SECTION 4 - Concluding Discussion & Recommendations (cont'd)
- 4.4 Support Services
- 4.5 New Understanding
- 4.6 Counselling Support
- 4.7 Social Services
- 4.8 Harm Reduction
Many of those interviewed spoke of the heartache they caused their family and caregivers. Over the years, families and caregivers have shared with me the demands this lifestyle places on parents, families and their children. Many years ago in Calgary, I assisted a group of parents challenged by their children’s entrance into the trade by meeting with them weekly. This group still meets and provides one another with support.
"We were all in the same boat and we were able to share our experiences. Many times we laughed and many times we cried. We were there to help new parents entering this heartache." (Helen Shaver, Parent Support Group, September 2001)
In working with parents and caregivers, they spoke of the exhaustion they experienced supporting and staying connected with their youth during these challenging times. It became clear that a greater social support network could be of value. Services for family and youth support systems restoration are imperative.
That parent/caregiver support groups be established to support parents/caregivers whose children have just entered the trade. These groups would be facilitated by parents/caregivers whose children have been or are still involved in the trade.
During my research, many interviewed spoke of individuals, such as family and friends who assisted them during the transition. The development of a support team for a young person transitioning off the street could ease the strain on any one individual. It would bring together a collection of individuals with different skills and relationships with this population
That a Support Team be established to assist youth when exiting the trade. The team would support the family and provide the person reintegrating with a choice of individuals for support. The Support Team would also provide a sense of camaraderie and synergy for its own members.
Young persons interviewed spoke about the frustration they experienced in transitioning off the street. Where would they live, work, eat, earn money, attend school and gain services for their personal health and mental health? Many became frustrated chasing down these services and gave up. The transition could be eased and be more successful with Social Service agencies providing a complete package to youth leaving behind a dangerous, yet self-sufficient lifestyle.
That all-inclusive one-stop service packages be designed for those leaving the trade. To assist in the exiting process, there must be the provision of attainable and viable options. Providing pre-determined packaged options with flexibility in a timely fashion is imperative. These packages would include information on: housing, clothing, health, employment, education, financial assistance and planning, life skills, recreation, and counselling.It is important that these services be designed in a flexible fashion, to accommodate the number of times it takes for an individual to successfully leave the street.
That reality based re-integration materials be developed for those individuals who are attempting to re-integrate into society. Again, this material would be developed in consultation with those who have exited the trade and reintegrated back into society.
Youth spoke of the challenges they experienced once they left the street. They were challenged by the transition and felt alone and often bored. They realized by speaking with their friends on the street that they were at risk of returning to the lifestyle. A need exists for this transitioning group to be able to access a phone support system of those who have completed the transition. This population could benefit from someone who has exited successfully and completed the process of personal adjustment and challenge.
That a volunteer-run service support line be established for those leaving the street. Experiential individuals who have completed their re-integration off the street would staff the support line, as they would be able to provide first-hand information on the challenges of re-integration.
The research shows that young people can leave this business numerous times. Non-profit and government organizations need to understand that a youth does not exit the street once. Often I could sense frustration from professionals when a young person returned to the street. Non-profit and government organizations need to be more flexible and understanding of the transition from the street.
That there be an understanding that the challenge begins once a person leaves the street. Services and support programs need to be designed to support a leaving process involves numerous attempts to exit. Designed to support a successful transition, these services should assist young people and their families/caregivers during this critical phase.
Those interviewed in the research study spoke of a need for counselling support. The experience of the street does not leave anyone quickly. For many, the history of abuse prior to and on the street has remained hidden. The abuse they experienced on the street begins to surface in other parts of their lives well after they have transitioned. We need to acknowledge the long-term effects and provide such services to the population we failed to protect.
That ongoing counselling support be available to this population to assist them in dealing with the street abuse and prior abuse in their lives.
The research respondents could see the process of how they slid into the trade. They spoke about how they would remake decisions if they knew the consequences of their actions. They spoke about how no one but themselves saw it happening nor prevented it from occurring.
The respondents spoke of confusion in reference to social service outreach programs. Sometimes these programs supported them in a neutral fashion and other times approached them from a criminal justice or child protection framework. Many interviewed spoke of their concern with using these services for fear of what the results would be.
That various street outreach programs across the country be seen as safe exempt neutral programs to support youth. That outreach programs not be acting in a law enforcement manner, which deters youth from accessing these services.
The methods used in harm reduction approaches to drug abuse have been adopted for youth involved in the sexual exploitation trade. An individual interviewed argued against expansion of this service approach. She said we provided her condoms for protection, information on dangerous customers, temporary respite from the abuse out the door and provided her with crisis medical services after violent dates had severely damaged her. She wondered why no one offered her the opportunity to immediately move to a safe and neutral housing location.
That an evaluation occurs of harm reduction approaches to sexually exploited youth.
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