Walking Alongside Youth: nIntroduction

A warm welcome

We are so glad you have found your way to Walking Alongside Youth (WAY). This online course was created specifically to meet the unique needs and lived experiences of foster caregivers (caregivers) and out-of-care care providers (care providers) throughout British Columbia who are caring for youth with anxiety.u00a0

WAY was developed with careful consideration of the needs of Indigenous youth and families, who come from a rich diversity of traditional knowledges and practices that can guide culturally informed and safe responses to anxiety. This is a trauma- and evidence-informed course, intended to empower you with insight and practical, culturally safe ways of responding to youth with anxiety.u00a0

WAY is intended to create a sense of walking together in relationship, side by side, in a supportive and respectful way. The focus is on strengthening relationships between youu2014as a caregiver or care provideru2014and the youth in your care, through bringing together and drawing from best practices on well-being from Indigenous and Western knowledge systems. WAY recognizes and focuses on relationship as a universal, cross-cultural necessity for all peoples and across all generations. Walking alongside one another in relationship provides the most natural opportunity for healing and growth to unfold.u00a0

As you engage with this course, we walk alongside you, supporting and encouraging you along the way. We hope you find the courage and strength you need to continue this important journey to walk alongside the youth in your care.

About this course

WAY was developed to:

How this course is structured

WAY was developed to:

Gathering the Circle - Influences

Some of the key practice implications of Gathering the Circle that also reflect the foundations and values include:

Blending Indigenous & Western Knowledges

Walking Alongside Youth is the direct result of deliberate action taking towards reconciliation through prioritizing Indigenous ways of knowing and being as good medicine for all Foster Caregivers and Out-of-Care Care Providers and youth experiencing anxiety, Indigenous and Non-Indigenous peoples.

Walking Alongside Youth recognizes the diversity of distinct indigenous peoples and placed-based knowledges throughout the province, and is taking deliberate action towards reconciliation by:

Walking Together to Blend Indigenous Wisdom with Western Knowledge

Walking Alongside Youth recognizes the existence, since time immemorial, of the rich diversity of Indigenous peoplesu2019 knowledges and values throughout British Columbia. Knowledges that make a significant contribution to our understanding of well-being, and culturally distinct, safe, relational responses to mental health problems such as anxiety. This resource respectfully blends Indigenous wisdom with trauma and evidence informed approaches to support the well-being of all Foster Caregivers and Out-of-Care Care Providers and youth, both Indigenous and Non-Indigenous. It is intended to be what the elders refer to as good medicine for all.

Walking Alongside Youth draws on emerging research and established knowledges in the areas of attachment theory, developmental psychology, affective neuroscience, transformative learning theory, and contemplative education.

Relationship, Connection and Togetherness

Relationships, connection, and togetherness are essential for survival and growth. In fact, certain relational conditions are responsible for all development and healing. Youth who have experienced separation from their biological parents and primary caregivers, have often experienced feeling unsafe in their relationships, and or have faced unbearable amounts of separation either physically, emotionally, or psychologically. These chronic experiences of feeling unsafe in one form or another are often the underlying source of anxiety for many youths in care.u00a0

Walking Alongside Youth provides culturally-safe-relational practices for addressing the root cause of anxiety by focussing on relationship, connection, and togetherness. The theory of attachment originated with John Bowlby, however,u00a0Walking Alongside Youthu00a0recognizes that Indigenous peoples come from world views and ways of knowing and being that areu2014and have always beenu2014relational.u00a0

While science tells us that relationship is the most important factor in development and healing, Indigenous wisdom provides ethical-relational ways of walking alongside each other, and within the natural and spiritual worlds to develop a strong mind and heart.

Connectedness may be described as a form of attachment that implies a broader grounding in a person's total environment than does attachment to one or two central figures. For these reasons connectedness may be a more appropriate term and framework for assessment than attachment in working with Indigenous children and families (Carriere, Richardson, 2009, p. 20).

Development and Emotions

Developmental psychology is the scientific study of how and under what conditions humans grow, change, and adapt throughout life. Affective Neuroscience is the scientific study of primary emotions and their role in the adaptive process. Both fields of study tell us that when certain relational conditions are present, growth and healing unfold naturally and sometimes unexpectedly. 


Similarly, to the way a tree grows, when its roots are nourished by the environment the tree eventually produces fruit. When young people are provided relational nourishment, they inevitably grow, develop, and adapt, regardless of their circumstances.

When young people experience safe relationships, connection and togetherness, the nervous system relaxes, alleviating symptoms of anxiety. This is especially true for youth in care. There exists a diversity of Indigenous cultural practices that open up a world of possibility for both Indigenous and non-indigenous people that are relational, ethical, respectful, and dignified. Indigenous cultural teachings provide practical ways of addressing anxiety that reach deep within the nervous system to the root of anxiety; whether that is drumming, singing, time in nature, coming together in ceremony, sharing a good meal or a listening to story that touches the heart and mind.u00a0

Transformative Learning Theory and Contemplative Education

Transformative learning theory is concerned with learning that results in deep shifts within the learner. Deep learning shifts are often disorienting at first and cause the learner to self-reflect and even re-evaluate what they think they know and how they have come to know it. Transformative learning can result in a complete re-evaluation of oneu2019s belief system.

Contemplative Education integrates learning from lived experience with self-reflection as a process for increasing self-understanding that builds our capacity for relationship. Contemplative education combined with transformative learning theory offers a learning experience that results in new ways of seeing oneself in relationship to others and the world.

Walking Alongside Youth engages caregivers in a process of coming to see and approaching anxiety as something that can be most safely and naturally addressed through relationship. Foster Caregivers and Out-of-Care-Care-Providers are supported and empowered to see themselves and their relationship with the youth in their care as the most important factor in addressing anxiety. This requires a shift from the established approach in which the role of expert and strategies are centred, to one in which relationship becomes central to understanding a how to support a youth in care experiencing anxiety.

Indigenous Place-Based Knowledges

Indigenous ways of knowing and being are distinct and originate from within specific lands and geographic locations across BC. Indigenous peoples, their knowledge(s) and practices have evolved over time and in synchrony with nature and uphold an ecological and relational ethic. Synchrony is an important process of moving and growing together with other things.u00a0

Indigenous, traditional knowledge(s) have emerged from a process in which lived experience is prioritized, observed, and deemed good on the basis of benefiting all, our human and more-than-human kin, which is inclusive of the land, plants, animals, land and ancestors. Only once experience is deemed good, relationally, is it considered right and true. Knowledge emerges from living in relationship, ethically with all things and is lived out, distinctively scripted by the diversity of cultures that exist throughout British Columbia and across Canada.

BC is home to the 2nd largest population of Aboriginal peoples in Canada, with distinct and diverse cultures, values and 34 distinct languages making up 60% of the First Nations languages in Canada. Within BC, there are over 129,000 First Nations peoples, with more than 200 distinct First Nations bands (that's one-third of all First Nations in Canada), more than 59,000 Mu00e9tis people and nearly 800 Inuit peoples. As well, more than 50% of this Aboriginal population lives in urban centres (MCFD, 2013, p. 7).

Taking Care of our Relationships

Elder and Blackfoot scholar, Leroy Littlebear teaches us to take care of our relationships. Littlebear describes ceremony as the way in which Indigenous peoples have always acknowledged and renewed their relationships with those things that make our existence possible, including our human-to-human relationship (Banff Events, 2015). n

'It's your path but you don't have to walk it alone.'

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