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Competenciesfor the Youth Substance Use Prevention WorkforcePREVENTION WORKFORCECOMPETENCIES REPORT


CCSA extends permission to organizations thatwish to reproduce, modify, translate or adapt theCompetencies. Any adaptation must acknowledgeCCSA and the Competencies for Canada’s for theYouth Substance Use Prevention Workforce as itssource. Please use the Application for CopyrightPermission to tell us about your adaptation and provideus a copy of it. Your adaptation will inform futurerevisions of the Competencies.Suggested citation: Canadian Centre on SubstanceAbuse. (2015). Competencies for the youth substanceuse prevention workforce: Prevention workforcecompetencies report. Ottawa, Ont.: Canadian Centre onSubstance Abuse.This is a living document, which CCSA may revise andupdate to reflect the latest evidence and research.© Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, 2015CCSA, 75 Albert St., Suite 500Ottawa, ON K1P 5E7Tel.: 613-235-4048This documents can also be downloaded as a PDF atwww.ccsa.caCe document est également disponible en français sousle titre : Compétences pour les intervenants en préventionde la consommation de substances chez les jeunesISBN 978-1-77178-258-6


TABLE OF CONTENTSPREVENTION WORKFORCE COMPETENCIES REPORTPURPOSEMETHODSPRINCIPLESCOMPETENCY DESCRIPTIONSPROFICIENCY LEVELSFOUNDATION COMPETENCIESLINK BETWEEN HEALTH PROMOTION,SUBSTANCE USE PREVENTION AND HARM REDUCTION1345GLOSSARY OF KEY TERMS7COMPETENCIES WITH DESCRIPTIONSAND SAMPLE BEHAVIOUR INDICATORSAPPENDIX: THE STORIES825


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTSCCSA activities and products are made possiblethrough a financial contribution from Health Canada.The views of CCSA do not necessarily represent theviews of the Government of Canada.The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA)gratefully acknowledges the significant contributionsand support received from people working in theprevention field who participated in focus groupsacross Canada. They helped particularly to validate andrevise the draft competencies.CCSA especially thanks all its partners and the youthbasedorganizations who so graciously allowed andencouraged staff to participate in the focus groups.The research means nothing if the end result is notmeaningful to the people for whom it is intended andCCSA could not produce a meaningful report withoutthe input from the focus groups.CCSA also thanks the directors and frontline staff whoparticipated in the preliminary consultations in Januaryto March 2014. The guidance from these meetings wasinvaluable in drafting the competencies.The extra support that CCSA received from preventionand health promotion staff in Nova Scotia Health’sAddiction and Mental Health Services, during both thedrafting process and finalizing process, has resulted in amore substantive report than otherwise would have beenproduced. Thank you!


Competencies for the Youth Substance Use Prevention WorkforceYOUTH SUBSTANCE USE COMPETENCIES REPORT1PURPOSEResearch indicates that working with youth to preventsubstance use requires specialized focus on issues, needs,considerations and approaches. What works with adults doesnot necessarily work with youth. Further, important preventionwork actually happens upstream, at the community level, byestablishing and supporting initiatives and activities that helpto create flourishing communities and environments whereyouth can thrive and be engaged. 1Those working with youth in substance use prevention facechallenges such as knowledge gaps, inconsistencies inrecommended evidence and practice, a lack of understandingand support surrounding successful youth engagement, anda lack of common terminology and language.As a result, the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA)set out to determine the competencies needed to workeffectively with youth, from community health to minimizingharm, to prevent substance use. The overall goal is to raisethe quality and increase the consistency of prevention effortsacross Canada.The validated key competencies for the workforce focused onyouth substance use prevention are:1. Child and Youth Development2. Health Promotion and Prevention Knowledge3. Substances and Substance Use4. Advocacy5. Building and Sustaining Relationships6. Community Engagement and Partnership Building7. Comprehensive Planning, Implementation andEvaluation8. Early and Brief Intervention, Harm Minimizationand Referral9. Media Savvy10. Personal and Professional Development11. Teamwork and LeadershipThe Competencies can be used to create and improve HRpractices such as:• Job descriptions and job profiles• Questions to use when interviewing candidates forpositions• Performance management tools to use whenconducting employee annual appraisalsMETHODSTo prepare for creating the competencies described in thisreport, CCSA performed a literature review in 2013 to identifyand compare relevant competency frameworks. Of 26frameworks reviewed, six were deemed relevant becauseof their focus on youth health promotion and substanceuse prevention. From these frameworks, CCSA identified21 competencies that we then grouped and reduced to 14proposed competencies.Subsequently, CCSA hosted three preliminary meetingswith organizations across Canada focused on preventionand health promotion to guide development of the draftcompetencies. The first was a director-level consultation inJanuary 2014 and the other two were focus groups of frontlineprevention staff in March 2014.1In the prevention arena, the work is described in terms of initiatives and activities, not programs and services, which describe work in treatment.© Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, 2015 Competencies for Canada’s Substance Abuse Workforce


Prevention Workforce Competencies ReportMETHODS2Directors from provincial ministries of health and seniorstaff from national not-for-profit organizations that focus onyouth were asked to participate in the January consultation.The purpose of the director-level consultation was to obtaininput on:• Relevant principles for effective youth substanceuse prevention• An appropriate framework for these competencies• Applicability of the existing BehaviouralCompetencies Report 2• Working from the proposed 14, a preliminaryidentification of pertinent competenciesThe directors emphasized that the prevention paradigm isvery different from a clinical or treatment perspective. For thenew set of competencies to be seen as credible, the languagethroughout must reflect the paradigm and the language ofprevention. Nuance matters.CCSA asked each person at the director-level consultationto identify an appropriate frontline staff person to participatein a focus group in March. Two one-day focus groups wereheld, one for eastern Canada and one for western Canada.Starting with feedback from the director-level consultation, thepurpose of frontline focus groups was to obtain input on:• Relevant principles for effective youth substanceuse prevention• Identification, including extensive discussion, ofpertinent competenciesThe two focus groups reduced the number of competenciesto 12. In addition to supplying the input sought by CCSA, thefocus group participants provided stories that illustrate theirwork in the prevention field; some recounted stories aboutparticular youth and others amalgamated stories about severalyouth. The stories, found in Appendix A, highlight a number ofkey characteristics about the prevention paradigm, primarilythat “it’s not about the drugs, it’s about the relationships” withthe youth. The other key characteristics were:• Recognizing and dealing with the culturaldimensions of prevention initiatives is essential• It is critical to involve youth in initiative and policyplanning• Credibility is linked to language• Prevention is a process that takes time andpatienceThe feedback from the preliminary meetings provided guidancefor the research company specializing in competencies withwhich CCSA contracted to develop draft competencies. Theywere ready in the fall of 2014, at which point CCSA beganhosting a series of 10 focus groups across Canada to validateand revise the draft competencies. Participants includedboth staff from provincial ministries of health and relatedorganizations, such as the Addiction Foundation of Manitobaand the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, and stafffrom youth-focused organizations.Drawing on their knowledge and experience, participants atthe preliminary meetings identified principles that need to drivesubstance use prevention activities and initiatives for youth.Participants in the validation focus groups further refined theprinciples.In-person focus groups, one day in length, were held inOttawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary, Vancouver, Montreal andHalifax. Online focus groups, a half-day in length, were heldfor Nunavut, Northwest Territories and Yukon. A total of 72participants provided input on the draft competencies andprinciples.In compiling the input from the focus groups, it becameapparent that one competency was actually almost a jobdescription because the behaviour indicators providedby the focus groups fit better in other competencies. As aresult, those behaviour indicators have been added to theappropriate competencies, leaving 11 competencies.An example of how to incorporate behaviour indicators in a jobdescription for prevention outreach workers will be publishedin 2015, along with a similar example focusing on communityhealth promotion. Organizations can compare the similaritiesand differences between these and their staff job descriptionsand identify where they want to increase their focus andefforts, taking into account the organization’s mandate andthe clients’ needs.2Section 1, Behavioural Competencies Report, Competencies for Canada’s Substance Abuse Workforce (Ottawa: CCSA, 2014).© Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, 2015 Competencies for the Youth Substance Use Prevention Workforce


