Pathways to resilience

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Pathways to Resilience Research

The Pathways to Resilience Project is a multi-year (2007-2015), five country study associated with the Resilience Research Centre in Canada. The New Zealand project is based at Massey University led by Robyn Munford and Jackie Sanders from the School of Health & Social Services.

The study sought to better understand how youth navigate between mandated services (child welfare, alternative education, mental health, and youth justice) to successful outcomes. There was a particular interest in understanding the way that involvement with these services influences outcomes for youth exposed to large amounts of risk, who face complex challenges or who come to attention because of chronic abuse and neglect.

The study has identified the practice, services and strategies that are successful in assisting young people to achieve positive outcomes in their lives.

Summary of the research and key findings (PDF 397 KB)

Who were the young people?

The study population was composed of three different groups drawn from six areas in New Zealand (the Auckland metropolitan area, Palmerston North/Manawatu, Kāpiti/Horowhenua, Greater Welling­ton, Christchurch and Otago during 2009-2010).

  1. A group of 605 multiple service using youth (MSU) – either concurrently using two or more services or having used two services in the past six months
  2. A comparison group (CG) of 605 youth on a more or less normative development pathway, who were using one or no services
  3. A group of persons most knowledgeable (PMK) nominated by the MSU youth as being the adult who knew the most about them at the time of the interview.

The services were: youth justice, child welfare, alternative or special education services or mental health services. These services could be provided by either a statutory organisation or an NGO providing services under contract to government.

MSU youth were recruited from organisations that provided formal support services to youth and CG youth were recruited from schools, community programmes and organisations located in the communities from which the MSU youth were drawn.

They were all aged 12-17, half Māori (48%), a third Pākehā (31%), one fifth Pacific (18%) and more than half male (63%). After being matched for age, gender and ethnicity they compromised two equal groups.

The two groups came from very different living situations, and had very different school and other service experiences.

Young people with higher risk tend to have inconsistent or negative service experiences.

Young people with higher resilience tend to have consistently positive service experiences.

Some of the findings

The quality of interactions practitioners have with youth matter more to outcomes that the number of interventions. High quality relationships build resilience and this produces better outcomes. Relational practices that include genuine warmth, kindness and positive regard build capacity in young people. The more that services work in these ways with youth the better the outcome.

Specific practices that are important:

  • Youth are given clear information about services and interventions
  • Encourage youth decision-making and meaningful involvement that help build agency
  • Services and interventions are relevant and demonstrate understanding of the challenges youth face
  • Identify and build positive resources and relationships in youth lives
  • Respect youth culture and meaning systems and incorporate cultural practices into interventions
  • Allow sufficient time to build relationships
  • Avoid episodic responses to crises that are embedded in longer-term chronic issues
  • Create opportunities that support the development of positive identities
  • Introduce safe adults who make an ongoing commitment to the young person
  • Interventions respond to practical and emotional needs
  • Build positive relationships with other practitioners while maintaining focus on needs of youth

PARTH - a model of effective practice with young people

From the Pathways to Resilience research a model of effective practice has been identified - these are the aspects that the research identified made the difference for young people building their resilience and producing better outcomes.

P = Perseverance, Persistence and Perspective

  • understanding how risk, context and resilience shape youth behaviours
  • focus on youth and be an advocate for youth
  • commit to staying the distance through difficult times and support youth to realise their aspirations
  • maintain positive youth development and strengths perspective
  • commit to effective collaboration in work.

A = Adaptability, Agency/Empowerment, Action-oriented

  • look for alternatives, reflect on what you are doing that works and change what doesn’t
  • adapt practice to enable youth to test out new skills and support them to remain engaged in interventions
  • encourage agency and empowerment in youth – joint approach to solution finding brings best results
  • ensure assessments lead to delivery of services
  • make things happen for youth, achieve plans and include practical as well as emotional interventions.

R = Relationships, Relevant, Responsive, Recognises context

  • relational practice, focus on building relationships with youth, demonstrate caring and value
  • affirm youth strengths and coping strategies
  • avoid reactive responses – episodic interventions in situations of chronic need increase risk and undermine capacity to achieve good outcomes
  • ecological interventions work best because they take account of the complexity of the challenges.

T = Time, Transparency, Thresholds, Transitions

  • quality and quantity, length of interventions will vary depending on youth need
  • look for critical teaching moment
  • take time to plan for positive encounters with youth and time to reflect on own practice
  • ensure youth understand the how and why of decisions
  • threshold and entry criteria often mean that interventions do not happen until too much damage has been done –adaptability and agility is important
  • manage transitions within, between and from services carefully.

H = Honesty, Humility, Hope

  • does what they say they will do and are honest about limitations to what can be done
  • keeps youth informed
  • works with humility – recognition that if practitioner was in youth shoes they might make the same choices
  • hold hope for youth – a vision for the future based on this young person’s qualities and abilities.