To engage the members of the Youth Justice Network membership, and all its diversity, in a meaningful relationship.
To expand our network of professionals, youth and community workers in order to reach young people encountering conflict with the law across the city.
Committed to fostering excellence in supporting young people facing multiple barriers, and youth in conflict with the law.
The Rise of the Youth Justice Network of Toronto
In 2007, the Youth sector in Toronto was dealing with the aftermath of many issues surrounding young people as well as many incidents of violence involving youth throughout the City. During this time, Founder and Chairman, Orville Wallace was employed as a Youth Employment Counsellor with a program called Youth Reach that provided employment counselling and referrals for youth in conflict with the law. This program allowed Orville Wallace to see first-hand the many challenges and issues facing young people who were involved in the Justice system and be able to offer customized support to assist them in finding a job as well as reintegrating back into their communities.
One of the major issues Orville noticed during this time, was that many of the Youth agencies and Youth stakeholders were working in Silos. This meant that they were supporting a very similar caseload of young people that were being supported by many different community agencies, yet the actual youth workers were not connecting with each other around how to better support these youth and share their experiences. Ultimately, many of the young people involved with the law were being seen by many Youth Workers, who were not working collaboratively to better support these young people in terms of getting them back on the right track, and away from a life of crime, drugs, poverty, and unemployment. Unfortunately, two of Orville's clients were senselessly killed during this time, and it really hit home that things really needed to be changed in the way we work with young people in conflict with the law, and youth facing multiple barriers. Orville strongly believed that there needed to be a safe space for Youth Workers, Community stakeholders and others who worked with youth, to meet on a regular basis in order to share information on programs, as well as discuss how they could better support the young people living in their communities. This led Orville to arrange an initial meeting with a variety of different Youth Stakeholders at the table to discuss how they can better support young people involved in the law and youth facing barriers to better succeed.
There were approximately 30 individuals present at this meeting that was led by Orville. The meeting consisted of Youth Court Workers, Youth Outreach Workers, Youth Mental Health Workers, the Police, Schools, Legal Clinics, Youth Probation Officers, Youth Employment Workers, Social Workers and many others whom attended to discuss their challenges and concerns around how "we" as a network can better work together to support young people in conflict with the law. This first meeting led to many recommendations around how "we" as a network can better support these youth as well as an opportunity for those to get to put a face to the names of many of the local Youth stakeholders they have been referring their youth too. As a result, everyone at the meeting was able to connect with each other around issues affecting young people in general as well as issues/challenges affecting specific young people. The opportunity to connect with each other in a safe space was grounds to a collaborative network of ongoing conversations and the development an ongoing schedule of meetings to connect, network as well as develop a mandate for this group.
After a few meetings, it was decided by popular demand that the group create a regular schedule of meetings where we would share best practices and have an opportunity to network with each other. Orville then decided to create a name for this group that would be known as “The Youth Justice Network of Toronto”. The group has since been meeting every other month on a bi-monthly basis to share updates on new programming supporting youth in conflict with the law and youth facing multiple barriers. In addition, the network has also organized many trainings for youth workers over the years, as well as some members have gone out to the jails to support youth with re-integrating back into their communities. The attendance at the meetings have been quite steady over the years with many new Youth Workers joining the meetings to share information as well as network with others in the sector supporting youth in conflict with the law. An email distribution list for the Network had also been created to share relevant information around youth programming, trainings for Front-line youth workers, employment opportunities and general information regarding upcoming events. Today the distribution list has grown to consist of over 1300 youth stakeholders and community champions supporting young people across the GTA and sharing information with each other on a regular basis.