Prevention Workforce Competencies ReportPRINCIPLES/COMPETENCY DESCRIPTIONS3PRINCIPLESThese principles were created and refined by participants inthe focus groups that helped to forge the Competencies forthe Youth Use Prevention Workforce.Overarching PrincipleThe most effective youth substance use prevention activitiesand initiatives feature a holistic, integrated, empathetic,respectful, flexible and strength-based approach informed byevidence about what works. They are youth-driven (recognizingthat some community or population health initiatives mightnot be driven solely by youth), fostering the development andmaintenance of positive, collaborative relationships amongyouth and the community of those who care for and aboutthem. These over-arching principles contribute to building afluid network of community partnerships, all of which supportthe more specific principles below.Specific Youth Substance Use PreventionPrinciplesEffective youth substance use prevention activities andinitiatives:1. Use a comprehensive approach to delivermulti-tiered and coordinated prevention activitiesand initiatives to individuals, families, schools andcommunities, including system-level populationhealth initiatives such as public policy development.2. Ensure that those who deliver prevention activitieshave the appropriate aptitude, commitment,flexibility, knowledge, training, skills and supportto do so effectively, and thus build and sustainrelationships and serve as role-models for youth.3. Empower youth by engaging them in thoughtprovoking,meaningful, age-appropriate interactiveactivities; integrate youth ideas and voices inplanning and implementing policies, initiatives andactivities; and provide the training and opportunitiesrequired so youth can function effectively asadvocates, leaders and peer mentors.4. Are developmentally appropriate and responsiveto the social determinants of health as identifiedthrough an assessment of specific populations.5. When adapted (as is often required to ensurecultural and geographic suitability) frompre-existing, proven, evidence-informed programs,stay true to the key concepts and fact-basedinformation conveyed through the pre-existingprogram or initiative.6. Leverage engagement with youth to encouragereciprocal learning, so that youth and preventionworkers learn from each other. Support youthand strengthen the community by taking positiveaction, thus increasing protective and reducing riskfactors.7. Must be strategically delivered prior to key pointsin adolescent development where evidence showsthat substance use challenges are most likely to beencountered, and should be ongoing.8. Adhere to and reflect existing up-to-date policiesand best practices for health promotion andpreventing youth substance use.9. Operate with sustained funding for a sustainedperiod, continuously build capacity, and measure,monitor, evaluate, report results and respond tofeedback.… a key factor contributing to Rosie’s success… is helping youth realize they have power andcontrol over their decisions. (For the whole story,turn to the appendix.)COMPETENCY DESCRIPTIONSCompetencies are the specific, measurable skills, knowledgeand values needed to perform effectively in a particular functionor role. 3 Both Technical and Behavioural Competenciesare included in this report, reflecting an integratedapproach consistent with youth substance use prevention.The approach starts from a community-wide healthperspective and moves along a continuum to an individualperspective of reducing harm.3Section VII, Technical Competencies Report, Competencies for Canada’s Substance Abuse Workforce (Ottawa: CCSA, 2014). In its other competency documents, CCSAhas referred to definitions for each of the competencies. These definitions are more accurately characterized as descriptions of what the competency encompasses. As aresult, the explanation that accompanies the title of each competency in this report is referred to as the competency description.© Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, 2015 Competencies for the Youth Substance Use Prevention Workforce


Prevention Workforce Competencies ReportPROFICIENCY LEVELS / FOUNDATION COMPETENCIES4PROFICIENCY LEVELSEach competency has four levels of proficiency and includessample behaviour indicators for each level of proficiency:Level 1, Introductory: A person at this leveldemonstrates basic knowledge and ability, and canapply the competency, with guidance, in commonsituations that present no or limited difficulties. Typically,Level 1 is applicable to individuals new to the field orwho have just finished a related educational program.Level 2, Developing: A person at this leveldemonstrates sound knowledge and ability, and canapply the competency, with minimal or no guidance,in the full range of typical situations. This person likelyrequires guidance to handle novel or more complexsituations. Typically, Level 2 is applicable to individualswith a few years’ experience working with youth toprevent substance use.Level 3, Intermediate: A person at this leveldemonstrates in-depth knowledge and ability, and canapply the competency, consistently and effectively, incomplex and challenging situations and settings. Thisperson guides other professionals. Typically, Level 3is applicable to significantly more experienced staffwho are expected to model required and desirablebehaviours for, and to support and guide, lessexperiencedcolleagues.Level 4, Advanced: A person at this leveldemonstrates expert knowledge and ability, and canapply the competency in the most complex situations.This person develops or facilitates new practices,programs or initiatives, and policies. He or she isrecognized as an expert, both inside and outside theorganization. Typically, this is a very experienced, seniorstaff person (possibly the executive director) whoserole includes both oversight of the organization andcollaboration with other organizations to bring aboutsystem change.The distinctions between levels are no doubt more evident ina larger organization with multiple staff than they are in smallerorganizations with few staff. In smaller organizations, levels 1and 2 likely merge to some extent.In each proficiency level, there are examples of behaviours— called behaviour indicators (BIs) — that a supervisor ormanager can expect to see exhibited by a person working atthat level of proficiency. It is not possible to record all possibleBIs, so these are examples only. However, according to thefocus group participants, the examples represent the mostsignificant behaviours. In essence, the proficiency level isa snapshot that illustrates the anticipated autonomy andresponsibility for a person at that level.It is very important to note that the behaviours are cumulative;for example: a person working at level 3 proficiency in aparticular competency has mastered the behaviours expectedfor levels 1 and 2 staff. Also, a staff person can be at differentlevels of proficiency for different competencies and still be fullycompetent to carry out their responsibilities.It is equally important to note that the BIs should be readdown the proficiency level column and not across from levelto level for two reasons: first, given the quantity of BIs, it isnot possible to keep each competency at a reasonable sizeif every BI were to be expanded upon across the levels;second, as staff gain experience, the complexity of their workincreases as does the types of work they perform.We decided to illustrate BIs that are important for each level ofproficiency. Organizations desiring a progression of complexityfor certain BIs have the ability to create the additional BIs,using the knowledge and techniques provided in this report.Organizations that wish to create BIs related to the work theirstaff undertake can use the existing BIs as a guide or templatefor creating others.Some BIs could fit equally well in a different competency. Thisfact reflects the connectedness of the competencies one toanother; the competencies are linked together.FOUNDATION COMPETENCIESThe focus groups agreed that three of the competencies arecritical to provide a foundation for the others: Child and YouthDevelopment; Substances and Substance Use; and HealthPromotion and Prevention Knowledge. These competenciesare listed first and the rest are in alphabetical order. Except forthe group of three foundation competencies, there is no orderof relative importance for the competencies.In all the competencies, some common terminology wasused to simplify the BIs. For example:• “Collaborates” incorporates, among other things,sharing the workload, contributing meaningfully,seeking to understand others’ perspectives andbeing willing to make reasonable compromises toachieve shared goals.© Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, 2015 Competencies for the Youth Substance Use Prevention Workforce


