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Wilfrid Laurier University Leaf
September 26, 2016
Canadian Excellence

Improving community adaptation outcomes for youth graduating from residential mental health programs

A synthesis review

Editors note: There is a lot of fascinating research taking place at universities all across Canada. Far too often the results and implications of that research don't get disseminated beyond academic journals and conferences. The Faculty of Social Work wants to change that and will periodically bring you articles on interesting research that is being done in our faculty. This research was conducted by the Partnerships for Children and Families Project in the Faculty of Social Work at Wilfrid Laurier (led by Dr. Gary Cameron) and was funded by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services.

Children’s residential mental health programs represent a major investment of resources in helping children and youth with serious emotional and behavioural difficulties (EBD), accounting for 25% of the expenditures made by children’s mental health agencies in Ontario (Office of the Auditor General, 2008). Successful adaptation to community living following treatment is difficult for youth with EBD, particularly for transition-aged youth. Leaving high school, choosing further education or training options, obtaining and maintaining employment, changing social networks, exploring intimate relationships perhaps leading to family commitments, and living independently are some of the critical transition demands facing these youth. In addition, youth who live in out-of-home placements lack many of the family supports that often provide stability during these times of change.

The focus of this synthesis review was to understand the capacity of systems of care and integrated program models to foster successful community adaptation for children and youth with EBD. Based on a review of "what works", several promising program elements are put forth as a proposed program configuration designed to encourage lasting improvements in community life outcomes for youth leaving residential mental health programs. Highlights of the synthesis review and an overview of the proposed program configuration are found in the executive summary. Links to the expanded discussion can also be accessed in the summary.

Funding for this research was provided by the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services’ Strategic Research Fund (2009-2010). This research was carried out by the Partnerships for Children and Families Project in the Faculty of Social Work at Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario.