YOUTH CONCERNS - Kris Fleckenstein, Youth HQ board chair, speaks to media following the release of a needs assessment report. Mark Weber/Red Deer Express

Red Deer youth voice their concerns

Youth HQ releases needs assessment report

A needs assessment report released by Red Deer-based Youth HQ shows some local youth interviewed said they are worried about a lack of parental support or limited involvement, financial problems, mental health concerns and transportation issues.

Questions asked included, ‘What are the issues and challenges that you believe children and youth face across our community, and what programs, resources and services and supports are you aware of that meet the needs of children and youth across our community?’

A final question asked for suggestions on how, as a community, can the needs of children and youth be better addressed.

Adult focus groups later validated the results generated from the interviews, said Kris Fleckenstein, Youth HQ board chair.

Some of the recommendations included that agencies should collaborate to ensure efficient mobilization of volunteers, better networking, adequate information and referral services and better streamlining of advocacy for youth and children services.

“There should also be a central source of information for children and youth that is easy to access, and suggestions included a web site, an app or booklets,” he said. “This would include information on events, programs and services available in the community with links to each organization’s web site.”

Other recommendations included beefing up transportation options – for example offering free bus passes to the younger set – to allow youth to better access programs. “There should also be easier access to funding sources as parents and caregivers are often overwhelmed by the paperwork involved in applying for subsidies,” he said.

More services for zeroing in on addiction and counselling need to have a higher profile as well, as do the overall range of issues faced by children and youth.

“Children and youth should have the opportunity for lifeskills training – including but not limited to cooking skills, resiliency training, coping skills, problem-solving, money management, and employability training.

“Youth-serving agencies should also use their expertise to educate the public on youth issues in general, the services available, and how to access them.

“There should be a one-stop shop available to children and youth so they have easy access to programs and services, including information and referrals,” he said.

As to mental health services, children, youth and families often have trouble accessing mental health services or they aren’t aware of how to access these services, officials added.

A youth centre offering free programs in the City would also be a tremendous asset, as would the availability of more arts and music opportunities as well.

According to the City’s last census, there are about 26,000 children and youth between the ages of zero and 24 years of age living in Red Deer.

Input was gathered through interviews and focus groups.

“This needs assessment, which will be available to the public, is another tool in our community’s tool kit to address the challenges and issues of youth,” he said.

Youth HQ along with affiliates Boys and Girls Club of Red Deer and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Red Deer and District, offers programs and services that support children, youth and families.

The full report will be made available at www.youthhq.ca.

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