Prevention Workforce Competencies ReportLINK BETWEEN HEALTH PROMOTION, SUBSTANCE USE PREVENTION AND HARM REDUCTION5• “Shows respect” incorporates, among other things,being courteous, treating others fairly and withdignity, being considerate of them, and listeningattentively and with an open mind even in adisagreement or lively discussion.• “Self-care” incorporates efforts to increase goodhealth (mental, physical, social and spiritual), toreduce stress, and to prevent trauma, fatigue andburn-out.LINK BETWEEN HEALTHPROMOTION, SUBSTANCEUSE PREVENTION AND HARMREDUCTIONHealth promotion work applies across the continuum ofsubstance use prevention and treatment. Treatment occurs atthe individual end of the continuum where substance abuseis established. It includes treatment, relapse prevention andskills-building (or health promotion) groups. Population healthpromotion occurs at the population end of the continuumwhere interventions are aimed at whole communities.Prevention efforts occur across the continuum to prevent andreduce substance use and related problem behaviours. 4Primordial interventions focus on improving foundationalsocioeconomic structures (e.g., reduce poverty and increasefood security, education, housing and access to parksand recreation). Primary interventions strengthen wholecommunities, and are broad and wide reaching (e.g., smoke-freepublic places, minimum drinking age, school-board substanceuse policies, social and emotional learning implementedacross elementary schools). Secondary interventions focus onspecific at-risk populations (e.g., youth, LGBTSQ, 5 women,First Nations) to enhance long-term protective factors andreduce risk. Tertiary interventions are aimed at individuals andgroups with already established substance use, and focus ontreatment and relapse prevention.The health promotion continuum, as illustrated, supportsorganizational planning and movement to a population healthapproach. For example:• A smoking cessation group held at school forstudents who are established smokers is treatmentand is also considered a long-term protectiveintervention.• A skills development group at school for identifiedhigh-risk youth with multiple risk behaviours,including possible early substance use, is tertiaryprevention.• A program delivered in high school to the entireschool population to increase positive mentalhealth and increase resiliency (enhance protectivefactors) is considered secondary prevention.• A similar approach in elementary school isconsidered primary prevention.• Working at the community or whole populationlevel to change the socioeconomic environmentto increase opportunity for everyone is primordialprevention.In practice, the work is linked and iterative, not linear. It ismapped as a continuum solely for illustrative purposes.4Stronger Together: Canadian Standards for Community-based Youth Substance Abuse Prevention (Ottawa: CCSA, 2010) is a complementary resource for healthpromotion. It is one of three documents in the CCSA’s Portfolio of Canadian Standards for Youth Substance Abuse Prevention.5LGBTSQ is the acronym for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Two-Spirited and Questioning. LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered) is a more common,but less inclusive, acronym.© Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, 2015 Competencies for the Youth Substance Use Prevention Workforce


Prevention Workforce Competencies ReportLINK BETWEEN HEALTH PROMOTION, SUBSTANCE USE PREVENTION AND HARM REDUCTION6The Health Promotion Continuum for Substance Use Prevention and TreatmentPREVENTION (prevent, delay, reduce the harm of substance use)TREATMENT (treat existing substance abuse, reduce further harm, manage relapse)PrimordialPrimary Secondary TertiaryRelapse PreventionPOPULATIONHealth EquityAddressing the socialdeterminants of healthHealthy EnvironmentsImproving public healthpolicy, collaborating withpartners, etc.Long-lastingInterventionsIncreasing resiliencyand protective factors;promoting mental healthEarly Identificationand Brief InterventionClinical InterventionsINDIVIDUALPeer SupportSupply ReductionUse policy measures to reduce access toand availability of substances. Work to createcommunity readiness for health policy. Discouragecultural normalization of substance use.Demand ReductionUse comprehensive strategies to reduce individualdemand for substances. Support alcohol advertisingrestrictions. Promote media literacy. Support increasedaccess to physical activity. Increase protective factors.Harm ReductionIntervene to reduce the harms to individuals and communities associatedwith substance use by providing, for example, access to accurate healthinformation, free condoms, first aid training, needle exchange,opioid replacement.Increased Population ImpactIncreased Individual FocusAcross the continuum, the goal is to foster healthy communities and healthy individualsPopulation Health PromotionImproving the health status of whole populationsHealth RecoveryTreating and managing chronic disease and preventing relapseFOUNDATIONAL PRINCIPLES: Holistic, Integrated, Evidence-informed, Population-based, Respectful, Flexible, Strength-basedOUTCOME: Healthy communities and healthy individuals (improved health status, implemented policy, increased community action, etc.)CORE FUNCTIONS OF HEALTH PROMOTION:• Planning and advocating forhealthy public policy andlegislation• Strengthening communityaction: engagements,mobilization and development• Creating supportiveenvironments• Re-orientinghealth services• Developinglife skillsThese functions work across the continuum. Health promotion and prevention staff work with community partners at the population end of the continuum (the primordial, primary and secondaryprevention levels) to change the conditions that lead to substance use and abuse (e.g., helping to establish smoke-free public places, local alcohol and substance use policies, mental health promotion,safe and affordable housing and food security, and reducing gender violence). They also work to re-orient and improve access to health services (e.g., promote population approaches).Treatment staff work at the tertiary and treatment levels and might advocate with community partners to address client needs (housing, income, legal support), re-orient health services to reduce stigmaand blame, and strengthen the client’s ability to act on his or her own behalf. Skills development alone, without supportive environmental changes, has very limited success in changing behaviour.Informed by work by Gwenyth Dwyn, Prevention and Health Promotion Team Lead, Mental Health and Addiction Services, Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia Health Authority, Nova Scotia, 2014.References:Frieden, Thomas. (2010). A framework for public health action: the health impact pyramid. American Journal of Public Health. 100(4), 590-595.Robert, G. (2009). Best practices for preventing substance use problems in Nova Scotia. Halifax, NS: Nova Scotia Department of Health Promotion and Protection.World Health Organization. (1986). Ottawa Charter for health promotion. Geneva: Author.© Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, 2015 Competencies for the Youth Substance Use Prevention Workforce


