the successful adaptation and settlement of its participants.
Program challenges and ideas for future improvements identified by participants, parents, volunteers
relate to staffing capacity.
After-School Program participant interest and need for extended hours or increased frequency of the program, and for supports for learning disabilities would require additional staffing support to be provided. Similarly, ideas for program improvement, including extended hours, more opportunities for field trips/outings, and academic goal setting and progress tracking would require additional staffing hours, monetary resources and time.
Part Two: Counselling Service Review
To review CCVT's Counselling services, a short survey was designed and shared with clients 14-24 years old who are currently accessing the organization’s services. The survey featured eight questions that asked participants about service needs that have been met through CCVT counselling. A total of 25 youth participated in this review.
In addition, 5 referral agencies completed online surveys about their experiences of referring clients to CCVT.
“My counsellor gave me a reason to appreciate life and want to follow my dreams and understand that I am special and worth it.”
Survey participants identified supportive counselling, assistance with immigration issues, referral to a doctor or lawyer, and help finding employment as the most important services for youth seeking asylum. 100% of respondents responded that CCVT provides supportive counselling to meet their needs and described the service as welcoming, helpful and trustworthy. 100% of respondents said they would recommend the service to a friend or family member.
Few barriers to accessing services at CCVT were identified, some respondents identified weekend crisis counselling as a needed service.
“We’ve referred some cases with incredibly complex needs, or those who are quite reticent to participate in counselling based on previous experiences or pre-conceived notions. Everyone comes back with positive feedback.”
Partner agencies who refer child and youth clients to supportive counselling services at CCVT reported building awareness and respect for the quality of service at CCVT due to extremely positive feedback from their youth clients. They indicated feeling the needs of supportive counselling are well met through both direct provision and through the Children/Youth program. They made some suggestions about expanding the youth age group to include clients up to 29 years old and relaxing CCVT’s mandate to reach a broader client-base. They also suggested hiring additional staff to increase service level or to expand services available to youth and increasing marketing and advertising about youth services available at CCVT.
Survey data highlights the strength and quality of service provided through CCVT's Supportive Counselling Services. Participants surveyed reported it playing a central role in the lives of youth dealing with trauma. Youth reported increased confidence and the referring agencies reported witnessing a remarked improvement in the mental wellness of their referred clients.
Supportive Counselling Service needs and ideas for improvement related to expanding services and eligibility. More staff would be required to do so.
This report summarizes key findings to strengthen program delivery and identify areas of growth and expansion for CCVT’s supportive counselling services and After School Program for youth and children.
According to participants, key areas of strength for both programs include offering a safe environment for learning and growth, creating a sense of belonging and community and providing meaningful supportive counselling and referral services.
Participants indicated a desire for extended hours of service, expanded programing and broadened eligibility criteria. Increased staffing and additional financial contributions would be required to effectively implement these opportunities for growth.
Overall clients and community partners praised CCVT's After School Program and supportive counselling services. The supports offered by CCVT are seen as inclusive, welcoming and key to building a sense of community and belonging.
CCVT would like to thank the children, youth and parents who participated in the research process. We would also like to thank our community partners and colleagues who offered their support and contributions. The following organizations are recognized for their participation:
• The Crossroads Clinic
• Sherbourne Health Centre
• FCJ Refugee Centre
• Greenwood Secondary School
CCVT would also like to acknowledge the generous support provided by:
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