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Psychology researchers to train youth outreach workers

Psychology researchers to train youth outreach workers

Psychology researchers in York’s Faculty of Health, PhD student Gregory Knoll (MA ’07) and Debra Pepler, Distinguished Research Professor, along with Professor Wendy Josephson of the University of Winnipeg, will provide three days of training to youth outreach workers and supervisors this month as part of a growing program.

Stages of Change training will involve the participation of some 21 community agencies Jan. 24, 27 and 28 at York as part of the Toronto Youth Outreach Worker (YOW) program, which is based on a positive youth development perspective. The training will be held at York’s LaMarsh Centre for Research on Violence & Conflict Resolution.

Right: Gregory Knoll

Trainees will explore the connection between theory and current best practices supported by an integration of developmental and contextual theories – the stages of change and encounter. Outreach workers will explore how to apply these models of change in their work with marginalized youth, while the supervisors will incorporate stage-based theories into a model of supervision.

The goal is to incorporate theory and evaluation components into the YOW program design to increase the effectiveness of the intervention, while generating a standardized reporting protocol to guide outreach activities.

“Feedback from youth outreach workers and supervisors in past training sessions has highlighted the relevance and effectiveness of the training. Youth outreach represents a contemporary, proactive approach to working with marginalized youth, one which LaMarsh Centre and the YOW program are now pioneering,” says Knoll. “Youths are made aware of positive opportunities, alternatives and choices through the YOW program. This can only result in more positives for society.”

Left: Debra Pepler

The YOW program is one of several place-based interventions supported by the Ministry of Children & Youth Services in Ontario. It was created to prevent and intervene in anti-social or violent behaviour among youth and to promote the development of skills, engagement and civic participation, including that of community/peer leadership.

The Stages of Change training will be a replication of the pilot project that was conducted in East Toronto through east Metro Youth Services in 2010. Through the processes of knowledge translation between researchers and community practitioners, the Stages of Change training and accompanying reporting protocol emerged based on the particular needs of the YOW program.

The research evaluation component will examine the data collected by YOW participants for one year following the training. If it supports the effectiveness of integrating a theoretical framework into the YOW program design, the model could be introduced in other high-needs communities and over time could become a model approach to engaging marginalized youth.

Widespread adoption of an evidence-based approach to training outreach workers and engaging marginalized youth would ensure that young people receive the necessary supports and services, reducing their risk for later criminal and/or mental health difficulties.

For more information, contact Gregory Knoll at or 416-526-6522.

Republished courtesy of YFile– York University’s daily e-bulletin.