The collaborative Communities That Care (CTC) initiative has a new facilitator for 2019.
CTC is a group of people and organizations in the Williams Lake Community that came together back in 2009 to improve the health and wellbeing of lakecity youth. This was in the wake of increased gang activity and violence amongst youth at the time and over the last 10 years, with a mix of targeted programs and surveys the CTC has seen success in improving the quality of life, overall, for many lakecity youth.
Starting in January of 2019, Barb Jones said there has been a lot of information to learn and process in the last two months. Jones previously worked at the Pregnancy Outreach Centre for the last five years and has been a board member of CTC since 2014, one of roughly 50 members, taking part in several collaborative efforts over the years. Working as the main facilitator and coordinator for these efforts now, however, is an entirely different thing she said.
Born and raised in Williams Lake, Jones is a mother of three grown children expecting to be a “grandmother any day now” who is working on a Masters in Conflict Management at Royal Roads University. As such, she feels that she has a very vested interest in the longterm health of the lakecity community for herself, her children and her future grandchildren.
“I’ve always worked in community agencies in this town like the Boys and Girls Club of Williams Lake & District, the Cariboo Chilcotin Child Development Centre, the Cariboo Friendship Society. I guess when I got involved with CTC, I can see the power and benefits of collaborative community action at work and how much can be accomplished when people come together,” Jones said. “I really enjoy those processes.”
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Jones had always enjoyed in the past learning what other agencies were doing in the community and how they could collaborate together. Since coming to work for the CTC this idea of a collaborative impact has become very important to her and something she firmly believes should be promoted throughout the community.
“So we do a survey of the youth every few years to gather information about things that affect their health and wellbeing and then we use this information to try and understand their strength, some challenges and what some needs are for the youth. Then we (the CTC) work together as a group to decide on actions to take,” Jones said.
To date, the CTC has conducted two surveys, one in 2009 and one in 2015 of 1,217 SD 27 students which Jones said gave them a “really rich picture” of youth in our community. This local data is integral to the work Jones and other before her has done as it allows them to more accurately target their efforts, rather than rely on data from the United States or other parts of Canada.
While Jones admits she can’t be 100 per cent certain past actions taken by the CTC have had a large impact on the changes they’ve noticed, she does believe they’ve played a factor in an overall improvement seen from 2009 to 2015.
The surveys look at both protection factors, things that improve or enhance youth’s health and well being, and risk factors, those that decrease or harm their quality of life.
“We try to describe risk factors and protective factors as everyone can have some risk factors but the more protective factors that you have it (evens) out the (impact) of these risk factors,” Jones said.
Currently, 67 per cent of youth have high protection factors with 63 per cent strongly attached to their families.
A surprising figure to Jones is that two out of every 10 lakecity youth say that they do not have an adult in their lives they can trust or talk to. This number, if accurate beyond the survey population, means a full 20 per cent of lakecity youth are without positive adult support of any kind.
“38 per cent of youth experience depressive symptoms, so that’s also very high and definitely an area we focus in on and 55 per cent of the youth in our community are considered high risk,” Jones said.
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The numbers, however, have changed largely for the better between the two surveys. They’ve noticed a nine per cent increase in school commitment coupled with a six per cent decrease in academic failure rates and most notably binge drinking amongst Grade 8 students dropped from 20 per cent to four per cent. Violence is down overall by nine per cent while there is a 50 per cent decrease in gang involvement as well.
A link to the full survey results can be found online, with breakdowns by communities such as 100 Mile House.
“The thing about collective impact is that it’s a process and processes take time. You decide what action you take, everyone works together and they follow through and then you identify a new action and follow through. It’s that repetitive and continuous effort I think that makes changes in the community over the long haul,” Jones said.
As with many things, 2017’s wildfires disrupted many of the initiatives and goals the CTC had at the time and now that Jones is guiding their efforts, she said she and the board need to meet to reevaluate their priorities and areas of focus moving forward. As the next survey is scheduled for 2020, Jones said selecting new priorities is especially important.
“We’re sort of the backbone of this initiative so there has to be somebody kind of driving this initiative forward. Everyone gets busy, you have projects that sort of sit on the side and you have great intentions but sometimes you need that person to kind of step in and help launch things,” Jones stated. “I just want to be part of something that’s positive in the community and I like bringing people together.”