Presentation to Vancouver City Council on Collective Impact

On April 15, 2015 Family Services’ CEO Caroline Bonesky made a presentation to Vancouver City Council about Collective Impact and changing the outcomes of youth in care. Here is a transcript of her presentation.

Good afternoon, Councillors. Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you in support of the application under the innovation fund for a grant for the initiative for changing outcomes for youth in care. My name is Caroline Bonesky, I am the CEO of Family Services of Greater Vancouver and I stand up here as a champion for this collective, for this initiative is a community process, as part of my agency, but in certainly in no way the only agency involved in this initiative.

You would have seen this initiative referenced in the Mayor’s Task Force on Mental Health and Addictions in the City of Vancouver. This initiative will not only improve the outcomes of Aboriginal youth in care as well as non-Aboriginal youth but it will also engage the youth in creating the solutions that will have the greatest impact on for them.

At present, in the City of Vancouver, there are over 400 Aboriginal youth in care and they represent about 70 percent of the children in care in Vancouver. So what is the impact of the poor outcomes that we’re speaking about? The Conference Board of Canada released a report in April 2014 that speaks to the economic case of investing in the future of Canadian children in care.

The report highlights that youth in care earn about $326,000 less in their lifetime than children who have not been in care. This is mainly due to their low attainment rate of educational goals. But Canada will also pay more in social assistance and collect less tax, estimated at approximately $125,000 dollars per child in care and so any of the financial benefits from investing in  an initiative that will change the impact of youth in care will be outweighed in no small way by the difference it will have for them.

So why are we advocating for a collective impact approach?

There’s a long history in this city of people and organizations who are deeply committed to making lives different for that very vulnerable population of youth who have had government as a parent. While on an individual basis we can speak to individual success stories and to individuals who are resilient, the system that we do this in is not changing. The overall outcomes are not changing.

We need to target our energies and our wisdom, our talent and our resources in a structured and focused way that will move the needle on very specific initiatives. At this point in time, over 50 individuals and organizations have already committed their time and talent to launch this initiative so we see that community is engaged, community understands.

As a social worker, in my heart and by my trade, I have dedicated my career to community based social services and I can’t say this is a record that we’re proud of and that we need to find a different way to change what the outcomes can be.

The City of Vancouver dollars are also being leveraged and matched by both contributions from the Vancouver Foundation as well as the Government of British Columbia. The question is why do we believe we can make a difference? I think it is not that we believe that it is a requirement that we do things differently but there’s also evidence from other jurisdictions that this approach works.

At Broward County in Florida, a collective impact approach was used with this specific population and when they began there was 46 per cent of youth in this group had no high school diploma, 25 percent of them were homeless 49 percent of them were young parents and one in four were not self sufficient. That initiative continues to this day but at this point they have created 186 housing units of which experience a 95 percent occupancy rate, very high for a population that is often very transient. The rate of young parents has been reduced over 25 percent.

The homelessness rate has been reduced to about 4 percent. So there is clear evidence and other examples in other jurisdictions where this approach of people coming together saying they are going to work collectively on specifically measured outcomes, targeting existing resources. It’s not an initiative where we are looking for ways to justify more, we looking for ways to say how can we take the bucket of resources we already have and use them in a more strategic and impactful way.

We are working currently in a fragmented and disjointed system that does not create attachment or resiliency or economic inclusion for this specific vulnerable population.

So this is an opportunity for the City of Vancouver to support a fundamental change to use our existing resources in a more effective and impactful way.

I thank the City of Vancouver for taking the opportunity to consider this grant and to support it moving forward. Thank you.