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).

The observations that led to the development of the project

  • There is no existing permanent database/ongoing research project documenting the evolution of the experience of runaways in Quebec.
  • The general population is profoundly concerned with the lifestyle of marginalized and street youth and contexts that lead them into marginalization because of what this generation that represents for the future of our society and/or insecurity resulting from real or imagined criminal behavior.
  • The experiences of runaways and their connection to the street evolve at the same rhythm as the transformation of street culture and their sense of belonging to it. Consequently, professionals feel increasingly out of touch with their understanding of what may be occurring in the lives of these young people.
  • Being a “wanted minor” has consequences on the runaways’ behavior in order to avoid returning to the home or place they have fled or abandoned.
  • Community organizations have continue to have difficulty connecting with minors in conflict with their families, youth protection, and the law. This evidenced by the available data, that the number of runaways, in Quebec, has not decreased in a significant way.
  • After much criticism, the philosophies and the intervention practices in youth centres are evolving and changing.
  • Police departments question the coherence and the pertinence of their interventions with minors who have run away.
  • The knowledge developed by each level of social services working with minors who have run away is different and complementary, but rarely shared.

In light of these observations, this three-year project, running from April 1st, 2008 to March 31st, 2011, has set out four principal objectives.

The project objectives

  • To update our understanding of the experience of runaways through the perspective of these young persons, their parents and the professionals working in community organizations, youth centres and police departments.
  • To document the intervention practices used with minors who have run away as developed by youth centres, community organizations and police departments.
  • To mobilize the expertise of the different professionals, within their contexts, from youth centers, police departments and community organizations in order to initiate a dialogue around intervention practices aimed at minors who have run away.
  • To plan and experiment with projects and intervention practices that permit a better connection to, and protection of, runaway minors, and at the same time avoid negative effects on their personal and social development.

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.

The three element of this project

Achieving the target objectives for this project is based on the deployment of three elements that support and nourish each other.

  • Updating our knowledge about the experience of running away – Sylvie Hamel (Inclure lien menant à la section 5.3)
  • Mobilization of the organizations that are the key players – Anna Di Tirro (Inclure lien menant au point à la section 5.4)
  • Evaluation of the results – Marie-Yolande Bujold (Inclure lien menant à la section 5.5)