Through many years of intervention with minors, and its collaboration with other organizations working in the same field, Dans La Rue has made a number of observations. In 2005, these observations brought Sylvain Flamand, the intervention director at Dans la rue, to propose the participatory action research project called Rejoindre les mineurs en fugue : une responsabilité commune en protection de l’enfance (Connecting with minors who have run away: a shared responsibility in youth protection).
In light of these observations, this three-year project, running from April 1st, 2008 to March 31st, 2011, has set out four principal objectives.
When young people who have run away find themselves outside their usual social context, and they do not ask for support from the organizations that can help them, their survival strategies tend to be closely related to crime (small thefts and criminal acts, selling drugs, prostitution). Thus, this project attempted to look at the process of interaction between the comprehensive research on running away and the groups who are the key players in working with these youth. This participatory action research project has tried to identify the common points from which community organizations, youth centres and police departments can work together. The goal is to find strategies that will permit the development of better intervention practices for working with youth who find themselves at odds with the measures that are intended to protect them.
Beyond preventing the risks associated with the street and with activities described as criminal that can permanently mark the lives of runaways, this project addresses how present intervention methods respond to the lived realities runaway youth. Do these practices place more importance on protection than on child development? How do we best facilitate the return of these young people to a placement that favors self-actualization? In wanting to protect them too much, do we end up limiting their development?
This participatory action project was carried out in four cities in Quebec: Drummondville, Montreal, Quebec City and Three-Rivers. This approach takes into account the dynamics of the mobility of youth runaways and the key professionals and caregivers, in Quebec. Since these young people move from one city to another within the province, it goes without saying that the professionals should also go beyond their own milieu to offer a certain consistency in their approach to runaways. By involving groups of key players in four different cities, we are experimenting with the possibilities, and the limits, of creating a network that can adapt to the different realities of youth runaways.
Achieving the target objectives for this project is based on the deployment of three elements that support and nourish each other.