Prevention Workforce Competencies ReportGLOSSARY OF KEY TERMS7GLOSSARY OF KEY TERMSThroughout the Prevention Workforce Competencies Report,certain words and phrases have been assigned specificmeanings, defined below, pertinent to these competencies.CommunityA group of people who shares particular characteristics orlives in the same place.Community OrganizationsSuch organizations include municipal councils; health, safetyand law enforcement committees and services; recreationassociations; arts groups; sports leagues; social justice andcommunity development committees and organizations;family and youth service agencies; cultural and faith-basedgroups; and employee and business associations. Preventionstaff do not need to engage with all community organizations,but should engage with those that are appropriate, giventhe issues.Cultural SensitivityAn all-inclusive phrase used to capture cultural awareness andcultural competency, as applicable to all cultures. 6Evidence-informedPrevention initiatives and activities must be guided by evidence,preferably that provided through documented scientificresearch. However, in the absence of a solid base of evidence,evidence-informed prevention approaches can be used. Theyallow for innovation while incorporating lessons learned fromexisting research literature and are responsive to culturalbackgrounds and community values, among other things.FamilyIndividuals or groups who constitute family both in thetraditional sense and in a broader sense that includes anyconfiguration of significant others, as identified by the youth, inthe youth’s past, present or future.Health PromotionThe process of enabling people to increase control over andimprove their health so they reach a state of complete physical,mental and social well-being. Well-being requires a securefoundation in factors addressed in the social determinants ofhealth (see below). Health promotion includes building healthypublic policy, creating supportive environments, strengtheningcommunity actions, developing personal skills and reorientinghealth services.InitiativeThe term used instead of “program” or “project” to emphasizethat health promotion and prevention works best wheninfused in everyday work, rather than viewed as a separate,time-limited add-on. Health promotion and preventioninitiatives are planned efforts directed to whole populations ordefinable subgroups.Population HealthAn approach to health that aims to improve the healthof the entire population and to reduce health inequitiesamong population groups. To reach these objectives, healthpromotion looks at and acts upon the broad range of factorsand conditions that influence our health. It applies to the entirespectrum of health system interventions, from prevention andpromotion to health protection, diagnosis, treatment andcare. A population health approach recognizes that health is acapacity or resource that encompasses being able to pursueone’s goals, acquire skills and education, and grow.Risk and Protective FactorsInfluences on youth and adults that increase (risk) or decrease(protective) the likelihood that a person will use substances.Protective factors buffer the effects of risk factors in anenvironment. 76For more information on cultural sensitivity with First Nations peoples, see A Cultural Safety Toolkit for Mental Health and Addiction Workers In-Service with First NationsPeople (2013), developed by the National Native Addictions Partnership Foundation (NNAPF) and available on the NNAPF website (www.nnapf.com). Although this toolkitfocuses on treatment, the explanations of cultural sensitivity, cultural competence, cultural safety and so on are helpful for prevention and health promotion staff working inFirst Nations communities. As of July 2015, NNAPF joined with another organization to form the Thunderbird Partnership Foundation (thunderbirdpf.org).7Nova Scotia Health created a table that sets out risk and protective factors by life area or domain (individual, family, school, community, etc.). For additional information, goto www.cha.nshealth.ca/addiction/forParentsRiskAndProtectiveFactors.asp.© Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, 2015 Competencies for the Youth Substance Use Prevention Workforce


Prevention Workforce Competencies ReportCOMPETENCIES WITH DESCRIPTIONS AND SAMPLE BEHAVIOUR INDICATORS8Social Determinants of HealthThe social determinants of health are: 8• Aboriginal status• Disability• Early life• Education• Employment and working conditions• Food insecurity• Gender• Health services• Housing• Income and income distribution• Race• Social exclusion• Social safety net• Unemployment and job securityFor Aboriginal peoples, the social determinants of health are: 9• Socio-political context• Holistic perspective of health• Life course — child, youth, adult• Health behaviours• Physical environments• Employment and income• Education• Food insecurity• Health care systems• Educational systems• Community infrastructure,resources and capacities• Environmental stewardship• Cultural continuitySubstance UseThe self-administration of a psychoactive substance.It includes abuse, dependency, addiction and misuse of bothlicit and illicit substances.Technical and Behavioural CompetenciesTechnical Competencies are the specific, measurableknowledge and skills required to apply technical principlesand information in a job function. They are usually learned inan educational environment or on the job. They are the “what”of a job and sometimes are called “hard” skills. BehaviouralCompetencies are the specific, measurable knowledge,skills and values required to perform effectively in a jobfunction. They are typically learned and developed through lifeexperiences. They are the “how” of performing in a job andare sometimes called “soft” skills.YouthPeople ages 14 to 24.Important parts of the assessment include lining upallies, … early engagement with school employees,… early engagement with youth …. The languageused by the school and the language we useaffects our success in delivering a school-basedprevention program. (For the whole story, turn tothe appendix.)COMPETENCIES WITHDESCRIPTIONS AND SAMPLEBEHAVIOUR INDICATORSFor every competency on the following pages, the behaviourindicators (BIs) in each proficiency level were identified byparticipants in the focus groups as important elements oftheir work. Nevertheless, these are examples. Organizationsare encouraged to use these BIs as a guide when creating orrevising job descriptions and related documentation to ensurethat the BIs reflect the key elements of the work their staffundertake.8As described by Juha Mikkonen and Dennis Raphael in Social Determinants of Health: The Canadian Facts (Toronto: York University, 2010). Available atwww.thecanadianfacts.org.9As described by Charlotte Reading and Fred Wien in Health Inequalities and Social Determinants of Aboriginal Peoples’ Health (Prince George: National CollaboratingCentre for Aboriginal Health, 2009). Available at www.nccah-ccnsa.ca/en/publications.aspx.© Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, 2015 Competencies for the Youth Substance Use Prevention Workforce


