Strong, Supportive Friends & Families

Photo of two children, a girl and boy in classroom.

Supportive families and friends help young people thrive and equip them with the tools they need to deal with today’s challenges. For some families, however, providing the basic necessities is hard. They may also need services and supports. It is vital to support the network of care that surrounds youth. Parents, guardians, mentors and friends have the capacity to help young people develop important life skills along their path to adulthood.

Outcomes #4, 5, 6

Ontario wants youth to:

This year, Ontario continued to support families and caregivers so they can better support youth as they transition to adulthood. Its programs and policies have made progress in the following areas:

New in 2014–2015

Supporting Strong Families and Guardians

When adults and caregivers are supported, they are better able to help youth navigate new challenges, access services in their communities and provide positive direction. This year, Ontario made improvements to the system of care surrounding youth to ensure they get the best opportunities to succeed.

As part of Realizing Our Potential: Ontario’s Poverty Reduction Strategy (2014–2019), Ontario has done the following:

Data from the 2015 Profile

  • 5.1% of families live in deep poverty and are struggling to afford housing.
  • 10% of Ontario families experience food insecurity.
  • 13.6% of children and youth live in low-income households.


Stepping Stones—A Resource on Youth Development

Stepping Stones—A Resource on Youth Development combines research on youth development with the voices of youth on the opportunities and supports they need to succeed. It provides a detailed look at how youth grow and develop physically, cognitively, socially and emotionally, and ways to identify and respond to their needs at each stage of development. Stepping Stones was designed for organizations and individuals who, either directly or indirectly, support or influence the well-being and development of youth.

New in 2014–2015

Supporting Vulnerable Youth

Photo of female youth playing guitar while male youth assists.

This year, Ontario made progress in supporting youth who face the greatest barriers and need extra help to reach their full potential.

To better support homeless youth, solutions based on evidence and best practices are needed. In early 2015, Ontario established an Expert Advisory Panel on Homelessness to provide advice on a provincial definition of homelessness and how to apply evidence to prevent and end homelessness.

A Place to Call Home: Report of the Expert Advisory Panel on Homelessness was released in October 2015. Ontario’s response to the report is to move forward with a number of actions, including:

Data from the 2015 Profile

  • 24% of youth feel lonely.
  • 74.7% of youth can count on their friends when things go wrong.
  • 65.4% of youth get the emotional support they need from their families.


Research and Capacity Building

Youth who are homeless are more likely than other youth to experience negative health and well-being outcomes. Research shows that the pathways to homelessness for youth are distinct from those of adults10 and that LGBTQ youth, youth leaving care, and Aboriginal youth are more likely than other young people to experience homelessness11.

This year, to better understand the issues of homelessness and youth homelessness, Ontario appointed subject matter experts to the Expert Advisory Panel on Homelessness. The panel’s report, A Place to Call Home, will be used to inform the government’s update of the Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy.

In response to the panel’s report, Ontario committed to a number of immediate and long-term actions, including:

  • Setting a target to end chronic homelessness in 10 years
  • Providing up to $10 million over two years in targeted funding from the Local Poverty Reduction Fund to help prevent and end homelessness across the province
  • Adopting the recommended definition of homelessness, including chronic homelessness, to build common language and understanding about the problem
  • Planning to require enumeration at the local level to gather data about homelessness
  • Making action to reduce homelessness in four areas a priority: youth; Aboriginal; and chronic homelessness; and homelessness following transitions from provincially funded institutions and service systems, such as jails and hospitals

Ontario also launched a pilot research project to help stop the cycle of homelessness for Toronto youth through supports to improve mental health. This work was guided by, and is in support of, a commitment to end homelessness made in Realizing Our Potential: Ontario’s Poverty Reduction Strategy (2014–2019).

What the Data Says

Case Study


S.W.A.G., or Success With Age and Guidance, is a 13-week mentorship program in Peel Region. The program equips participants with the skills needed to achieve personal success. It also empowers young men to define success for themselves. Drawing on the personal experiences of mentors who come from diverse walks of life, the program provides support to high-risk youth who may be falling through the cracks. It builds on the assets of its youth participants, recognizing their talents, skills and strengths so they feel empowered to reach their full potential.

S.W.A.G. provides youth with a safe space they can call home and access to positive male mentors in their community. S.W.A.G. has increased youth access to jobs and local resources, including health supports, legal advisors and clinics. The program is led by young men who live or work in Peel Region. All program coordinators are pursuing or have completed postsecondary education, qualifying them to be mentors and role models.

S.W.A.G. Mantra:
I am excellent because I am capable.
I am responsible for the decision I make.
I am a leader and a role model to others.

I am valuable.
I am strong.
I am valuable.
I am strong.

S.W.A.G. coordinators discuss accountability and social awareness with program participants.

S.W.A.G. coordinators discuss accountability and social awareness with program participants