Diversion First – Providing Support to Youth Involved in the Criminal Justice System

The Cause

Boys and Girls Clubs Big Brothers Big Sisters (BGCBigs) is a community-supported organization committed to the healthy development of children, youth, and their families by providing safe places, positive relationships, services, and opportunities to develop personal strengths and interpersonal skills that enhance their long-term success in life. BCGBigs Mentoring and After-School programs seek to support vulnerable children and youth challenged by the impacts of poverty. The organization also works in partnership with other community organizations to develop and deliver programs geared to specific populations, such as the immigrant and refugee community, the Indigenous community, and other
vulnerable groups (e.g. LGBTQ youth). In 2020, BGCBigs partnered with Edmonton Police Services and the YMCA to implement the DiversionFirst program, a restorative justice approach designed as an alternative to the criminal justice system for first-time youth offenders. BGCBigs provides individualized support including case management, connection to resources and supports (both internally and externally), enhanced skill development, and restorative justice activities for youth referred to the program, as well as their siblings and families.

Who Will it Benefit?

DiversionFirst connects youth who have committed their first non-violent, criminal occurrence to community and family supports, to help them build a foundation for a positive future away from crime. It’s a police-led program, which allows the Edmonton Police Service to offer the youth and their supports a restorative justice approach, instead of a criminal charge.