Prevention Workforce Competencies ReportCOMPETENCIES WITH DESCRIPTIONS AND SAMPLE BEHAVIOUR INDICATORSCHILD AND YOUTH DEVELOPMENT9CHILD AND YOUTH DEVELOPMENT: Applying knowledge of child and adolescent development that takes into account social, physiological,psychological, neurological, emotional, intellectual and cultural factors in working with colleagues, youth, their families and the community.1 = Introductory 2 = Developing 3 = Intermediate 4 = Advanced• Describes the influence ofage and gender on youthsubstance use• Explains how familycircumstances, likethose identified as socialdeterminants of health,influence the choices youthmake about substance use andother risk-taking behaviours• Explains how family rolemodelling,support, supervisionand monitoring can helpprevent youth substance use• Explains the range ofbehaviours and skills that caneither lead youth to harmfulrisk-taking behaviours orprotect them against harms,including those resulting fromsubstance use• Describes how and whenvarious aspects of sexualdevelopment occur• Describes the impact traumaand syndromes like FASD andADHD can have on child andyouth development• Explains evidence-basedinformation on physiologicaldevelopment as it applies toadolescents• Explains adolescent braindevelopment in relation toyouth behaviours and choices• Explains adolescentneurological development andthe impact that has on thechoices youth make aboutsubstance use• Uses evidence-based research todispel myths and misinformationabout the effects of substance use• Explains the pervasiveness of aculture of substance use• Assists youth and their families inidentifying both harmful risk-takingbehaviours and healthy alternativesto prevent or reduce harmful risktaking• Identifies a range of methodologiesrelated to reducing harmful risktakingbehaviours• Adapts the delivery of informationand activities to the specificcharacteristics and needs of theintended audience• Applies evidence-based researchon physiological and neurologicaldevelopment when working withyouth• Monitors research and attendsevents to remain current in childand youth development field• Applies understandingof child and adolescentdevelopment, incorporatingthe role of family, peers andculture, when developingyouth substance useprevention activities• Assists youth to developthe life skills and resilienceneeded to respond tosubstance use and otherchallenges they willencounter as they mature• Uses evidence-basedresearch to challengecultural stereotypes whendeveloping youth preventionactivities or working withyouth• Implements culturallysensitivestrategies toreduce substance use• Incorporates advancedknowledge of child andyouth development whendeveloping comprehensive,population-based preventionplans• Remains current on andassesses new informationrelated to preventing youthsubstance use, and guidesstaff to promising websites andinformation• Contributes to or conductsresearch on child and youthdevelopment and substanceuse• Ensures staff are providedwith resources and training toincrease their ability to workwith youth and to understandthe multifaceted factors thatinfluence youth substance useEXAMPLES© Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, 2015 Competencies for the Youth Substance Use Prevention Workforce


Prevention Workforce Competencies ReportCOMPETENCIES WITH DESCRIPTIONS AND SAMPLE BEHAVIOUR INDICATORSHEALTH PROMOTION AND PREVENTION KNOWLEDGE10HEALTH PROMOTION AND PREVENTION KNOWLEDGE: Applying evidence-informed health promotion and prevention practices toaddress both community and individual behaviours and attitudes related to youth substance use.1 = Introductory 2 = Developing 3 = Intermediate 4 = Advanced• Explains best practice modelsand key concepts of substanceuse prevention and healthpromotion• Explains a population publichealth approach to substanceuse• Explains the continuum ofprevention services fromprimary prevention to harmminimization• Describes the socialdeterminants of health and theimpact they can have on youthand potential substance use• Explains important conceptsrelated to the nature and extentof both risk and protectivefactors related to substanceuse• Identifies risk factors thatinfluence youth decisions touse substances• Identifies protective factors thatdecrease the likelihood of youthsubstance use• Describes harm reductionstrategies and key concepts• Focuses on a strength-basedapproach when interacting withyouth and their families• Remains factual andprofessional when discussingattitudes related to use ofsubstances• Explains how gender andcultural differences areaddressed in health promotionand substance use preventioninitiatives and activities• Shares knowledge of protectiveand risk factors for substanceuse• Participates in developingand delivering substanceuse prevention and healthpromotion activities• Applies evidence-informedpractices and practicalknowledge of prevention whenengaging with youth• Celebrates successes andacknowledges good practices• Promotes protective factorsand uses evidence-informedpractices to support andencourage reduction in harmfulrisk-taking behaviours• Monitors research to remaincurrent on general trendsin health promotion andprevention and specific trendsrelated to substance useprevention• Attends workshops andconferences to maintaincurrency in substance useprevention field• Applies knowledge and bestpractices in respecting genderdifferences and culturalconsiderations• Identifies and respondsto prevention and healthpromotion needs by selectingand delivering activitiesappropriate to youth• Provides information andtraining to community-basedpartners• Promotes and providesguidance to staff on usingresiliency models and bestpractice prevention strategiesto help youth succeed• Adapts evidence-informedpractices on youth substanceuse prevention to local cultureand environment• Ensures that initiatives andactivities respect genderdifferences and culturalconsiderations• Contributes to the developmentof public policies related topreventing youth substanceuse• Oversees a range ofprevention-focused initiativesthat are based on bestpractice, address sustainabilityand cultural relevance, andinclude benchmarks forevaluation purposes• Provides opportunities for staffto develop and share theirknowledge on health promotionand substance use prevention,including risk and protectivefactors related to substanceuse• Works with communitypartners to integrate preventionapproaches into initiatives thatdeal with social determinantsof healthEXAMPLES© Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, 2015 Competencies for the Youth Substance Use Prevention Workforce


Prevention Workforce Competencies ReportCOMPETENCIES WITH DESCRIPTIONS AND SAMPLE BEHAVIOUR INDICATORSSUBSTANCES AND SUBSTANCE USE11SUBSTANCES AND SUBSTANCE USE: Knowing the range of substances that might be used, classes of drugs and the effects of thosedrugs, and issues related to withdrawal, and applying that knowledge when working with youth, organizations and communities to preventyouth substance use.1 = Introductory 2 = Developing 3 = Intermediate 4 = Advanced• Identifies, by both their properand street names, substancesthat are often used improperlyor illegally in the community• Explains how and why thesesubstances are used• Describes the physical andpsychological effects ofwithdrawal• Explains the rationale for harmreduction approaches• Explains how mental illnessesor mental health issues andsubstance use can adverselyinteract• Describes the impact thatstigma, trauma, and culturaland historical events can haveon youth with substance useissues• Explains in general terms theimpact that medications andother drugs can have on oneanother• Explains the impact that thesocial determinants of healthcan have on choices youthmake about substance use• Describes ways in whichsubstance use is a populationhealth and public health issue• Describes general classes ofdrugs, the commonalities withineach class, the appeal each canhave for youth, and the specificsigns, symptoms and results of use• Engages with youth and theirfamilies to raise awareness offactors that might contribute toor protect against developingsubstance use• Applies knowledge of concurrentdisorders in working with youth• Applies understanding of theimpact that medications and otherdrugs can have on one anotherwhen working with youth• Applies understanding of theimpact the range of substancescan have on neural and physicaldevelopment of youth• Introduces family members toharm minimization measures likesafely using, storing and disposingof prescription medications• Consults evidence-informedresources to enhance learningabout substance use• Updates preventionknowledge base withlatest developments in thesubstance use preventionfield• Shares knowledge ofdevelopments in thesubstance use preventionfield with staff• Applies understanding ofboth substance use andconcurrent disorders whenworking with differentcultures and populations• Remains current in thesubstance use field byreviewing, participating inor conducting research,and attending or leadingconferences and workshops• Seizes opportunities toshare key issues andconcerns about trends withcommunity members andorganizations• Translates substance useknowledge effectively tocommunity partners• Supervises and coachesothers in developing theirknowledge of substance useand concurrent disorders• Acts as a catalyst to ensurehealth promotion andsubstance use preventionstrategies reflect emergingtrends and priority issues in thecommunity• Initiates or organizes research,evaluates findings that emergeand recommends relevantpolicy changesEXAMPLES© Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, 2015 Competencies for the Youth Substance Use Prevention Workforce


