Working with Vulnerable Youth to Enhance their Natural Supports: A Practice Framework

Natural supports are relationships and associations informally and locally developed and include family, friends, neighbours, coaches, teammates, and others who comprise our social networks.

Research clearly shows the connection between positive natural supports and healthy youth development. Natural supports play a critical role in promoting youth resiliency, social integration, and positive development. They also contribute to a youth’s recovery and growth process, reduce psychological stress, and help vulnerable youth successfully transition to adulthood.

Professional supports, while important, aren’t sustainable. Programs end, professionals change jobs, and youth age out of services. An over-reliance on professional supports ultimately increases vulnerability. Through utilizing the practice framework in working with youth, we work towards empowering youth to rely on and contribute to a life-long network of supportive family, community and peer relationships.

This framework document is meant to be a practical tool for the many agencies working with vulnerable youth. We still have a lot to learn and the framework will evolve as we all work with it. We hope it will guide our collective work and offer a strong foundation for capacity building.

Publication Date: 
The Change Collective
Calgary, AB, Canada