Vecova Youth Program Expansion

The Cause

Transitioning into adulthood can be challenging for anyone but can be especially challenging for youth with disabilities. Entering adult services has been described as falling off of a ‘support cliff’ where youth and their support networks go from having structured daily activities to having to coordinate services and supports across numerous service providers who may have differing support goals in adulthood. Youth and their networks are confronted with having to navigate these changes independently which results in some youth falling through the cracks, and not receiving timely or appropriate support. To address this gap, Vecova will use the funds from this grant to expand its Youth Program from primarily providing work experience and support to a holistic transition experience to adulthood for youth with disabilities and their support network.

Vecova’s current program does not have the dedicated tools or resources to support all facets of entering adulthood. Vecova will work with an external consultant to develop tools and resources to support youth and their networks to build an individualized road map to adulthood that encompasses employment, community activities, independent living activities, and post-secondary education needs, utilizing the three phases of the Best Journey to Adult Life Model developed by McMasters University, which include:

1.Preparing for adulthood by identifying goals, activities, and interests. This will include the development of activities to guide and assist youth in developing confidence in identifying their interests, exploring different community activities, and informing or assessing interests.
2.Mapping the journey to adulthood. This will include developing the tools and resources to allow Vecova employees to work collaboratively with the youth and their network to develop the road map such as identifying appropriate roles and responsibilities for each person involved, assisting the youth with developing the confidence and skills for adulthood. In addition, interactive tools and resources for parents and guardians will be developed to assist with navigating the multiple applications, systems and service providers needed for adulthood.
3.Ensuring a successful entry into adulthood. This will include developing resources and tools to track the youth’s progress, as well as strategies for youth and their networks to address any challenges, redirections of goals and interests, or support needs as the youth enters adulthood.

Who Will it Benefit?

Vecova’s Youth Program will support youth with disabilities and their families to navigate the path from youth to adulthood. The program will support youth aged 15 to 30 years old who require low to complex needs supports in Calgary and surrounding rural communities. Vecova’s Youth Program will initially target youth in its current areas of Airdrie and Cochrane and will expand into Calgary, Canmore and Banff. As the program continues to develop, Vecova will explore other rural areas like High River, Okotoks and Strathmore.

The Vecova’s team utilizes the organizations broad definition of disability to include youth with permanent, degenerative and temporary disabilities. This can include youth with a:
• medically diagnosed disability (e.g., multiple sclerosis),
• mental health diagnosis,
• physical disability,
• intellectual disability (e.g., a developmental disability), or
• youth with a dual diagnosis (e.g., developmental disability and mental health diagnosis).

The expansion of the Youth Program will have a positive impact on youth and their families. The program will assist youth with disabilities in developing a plan that will help them to stay on a similar trajectory as youth without disabilities by exploring education, recreation or employment after high school. The program will help prevent youth with disabilities from falling through the cracks by identifying support needs.

To demonstrate this impact, Vecova expects the following results:
• Youth with disabilities will identify their goals and interests for adulthood
• Youth with disabilities will experience improved self-confidence
• Youth with disabilities will identify the services and supports needed for adulthood
• Youth with disabilities gain work experience