Prevention Workforce Competencies ReportCOMPETENCIES WITH DESCRIPTIONS AND SAMPLE BEHAVIOUR INDICATORSADVOCACY12ADVOCACY: Working to devise strategies, actions and possible solutions to influence decision makers to implement positive change related topreventing youth substance use, at individual, system, organization, community, provincial and national levels.1 = Introductory 2 = Developing 3 = Intermediate 4 = Advanced• Explains who stakeholders,partners and collaboratorsare for local advocacy effortsrelated to preventing youthsubstance use• Works with interdisciplinarycolleagues to advocate forresources and initiatives toprevent youth substance use• Advocates for local activitiesand initiatives for individualyouth and their families• Works with youth and youthgroups to advocate forresources and initiativesaccessible to youth• Describes population healthand the impact of healthypublic policy• Advocates for culturallysensitive and relevantcommunity youth substanceuse prevention initiatives andactivities• Works with school staff andboards to implement evidencebasedactions when applyingschool-based substance usepolicies• Works with communitypartners to advocate foreffective evidence-based actionthroughout the community todiscourage youth substanceuse• Engages with communitygroups to address the rangeof factors that research hasshown are correlated to orcauses of substance use• Works with organizations andcommunities to build readinessfor policy-level change• Mobilizes communitychampions to advocatefor policy action to reducesubstance use harms in thecommunity• Works with schools andschool boards to develop andimplement evidence-basedsubstance use policies• Supports and mentors youthadvocacy when developingbest practices in healthpromotion and substance useprevention in the community• Builds support for communityinitiatives that facilitate crisisresolution for youth who mightotherwise turn to substanceuse• Works to influence allocationdecisions and activities aimedat youth substance useprevention• Works with communitycoalitions to advocate forpublic policy• Mobilizes community toestablish youth substanceuse prevention activities andother initiatives that positivelyinfluence the well-being ofyouth• Initiates and supportsestablishment of advocacyguidelines and best practiceapproaches both withinthe organization and at thecommunity and provincial levels• Works with all orders ofgovernment to implementhealthy public policy• Works to lessen healthinequities by advocating formeasures to improve socialdeterminants of health• Meets with leaders ofcommunity organizationsto discuss and implementstrategies to lessen the risks foryouth substance useEXAMPLES• Establishes and maintainsrelationships with mediarepresentatives• Promotes youth substance useprevention initiatives to a widegroup of policy and decisionmakers• Works at the provincial andnational levels, as appropriate,to advocate for increasedinitiatives and activities, andassociated funding© Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, 2015 Competencies for the Youth Substance Use Prevention Workforce


Prevention Workforce Competencies ReportCOMPETENCIES WITH DESCRIPTIONS AND SAMPLE BEHAVIOUR INDICATORSBUILDING AND SUSTAINING RELATIONSHIPS13BUILDING AND SUSTAINING RELATIONSHIPS: Developing and maintaining ongoing reciprocal relationships with community members andother stakeholders, including youth and their families. This competency includes interpersonal, facilitation and conflict management skills.1 = Introductory 2 = Developing 3 = Intermediate 4 = Advanced• Follows appropriate protocolsfor seeking assistance whenfacing conflict in the workplace• Explains the principles andtechniques of active listening• Explains basic principles ofgroup facilitation and of thetools used in group facilitation• Communicates (words, bodylanguage and tone of voice) ina helpful and culturally sensitiveway, building trust and treatingcommunity groups, otherprofessions, youth and theirfamilies fairly and ethically andas valued allies• Displays empathy and developspositive rapport with youth andtheir families, discussing theirinterests, issues and activities— not just substance use• Manages own emotions andmaintains composure underchallenging circumstances• Follows through oncommitments made with youthand their families• Respects the confidentiality ofthe interactions with youth andtheir families• Remains current on youthculture, language and trends inthe community• Explains trends in youthsubstance use• Recognizes and mediates orresolves conflicts with or betweenothers, and seeks assistance frommore experienced colleagues orsupervisor, as needed• Facilitates effectively, using a rangeof proven techniques in routinesituations• Identifies and develops contactswithin potential allied organizationsand interdisciplinary groups• Tailors communication to theaudience, adapting style, languagepreference, content and format asappropriate• Reads body language, emotionalcues and verbal and non-verbalcues accurately, and adjustscommunication approachaccordingly• Incorporates an integratedapproach in reaching out to youthto prevent substance use• Uses a range of evidence-basedand evidence-informed means todiscuss key issues with youth andfamilies and assist them in movingtheir relationship forward• Helps youth and families todevelop insight into themselvesand their relationships with others• Engages family members at anearly stage on healthy life choicesand decision making• Recognizes conflict betweenothers and supports othersin dealing with it effectivelyand appropriately• Explores shared needs andcommon areas of interestamong identified networks• Conveys information withcreativity, cultural sensitivity,insight and persuasion whenneeded• Transfers and assimilatesknowledge effectively andefficiently• Engages with youth whomay face multiple orcomplex challenges such ascrisis situations or isolationdue to language or culture• Periodically conducts visitswith youth, their families andthe community to maintaincurrency with their issues• Prepares youth forsuccess through individualcounselling or groupworkshops• Assists the community,including family members,in understanding, engagingwith and supporting youth• Consults with staff andsupervisor concerningactivities for individual andfamilies• Supervises and mentors othersto ensure best facilitationpractices• Communicates complex issuesclearly and credibly with widelyvaried audiences• Adeptly addresses difficult,on-the-spot questions from,for example, officials, interestgroups or media• Coaches staff on crisisintervention or difficult cases• Addresses particularlychallenging conflicts betweenorganizations and individuals• Consults with staff tounderstand changing trendsand influences in youth culture• Participates in the communityto increase networkingopportunitiesEXAMPLEScontinued on next page© Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, 2015 Competencies for the Youth Substance Use Prevention Workforce


