Why do we need this project?

Research says that interaction with the BC family justice system often harms the well-being of families and children. The divorce process can exacerbate parental conflict causing trauma in young children - a significant Adverse Childhood Experience.

Resilience requires protective factors (including opportunities for voice, personal competence, and peer support), a community of concern and strong social policy creating opportunities for young people.

The FJIL's research shows that being left out of discussions that significantly impact their lives can harm children; engaging with them about concerns can be healthy and empowering.

We need to shine a light on this important issue and advocate for system and behavioural changes that will better support youth well-being.

What is Community Engaged Arts?

Community engaged arts is a way of creating art collaboratively that includes any and all individuals who choose to participate. It does not require formal or personal experience in the arts, and celebrates involvement to any extent. We believe this type of work fosters a sense of belonging that is critical to our fulfilment as humans.

Art-making can make many shut down due to past experiences of being judged for their creative outputs (either in school, by family, by peers) and community engaged arts is designed to free people from their own self-criticism. It is designed to showcase how transformative creative acts can be, whether small or large.

Why an installation?

Installation art has the added benefit of opening people up to art that exists beyond the conventional 2D and 3D mediums we are familiar with (i.e. drawing, painting, ceramics, sculpture). An installation can be made of any material and occupy any type of space. An installation can be walked around, it can be engaging, and it can change our views on art, as well as the content it explores. We chose an engagement installation in Downtown Vancouver so that the public has an opportunity to participate in the installation in a low-pressure and high traffic environment (as opposed to an art gallery that has numerous barriers).

What is the Big question for the Youth Voices Initiative?

How can we improve/support:

  • Children's capacity to express their voice; and
  • Attentive listening, leading to meaningful action by adults (parents, and people in the justice system)?

What is well-being and resilience?

A key to the FJIL's ongoing work is to create accurate and practical measures for well-being and resilience of families and youth. Youth Voices is exploring the work of Dr. Michael Ungar, Canada Research Chair in Child, Family and Community Resilience. His recent book, “Change Your world, the Science of Resilience and the True Path to Success”, has helped us to understand resilience in the context of system change. In particular, Dr. Ungar says:

“..resilience depends more on what we receive than what we have…young people do much better when they receive a weave of services delivered with consistency in culturally relevant ways at a time and place valued by them. These resources, more than individual talent or positive attitude, accounted for the difference between youths who did well and those who slid into drug addiction, truancy, and high-risk sexual activity.”

Using systemic human-centred design approaches and ongoing co-creation led by and for youth, Youth Voices has begun to identify resources and opportunities that are valued by youth experiencing parental separation so that they can navigate to those resources and negotiate for the resources to be provided in ways that are meaningful to them. Key to our work so far is the role of “voice” and “participation”.

How can I get involved in the Youth Voices Initiative?

Youth Voices has become an initiative “by and for youth”, supported by the FJIL team and other volunteers wishing to support young people in their journey.

If you would like to be involved you can:

  • Submit an application to post your story on the digital platform
  • Submit an application to post other relevant creative works (such as videos, poems, songs, artwork etc.) on the digital platform
  • Volunteer to work with the Youth Voices Leadership Team
  • Contact the FJIL's Coordinator

What is the plan for the next two years?

Led by the Youth Leadership Group, over the next two years (2023-2025) the YV initiative will continue to use innovative ways, including human-centred design, to identify, implement and scale methods of encouraging the voice of children and youth. It will be a collaborative venture, working closely with youth, families, other justice institutions and organizations, and people from other disciplines that walk alongside families experiencing separation or divorce (social services agencies, social work, counselling/therapy, healthcare, education etc.).

How is the Youth Voices Initiative funded?

The resources required to develop the Youth Voices Initiative to date provided by funding from the Vancouver Foundation, received in 2015, and Innoweave (J.W. McConnell Family Foundation). Efforts continue and more funding is being sought to carry on this important work.

Who is involved in the Youth Voices Initiative?

The Youth Leadership Group: currently nine young people who have experienced their parents' separation or divorce.

FJIL Core Group: A multi-disciplinary group of family lawyers, mediators, social workers, psychologists, and designers.