Vulnerable young people
The United Nations (WHO 2004) distinguish between ‘vulnerable’ and ‘mainstream’ young people. Young people considered ‘vulnerable’ experience particular stresses and need support in a number of areas of their lives. (Gruskin et al., 2001)
We understand that young people we work with rarely identify themselves as vulnerable even if they are among the most marginalised, under-serviced, and at-risk young people in our community. They deal with a complex set of concerns related to disconnection from family and community, abuse and neglect, significant grief and loss, homelessness, mental illness, criminal behaviour and exclusion or absence from school. This frequently translates into few prospects for employment and social participation and can manifest in deep psychological distress.
Even so, we are constantly amazed by the resilience these young people demonstrate in finding ways to cope with adverse life circumstances, often without the support structures in place that others in the community take for granted. YSAS understands the substance use of vulnerable young people, that despite the unwanted complications and potential for serious harm, it is an attempt to ‘fix discouraging life situations’ (Van Brocken 1998)
Our purpose is to enable vulnerable young people to increase control over, and to improve, their health and well-being.
YSAS follows the lead of the World Health Organisation (WHO 1986) in viewing health as a resource for life, not the goal of living. Health is not merely the absence of illness but rather a sense of physical, mental and social well-being that is predicated on individuals and groups developing the capacity to identify and realise aspirations, to satisfy needs, and to change or cope effectively within the environments that they live and participate. (WHO 1986)
So, for vulnerable young people (and those involved in their care) health is contingent upon possessing sufficient personal and social resources, together with the opportunity and motivation to employ them successfully.
Through direct service provision, YSAS practitioners make connections with vulnerable young people and work alongside them in a range of contexts, creating opportunities for them to attain the best possible health outcomes and develop resilience; “…the human capacity to face, overcome and even be strengthened by life’s adversities” (Grotberg 1996) This occurs “….through the transfer of power, knowledge, skills and necessary resources” (Australian Department of Health and Aged Care 2000)
YSAS recognises that multiple influences determine the extent to which vulnerable young people have the opportunity to lead healthy, fulfilling lives (see diagram opposite). These influences operate at a number of levels and many are unable to be impacted on by direct service provision. Therefore, YSAS compliments and strengthens its service provision by engaging in activities that effect change to a range of broader influences on young people’s health and well-being such as:
policy advocacy with Governments and the wider community
research to develop innovative, evidence based practice approaches
professional and workforce development within the health and community service sectors
The key features of YSAS practice are :
Client-centred & holistic
Accessible and continuous
Multidimensional and collaborative
Responsive and proactive
Ecological and systemic
Strengths-based and solutions focused
Experiential and participatory
Contingent on supporting and developing the contribution of practitioners