Prevention Workforce Competencies ReportCOMPETENCIES WITH DESCRIPTIONS AND SAMPLE BEHAVIOUR INDICATORSBUILDING AND SUSTAINING RELATIONSHIPS141 = Introductory 2 = Developing 3 = Intermediate 4 = Advanced• Presents her- or himself ina manner that promotesapproachability, professionalismand credibility• Engages and creates rapportwith other outreach workers inthe community• Engages and creates rapportwith youth and their familiesencountered during outreachefforts• Maintains contact withrepresentatives fromcommunity services• Interviews youth (individually, infamilies or in groups) to assesstheir situations and determinewhat activities are required tomeet their needs• Organizes support to assistthe community, including familymembers, in understanding,engaging with and supportingyouth• Assists youth with accessingcommunity resources forservices such as building lifeskills, job placement, debtcounselling, legal aid, housing,medical treatment and financialassistance• Solicits and responds to youthand family feedback about thesuccess of outreach efforts• Facilitates in complex andchallenging situations• Establishes credibility byconnecting with key outreachleaders in the communityEXAMPLES© Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, 2015 Competencies for the Youth Substance Use Prevention Workforce


Prevention Workforce Competencies ReportCOMPETENCIES WITH DESCRIPTIONS AND SAMPLE BEHAVIOUR INDICATORSCOMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT AND PARTNERSHIP BUILDING15COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT AND PARTNERSHIP BUILDING: Networking and engaging to build ongoing collaborative partnerships withcommunity organizations to enhance community well-being and offer initiatives to prevent youth substance use.1 = Introductory 2 = Developing 3 = Intermediate 4 = Advanced• Engages collaboratively andin a culturally sensitive fashionto establish relationships withcommunity members andcommunity stakeholders• Demonstrates familiaritywith local agencies andorganizations that deal withyouth substance use andrelated issues• Supports staff with schedulingmeetings and maintainingnetworks with communityorganizations• Accompanies senior staff inattending community eventsand meeting members of thecommunity• Provides referrals to agenciesand organizations for youthsubstance use and relatedissues• Explains the benefits of workingwith community partnersfor population-level impacts(healthy communities, publicpolicy advocacy, action on thesocial determinants of health)• Professionally represents theorganization within designatedauthority and decision-makingpower• Explains the nature and levelsof public participation andyouth engagement• Supports and engages withcommunity organizations whoseefforts focus on improving socialdeterminants of health• Supports and promotescommunity participation in decisionmaking and community ownershipof constructive change aimed ataddressing youth substance useprevention• Maintains relationships withschools and other organizationsin the community to identify andremedy unmet needs and to planand implement complementaryprevention activities for youthwithout duplication of efforts• Participates in interagencycommittees and professionalassociations to collaborativelyachieve prevention and healthpromotion goals• Engages with youth in thecommunity by accessing themthrough a broad range of venuesand activities• Consults with family, schoolpersonnel, communityrepresentatives and youth toidentify behaviours related tosubstance use• Delivers presentations andinteractive workshops, as part of acomprehensive prevention strategyto build capacity to respondeffectively to issues related topreventing substance use• Encourages and maintainssupport for communityinvolvement in developingand delivering initiatives andactivities to prevent youthsubstance use• Collaborates withcommunity members inplanning, developing,implementing and evaluatingculturally sensitive initiativesand activities• Creates a forum throughwhich youth can expresstheir wants and needsrelated to communityprevention initiatives• Encourages and evaluateslevels of teacher andyouth engagement insubstance use preventionactivities in schools, makingadjustments as requiredto maintain continuousengagement• Encourages and evaluatesthe level of youth and familyengagement in communityprevention initiatives, makingadjustments as requiredto maintain continuousengagement• Reviews potential initiativesand partnerships to ensurethey are culturally relevant toyouth in the community• Takes a leadership role inshaping an organizationalvision for both collaborative,population-level practices andservice delivery systems thatreflect community engagementbest practices and youthengagement principles• Establishes and maintainsprocesses to encouragecollaboration and partnerships• Facilitates and fosters activecommunication, collaborationand linkages among keystakeholders, within andoutside the community, whoshape policy and program orinitiative design• Strengthens the communityinfrastructure to facilitatedelivering activities andinitiatives aimed at preventingand reducing youth substanceuseEXAMPLES• Engages with policy makersin a range of fields, includinghealth, education and policing,to implement coordinatedpolicies related to preventingaccess to substances• Builds collaborative workingrelationships with fundingpartners, mentors andother community partnersto develop, implement andevaluate initiatives and activitiesthat meet the needs of youthcontinued on next page© Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, 2015 Competencies for the Youth Substance Use Prevention Workforce


Prevention Workforce Competencies ReportBEHAVIOUR INDICATORS BY LEVEL OF PROFICIENCYCOMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT AND PARTNERSHIP BUILDING161 = Introductory 2 = Developing 3 = Intermediate 4 = Advanced• Identifies and reviews sourcesof community health statusinformation• Distributes materials andinformation on resourcesavailable for substance useprevention, answers questionsand encourages follow-up toinitial discussions• Identifies potential outreachvenues and facilities fortargeted audience• Establishes and maintainsrelationships andcommunication networks withgovernment agencies, nongovernmentand not-for-profitorganizations, and communitygroups to work strategicallyand collaboratively to addresspopulation-level healthinequities• Supports community resiliencywith culturally sensitiveand informed activities andinitiatives• Assesses the communityto identify potential newenvironments and venues foroutreach efforts• Works with communitypartners in taking public-policyand community-level actionsto decrease the supply ofsubstances available to youth• Supports and promotescommunity involvement andchampioning of constructivecommunity-level change aimedat reducing youth substanceuse and related issues• Works with partners to monitorcommunity health status andidentify indicators of communityrisk and resiliency• Collaborates with otherorganizations in the communityto provide feedback to ensurethat prevention activities linkwell between organizations andare consistent with evidencebasedor evidence-informedbest practices• Builds collaborativerelationships to increaseinvestments in population-levelhealth promotion• Manages partnerships toensure services are deliveredcooperatively and are cohesive,coherent and comprehensive• Facilitates strategic stakeholderengagement for targetedpolicy- and community-levelchange• Strengthens the community’sreadiness to take collaborativeaction on public policyinitiatives that promotecommunity health and reducethe risk of substance use• Works strategically withcommunity organizationswhose efforts focus onimproving the socialdeterminants of health• Mobilizes multi-disciplinaryteams, community-basedresources, spiritual andcommunity leaders, andother related professionals asrequired• Initiates or conducts researchand collaborates with othersto identify unmet needs andways of meeting those needsthrough more comprehensiveoutreach efforts• Leads or participates incommunity efforts to developand implement outreachinitiatives that build oncommunity strengths andaddress community needsEXAMPLES© Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, 2015 Competencies for the Youth Substance Use Prevention Workforce


