Working with Vulnerable Youth to Enhance their Natural Supports


Working with Youth to Enhance their Natural Supports: Practice Framework

Burns Memorial Fund and United Way of Calgary and Area are pleased to release “Working with Vulnerable Youth to Enhance their Natural Supports: A Practice Framework”. Natural supports are relationships and associations that are ‘natural’ in the sense that they are informally and locally developed; and are based on reciprocity or give and take. Natural supports include family, friends, neighbours, coaches, team-mates, and others who comprise our social network.

A growing body of research clearly demonstrates 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 can also contribute to a youth’s recovery and growth process, reduce psychological distress, 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.

It is our hope that the Practice Framework will be a substantial, practical tool for the many agencies working with vulnerable youth.  We acknowledge that we still have much to learn and the Practice Framework may change as we all work with it.  We are optimistic that it will guide our collective work and offer a strong foundation for capacity-building.

This Practice Framework is the culmination of two years of work with 13 dedicated community partners, known as the Change Collective. The members of the Change Collective worked tirelessly over the past two years to develop this. Their knowledge and skill working with vulnerable youth, candidness in sharing their experiences, and openness to significant practice change were crucial in the development of this Practice Framework. Our partners and co-authors are:

  • The Alex
  • Aspen
  • Big Brothers Big Sisters of Calgary and Area
  • Boys and Girls Clubs of Calgary
  • Calgary and Area Child and Family Services
  • Calgary Fetal Alcohol Network
  • Calgary John Howard Society
  • Calgary Sexual Health Centre
  • Carya
  • Catholic Family Service
  • Hull Services
  • Parent Support Association
  • Wood’s Homes

We would also like to acknowledge the significant contributions of our writer/facilitator, Elizabeth Dozois of Word on the Street Ltd. and our developmental evaluator, Melissa Innes of MPI Associates.

The full version of the Practice Framework along with the Executive Summary can be found by clicking on the images below.  Please feel free to download, copy, use and distribute.

Practice Framework Full Version


Executive Summary