New NUI Galway Study Highlights Important Role played by Community Based Advocates for Young People

Dr Bernadine Brady and Dr Carmel Devaney, lead authors of the research report photographed at the launch of the study findings.
Feb 24 2020 Posted: 12:39 CST

A new research study which explores the benefits of community-based advocates in improving the lives of young people and their families has been published at NUI Galway. The research study led by Dr Bernadine Brady and Dr Carmel Devaney from the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre, NUI Galway involved interviews with 50 young people, parents, referrers and advocates involved with the programme, in addition to a staff survey and focus groups. 

The study focused on the Youth Advocate Programme Ireland model, which is a unique way of providing intensive, focused support to children, young people, and families with a range of needs, based upon the development of a trusting relationship between a supportive, trained, and skilled adult advocate, the young person, and their family. The model aims to provide an alternative to the institutionalisation of vulnerable young people, through the operation of integrated, family- and community-based programmes of support services for young people and their families in need or at risk. The findings indicate that the Youth Advocate Programme Ireland model is seen as supporting young people and families to have their needs and issues resolved and helps to keep young people at home and out of the care system.

Dr Carmel Devaney, UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre, NUI Galway, said “A key feature of this approach is that the needs of the young person and family are central to the intervention.  Advocates are carefully chosen for their ability to relate to young people and their families and play a key role in facilitating young people to access local community activities and necessary services. This helps to ensure that the young person has access to sustainable supports after they complete their involvement with the programme. Young people and families greatly valued the positive, respectful approach taken by the programme and many feel that it has been effective in addressing their needs.”

Siobhán O’Dwyer, Youth Advocate Programme Ireland CEO, said: “At a time when many children, young people and families face social, emotional and educational difficulties I am delighted that the research shows that this community based advocate model achieves very positive outcomes with them.  The strengths based, individualised service plan and employment of community based advocates who want to work with young people and families to achieve change is the key to the success of the programme as evidenced in the research.”

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