Kairos Youth Outreach Program
The Kairos Youth Outreach Program (YOP) began in 2007 with two-year funding from the Department of Justice and offered individualized outreach services to youth suspected of, or diagnosed with, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) who were in open custody or on probation. The program, run by the non-profit Kairos Community Resource Centre, offered community-based wrap-around support services, which included education, employment training, transportation and intensive supervision, to the youth.
FASD results from prenatal alcohol exposure and can cause a wide array of developmental, cognitive and mental health conditions, which can lead FASD-affected youth to engage in inappropriate behaviour and get into trouble with the law. Recognizing, diagnosing and treating FASD can be difficult because the individuals affected by it show significant differences in the magnitude and types of difficulties they experience. The Kairos Youth Outreach Program, based on the principles of community safety, accountability and the reduction of recidivism through rehabilitative programs, was developed to help FASD-affected youth receive the care they need.
Of the 22 clients who were involved in the program, 20 were male and 2 were female. Their ages ranged from 15 to 18. The number of Aboriginal clients was difficult to identify clearly from the record; however, a closer examination of the records, including the descriptions of the youths’ home communities, suggested that the proportion of Aboriginal clients was approximately one-quarter to one-third of the total. The length of time the participants were enrolled in the program ranged from two months to 18 months, with an average time of seven months.
Kairos Community Centre provides services to young persons who: have been sentenced to open custody through the courts; have had community or conditional supervision suspended and were remanded to an open custody facility; and who have been remanded into custody on a detention warrant and assessed for placement in an open custody facility.
The centre operates an eight-bed male facility and referrals to the program are made through the local Youth Justice Office by the probation officer. Services are tailored to meet the unique needs and learning styles of each youth, and depend on the conditions of the sentence. Services range from basic living support and life skills, to a more formal and structured programming and counseling. While the services are offered days, evenings and weekends, crisis response is available after business hours and on weekends.
Generally, because clients tended to have high involvement with other agencies and service providers, particularly those related to drug and alcohol treatment, education, housing, financial support, employment, counseling and life skills development, extensive case notes were kept and high degree of worker involvement – in many cases daily – was required.
The evaluation was based on a review of client records, interviews with both service providers and clients, and client satisfaction assessments. A wide number of professionals connected with the YOP program were interviewed as well, including probation and correctional officers, educators and health care providers.
The consistently acknowledged program strengths included: the program clearly met a strong need in the community; the providers were well-suited and trained to deal with FASD-affected youth; the client support goals were appropriate and clear, and a clear diagnosis was sought; the program appropriately emphasized meeting the clients’ basic needs, including developing life skills; and the program had strong connections with other programs and service providers in the Kairos area.
A number of limitations were mentioned as well. These included concerns that the program was too closely tied to probation officers, a lack of clear procedures for FASD diagnosis, an insufficient number of staff, and a mandate that was too narrow for the needs of the program.
The evaluation recommended that the program should, in addition to relying on referrals from other agencies, generate its own referrals; be a part of a broader regional network of FASD service providers; and expand its mandate to serve a larger number of clients.
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