Building on a youth’s individual strengths to grow towards independence

Sheila works with her team and home share providers to provide support for youth at WJS through shared living services.

Many enter care with diverse abilities and complex backgrounds, making a holistic approach to service delivery an especially important practice.

One youth who entered their homeshare program had severe social anxiety. “COVID was a disaster for him,” Sheila says. He refused to leave his place or allow the homeshare provider to enter. On top of this, he was eating an unhealthy diet due to his fear of leaving the house to shop for groceries. There were a lot of obstacles to overcome. So, Sheila started by getting to know him: his past, his strengths, and his own goals.

“He didn’t do well in high school,” Sheila says. “He put more pressure on himself than he had the capacity for to succeed. He knows his own challenges, but he doesn’t want to be seen as stupid or needing support. He came from trauma, so the team worked to build trust with him.”

With this knowledge, Sheila took a compassionate approach. He was young, and she explained that everyone his age is learning how to be an adult. She reframed the term homeshare as semi-independent living. This helped him to see that he did need support, but it was so he could achieve his goal of living independently in the next five years. They set diet and sleep goals with him as a starting point for him to grow from.

The team reframed things as “let’s work on your strengths here, you’re super smart. So let’s focus on that.”

Sheila says “he likes doing research, so I encouraged him to use some of those skills to look up other things about correcting sleep habits and to consider [food alternatives].”

The next step in this was to encourage him to work with his home share provider to schedule a time to go grocery shopping. The team told him he could decide to not go, but needed to make a list with some healthy foods on it for the home share provider to pick up . It took a few tries, but eventually he began joining the home share provider for these shopping trips. It started with going for a walk around the block, then a bit further, and then within a few weeks, he had gone to the grocery store with the home share provider. Now, he lets the home share provider into his space, and regularly goes for walks. He’s introduced healthier food options into his diet, is sleeping better, and seeing people while managing his social anxiety.

“That’s huge,” says Sheila of his progress. She and Marissa used a both trauma-informed and holistic approach by listening, reframing and identifying his individual strengths, which created a safe environment for growth. Hearing and listening to him allowed the team to  continuously improve the support needed. This all supported the achievement of his personal goals.

“It’s just reframing and stepping inside their head to hear how they’re hearing things. And then communicating that back in a way that they understand, or the way they want to view it.”