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Ask Catherine 2 — Meeting Youth Where They’re At


Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Interviewee: Catherine Broomfield

Numbering: Issue 2: Here We Go

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: Question Time

Web Domain:

Individual Publication Date: January 4, 2019

Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2019

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 763

Keywords: Catherine Broomfield, iHuman Youth Society, indigenous, Scott Douglas Jacobsen, youth.

Catherine Broomfield is the Executive Director of iHuman Youth Society. She loves the challenge and excitement of the job, especially with the diversity of the workplace and the people with non-profits. She has worked, in fact, in both the public and the private sectors. Here we talk about Indigenous troubled youth.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: How is meeting Indigenous troubled youth where they’re at help with the effectiveness of the programs at iHuman?

Catherine Broomfield: This principle of ‘meeting youth where they’re at’ or as we like to refer to as ‘keeping it real’ is fundamental to iHuman’s youth work practice and the overall operation of the agency. Working from this perspective means that our approach is based on relationship.

Being able to appreciate the place a youth is coming from requires creating a space that is safe and non judgmental. When we attune to what a young person needs there is no ego or expectation of the staff person involved — it isn’t about what we might think an appropriate response, action or solution might be, rather what does that young person think needs to be done now.

We like to ask ‘what happened’ so that we can gain appreciation for why a youth might be in the spot they are. Feedback from the youth tells us that other service providers often don’t take this approach.

That getting help is sometimes less about the person in need of help and more about the motivation of the person offering it. To act with the ‘keeping it real’ principle, iHuman staff are consistently asking themselves: am I helping because I want to be ‘the hero’; is my help enabling that person; or am I supporting that person to honour their own internal need.

This approach is a communal approach to helping which is reflective of Indigenous ways of community. Therefore, because we have put the young person in the driver’s seat, the effectiveness of the programs is ultimately in their control.

These aren’t solutions or options that adult staff came up with — these are solutions and actions from the young people themselves. This is where the effectiveness stems from.

Jacobsen: What are the prototypical trends in the issues some of these youths have, while also bearing in mind, within the question, that every child and young person is unique?

Broomfield: At the core of the issues iHuman youth experience is the erasure of identity. I’ve mentioned this previously — that the finding of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on the genocide of Indigenous culture by the Government of Canada and/or its agents — can trace the systemic issues of trauma that manifest in the present day reality of young people.

Addiction, mental health, homelessness, isolation, violence; all of these point to the exclusion of certain people from being whole people in our society. The individual stories of the young people are unique and trace a path that is raw and painful; the common thread is that they do not know where they’re going because they do not know where they’ve been.

I was recently at a workshop where the following quote was posted on the wall. I do not know the author, his story or what he might do, however, it was attributed to William Pirar: “We are what we know. We are… also what we do not know. If what we know about ourselves — our history, our culture, our national identity — is deformed by absences, denials and incompleteness, then our identity is fragmented. Such a self lacks access both to itself and to the world”.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Catherine.

License and Copyright


In-Sight Publishing and Question Time by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
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© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and Question Time 2012-2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and Question Time with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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