About the 4Y Program
Why is this program important?
This program supports children and youth with a disability caused by prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE). When an individual who has been exposed to alcohol while they are still in the womb gets a diagnosis for this disability, it is referred to as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).
PAE and FASD are associated with a number of cognitive, learning, social, and emotional challenges. This can contribute to involvement in risky behaviour, including substance abuse and crime. It can also contribute to poor mental health, depression, anxiety, and social isolation.
It is extremely important for youth with FASD to have regular access to life skills support. The 4Y Program is designed to meet the specific needs of this group. Navigators directly address the challenges that participants may be experiencing, and make sure to capitalize on their strengths along the way. The program also prioritizes proper diet and exercise, because addressing the overall health of the youth in the program supports their success.
4Y Program Background
The 4Y Program began in June 2019 due to the apparent need for direct support for young people with PAE and FASD as they transition into adulthood.
In Yellowknife, the 4Y Program complements other community programs and services available to support the youth participants, therefore contributing to a higher quality of care in the city. It also supports caregivers and others in the youth’s social network, which improves the capacity for care.
The program encourages:
-improved physical and mental health
-improved self-confidence and self-determination
-more community involvement in the transition planning of the youth in the community
-the prevention and reduction of additional challenges such as mental health issues, addictions, police involvement, and self-harm
According to a 2014 report by the McCreary Centre Society, less than 1% of youth in mainstream schools reported having FASD, yet 21% of youth in custody indicated having the condition. Also, 17% of youth aged 12 - 19 with FASD had been detained in a custody centre, compared to only 1% of youth this age without FASD.
In Yellowknife, there are many social programs that individuals with FASD can join, however accessing these resources can be difficult without someone to help with navigation in the community.
From 2010 - 2016, 61 children aged 7 - 16 went through the FASD diagnostic clinic in the territory, and 39 were diagnosed with FASD. Unfortunately, there are few reliable statistics in regards to the number of people actually living with FASD in the Northwest Territories as a whole, because many people with FASD go without receiving a formal diagnosis, for various reasons.
Youth in Care
There is a higher prevalence of FASD in children and youth who are in care. Many youth in care have been placed in multiple foster and/or group homes throughout their childhood, so they have been set up, by definition, to experience attachment disorders. Attachment disorders lead to an inability to: trust others, to engage in positive social interactions, and to experience healthy psychological development. For individuals with FASD, developing healthy attachments is already more difficult due to their disability.
Youth with FASD are more likely than those without this disability to experience housing instability. They are almost twice as likely than their peers to have moved in the past year, and over four times more likely to have run away in the last year. A 2018 report from the City of Yellowknife indicated that 338 people were experiencing homelessness, 42% of which were 24 years of age and under.
What do participants do in 4Y?
In the 4Y Program, participants:
1) are physically active and learn about healthy living choices
2) do activities or work on a skill of their choice such as: photography, computer maintenance, gardening, hair styling, etc.
3) work on essential life skills, like managing time and money, planning healthy meals, understanding consent, understanding safety and danger, applying for job positions, etc.
4) work with their facilitator to address any major challenges in their life, connect with other organizations, and develop a stronger sense of community in Yellowknife
'A week in the 4Y Program'
For this example, the participant will be named Sam, and their 4Y program leader will be named Alex.
4:00 - Sam meets with Alex at the library to do some financial literacy activities.
5:00 - Alex accompanies Sam to an appointment at the bank with a personal banker to talk about saving money
12:00 - With Sam's consent, Alex meets with Sam’s aunt for coffee. She tells Alex that Sam has been staying out late 4-5 times a week and binge drinking alcohol, and she is worried.
4:00 - Sam and Alex meet at the gym and spend one hour running, lifting weights, and stretching.
4:00 - Sam and Alex meet at the park for a picnic, and chat about drugs and alcohol. They also listen to some music, and plan for next week, when they are going to the animal shelter to visit the animals.
7:00 - Sam joins Alex and other 4Y Program participants at a community event.