One way to measure successful collaboration is when a child or youth in care is adapting and thriving in school and in life.
Creating a successful core team takes time, effort and commitment. The relationships that we create are strongest when built upon trust, knowledge and shared goals. Everyone involved is impacted in a positive way through the creation of powerful relationships and collaborations. Such relationships are critical for helping young people in care.
The student’s strengths, needs, hopes and dreams help to determine who should participate in collaborative team meetings. Team members surrounding a young person in care can include a variety of people such as the caseworker, caregiver(s), families, school point person, school principal, counsellor, classroom teacher and others as appropriate. Some students may wish to include a person they feel close to as part of their team, such as a trusted teacher, support staff, coach, friend or community member. By helping children and youth in care in a positive and proactive way, the team is not only helping to prevent crises in their lives but also helping the students become independent, capable, confident individuals who experience success in school and in life.
The following strategies are based on research and successful practices and are intended to assist communities and teams as they plan together to help young people in care.
Before the meeting, ask if there are cultural protocols that need to be followed and allow time for this in the meeting process.
Consider having refreshments or a simple snack for the team to help make the atmosphere more relaxed and informal. The
student might like to help prepare the snack as a contribution to the meeting.
Consider the purpose of the meeting and invite only those who are necessary. Having too many adults can be overwhelming for students
or create an atmosphere of discomfort for them and/or their caregivers. Larger numbers of participants can contribute to the length of the meeting and reduces opportunities to speak.
Take time to introduce each member of the team. When meeting for the first time, have each member tell a bit about themselves and their relationship with the student. Ensure the young person knows who everyone is and their role in helping with their success.
Talk about the purpose of the meeting. Describe everyone’s roles and the process that will be followed, including who is chairing, who will keep notes and who will act as timekeeper.
Remind the team that the meeting is about the strengths, hopes and needs of the student in care, and about determining how the team will work together to help the young person achieve their goals.
Encourage the young person to talk about their hopes, dreams and goals for her education and school-related activities. Be sure to listen and ask questions for clarification without reacting negatively or challenging what they are saying. Focus on the positive.
Share contact information and various ways of reaching each team member to ensure ease of communication.
At the end of the first meeting, set future meeting dates when applicable. Delegate a team member to arrange the meeting logistics and send reminders to the rest of the team.
When possible, combine the collaborative team meetings with other meetings such as student/parent/teacher conferences or
Individual Program Plan (IPP) discussions. Caseworkers could arrange for concurrent plan discussions to occur immediately prior to, or after the school success meeting for the convenience of those involved. School staff would typically not be involved in these discussions.
Record decisions and agreed-upon actions of the team including who is responsible to follow up with each action. Provide copies to each team member after the meeting.
Allow time at the end of the meeting for questions or comments and to thank everyone for participating.
Make time at least once a year for the team to celebrate successes. In a relaxed setting, review the year’s accomplishments and discuss suggestions for the future. Take time to celebrate the successes of the students and the good work of the team.
Some acknowledgement of successes may be as simple as a note or a phone call, while other celebrations could involve a small gift or going out together for a special event.
Events such as completing high school deserve special recognition and the celebration of success should be a collaborative effort of the team.
Some regions host a lunch or dinner with guest speakers where they take the opportunity to honour each young person in care who has graduated with a special ceremony. Other regions give a gift of significance to the young person, including a cultural component where applicable, such as involvement of elders or a gift of an eagle feather or blanket. Youth in care should be supported by their caregivers and caseworkers to attend their high school graduation events as any other graduating student.