#1 Cultural humility/safety: There are differing levels of knowledge, understanding and experience related to cultural humility/safety and reconciliation within the staff, youth and partner organizations of FLOH. We will engage in an intentional process to discover, share and explore what we all know and don’t know, and how knowing and not knowing has played out for us, for others and in our communities. We also hope to have opportunities to interface with others in this knowledge exchange, meaning making and, ultimately, continual action planning process.
#2 Voice of Indigenous peoples: The project’s main, full-time Youth FLOHcilitator (Marcie Pruden, 18) has had extensive opportunities to learn from Indigenous elders and peers throughout the Fraser-Salish region, BC and nationally. She has seen how Indigenous knowledge and teachings can be woven into the way that programs that involve youth play out—especially when it comes to acknowledging and supporting each person’s gifts to flourish and be offered a place and role. She has built into the project the acknowledgement that our circle of work (like the medicine wheel) will be incomplete or unbalanced without engaging the whole community: children, young people, adults and elders. Over a third of other engaged young people have Indigenous heritage and various levels of knowledge about, engagement with, and connection to their own and/or local Indigenous communities and peoples and practices. Three of the five youth leads on the project are Indigenous, and four of the five youth leads have direct experience with the foster system.
#3 Respect: Again, youth with experience in the foster system, as a group, experience arguably unequaled barriers to their voices and experiences being heard, respected and valued. Through the endeavour of, and to the extent that we succeed at bringing these voices to the forefront, we believe we will be supporting systems and inspiring other marginalized/restricted populations to challenge themselves and each other to allow broader, more inclusive and diverse perspectives to support new ways of knowing, learning together and collaboration.
#4 Social Determinants of Health: With FLOH’s primary focus on conditions for young people with experience in the foster system, social determinants of health will be front-and-centre. For these young people, conditions often can place healthy choices/options out of reach. Often there is little opportunity for these youth to choose their own tribe, to easily explore and practice their culture, to test out their autonomy in a slow transition from dependency to attempts at independence and then to find what might be the right place for them in a world where we are all truly interdependent. It is on and for this final point—interdependence—that youth with experience in the foster system can most authoritatively speak and advocate for our systems to work more and more toward a focus on social determinants of health as a tide that will lift all boats.
#5 Strengths based approach: Strength-based approaches can vary significantly—sometimes rolling out through such activities as supporting a person to list and acknowledge their strengths, or helping a person to identify strengths they have that might help them with a current personal challenge. In FLOH, we are trying to take this approach further. Most people learn about their strengths and stretch into new capabilities because someone takes a chance on them… trusts them with something they may not have done before, but which they feel they might be ready to try. This learning and stretching and growing, one could argue, will be best facilitated if something meaningful is at stake. As a youth-led and adult-supported project, the FLOH youth have indicated they want their program to constantly provide opportunities for them and other youth (and adults too, for that matter) to find their growing edges and stretch themselves further. FLOH is not just meant to be a strength-based program, but—perhaps more-profoundly—a program based on its participant’s strengths.