Prevention Workforce Competencies ReportBEHAVIOUR INDICATORS BY LEVEL OF PROFICIENCYCOMPREHENSIVE PLANNING, IMPLEMENTATION AND EVALUATION17COMPREHENSIVE PLANNING, IMPLEMENTATION AND EVALUATION: Analyzing the local environment to identify youth substance useprevention initiative, program and policy needs and then developing, adapting, implementing, monitoring and evaluating initiatives, programs,activities and policies to address those needs.1 = Introductory 2 = Developing 3 = Intermediate 4 = Advanced• Describes the existing networkof community youth substanceuse prevention activities,initiatives and policies• Explains substance useprevention and its role in overallhealth promotion planning• Provides facilitative andother support when planningdevelopment, implementationand evaluation of activities,initiatives and policies• Identifies potential needs forprevention initiatives usingmultiple sources, includingpopulation health data andcommunity conversations• Explains the need for initiatives,activities and policies to beculturally sensitive• Assists with informationgathering by conductingresearch on specific topics• Provides feedback on existingyouth substance use preventioninitiatives, activities and policies,including how they could beimproved• Assists in implementing new andmodifying existing initiatives andpolicies that address the needs ofthe community• Demonstrates a basicunderstanding of initiative (program)evaluation models, procedures,protocols and standards• Facilitates opportunities for youthto identify prevention initiative andpolicy needs• Interviews a wide range ofcommunity members to identifyfactors related to youth substanceuse• Examines data on risk andprotective factors as they arerelevant to community health• Engages with schools and othercommunity agencies to enhancetheir policies on substance use• Explains the phases of needsassessment, initiative (program)development, implementation andevaluation• Explains the goals and outputsfor each phase, and the activitieslikely to be conducted as part ofeach phase, as they are relevant toprevention work• Employs establishedresearch techniques toassess the health andsocial needs of the targetpopulation• Engages with keystakeholders to identifyrelevant objectives and toplan, develop and implementcorresponding initiatives andpolicies• Assists in the developmentof a range of substance useactivities, often as part of amulti-disciplinary team• Verifies that culturallysensitive approaches areincorporated in all preventionand outreach efforts• Identifies and mobilizeskey resources required todevelop, implement andevaluate the initiative orpolicy• Engages youth directly in thedesign of initiatives, activitiesand policies, encouragingcontributions to shape theapproach, terminology used,structure, duration, etc.• Develops initiatives andpolicies that are sensitive togender and culture, and aregeographically suitable• Demonstrates formalanalytic skills required tofacilitate program evaluation• Collaborates with andsometimes leads multidisciplinaryteams in thecommunity to assess needsand then design, implementand evaluate complex andsensitive customized initiatives• Develops initiative and policydocuments in accordance withresearch-based evidence andstandards• Identifies and cultivatespotential funding sources forboth general and specificprevention initiative and policyneeds• Collaborates and partners withothers to maximize in-kindcontributions to efforts relatedto planning, implementationand evaluation of policies andinitiativesEXAMPLES• Successfully manages fundsand other resources• Partners with social servicesand community agenciesto coordinate delivery ofprevention initiatives andactivities• Regularly meets with staffto obtain updates on theeffectiveness of their work• Evaluates or oversees theevaluation of the efficacy ofinitiatives and policies• Oversees staff and volunteersin implementing preventioninitiatives, activities and policiescontinued on next page© Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, 2015 Competencies for the Youth Substance Use Prevention Workforce


Prevention Workforce Competencies ReportBEHAVIOUR INDICATORS BY LEVEL OF PROFICIENCYCOMPREHENSIVE PLANNING, IMPLEMENTATION AND EVALUATION181 = Introductory 2 = Developing 3 = Intermediate 4 = Advanced• Delivers evidence-informedactivities in a range of outreachenvironments and venues foryouth at risk for substance use• Develops data-collection toolsfor evaluation purposes andoversees or gathers informationon developing trends in thesubstance use prevention field• Monitors initiatives, programsand policies to ensure longtermsustainability of theobjectives• Works with communityorganizations, includingschools, to assist them toincorporate best practicesin substance use preventionwithin their policies andprocedures• Mentors less experiencedstaff and provides morein-depth understanding ofwhat is involved in the cycle ofplanning, implementation andevaluation• Advocates for health policy withorganizations, communities andall levels of government• Participates in designingevaluations of outreach efforts,ensuring that youth feedback isfeatured• Participates in evaluatingoutreach activities, includingthose provided by one’s ownorganization and by others inthe community• Oversees and coaches othersinvolved in needs assessmentand initiative and policydevelopment, implementationand evaluation• Creatively applies newlearning to reflect evidenceinformedapproaches toneeds assessment andprogram (initiative) and policydevelopment, implementationand evaluation• Oversees the allocation ofresources for substance useprevention services• Initiates, conducts or reviewsevaluations of outreachactivities and initiatives andreferral outcomes and,when appropriate, providesfeedback to organizations andprofessionalsEXAMPLES© Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, 2015 Competencies for the Youth Substance Use Prevention Workforce


Prevention Workforce Competencies ReportBEHAVIOUR INDICATORS BY LEVEL OF PROFICIENCYEARLY AND BRIEF INTERVENTION, HARM MINIMIZATION AND REFERRAL19EARLY AND BRIEF INTERVENTION, HARM MINIMIZATION AND REFERRAL: Engaging with youth to assess the situation and identify thebest ways to maximize resiliency and minimize harms to the individual and the community that are caused by youth substance use.1 = Introductory 2 = Developing 3 = Intermediate 4 = Advanced• Maintains early intervention filesand systems, and coordinatesor distributes information asrequested by senior staff• Develops or maintains aninventory or database ofresources and supportsavailable for youth• Explains how socialdeterminants of health link toyouth substance use• Explains the relationshipbetween mental health issuesand youth substance use• Describes the signs andsymptoms of youth involved insubstance use and the rangeof both risk and protectivefactors• Explains the differencesbetween primary, secondaryand tertiary prevention• Explains the key concepts ofabstinence and harm reductionand their relation to youthsubstance use prevention work• Describes the continuumof services from healthenhancement to treatment andrecovery• Provides information or refersindividuals to appropriatepublic or private agenciesor community services forassistance• Uses evidence-based tools toconduct brief assessments• Develops plan with youth• Implements tertiary preventionmethods (minimizing harms)for youth who are usingsubstances• Liaises with treatment serviceproviders, as necessary, tosupport youth• Documents all aspects ofservice and referrals providedand ensures files are completeand coherent• Refers youth to relevantcommunity resources andappropriate service providersbased on each youth’s uniqueneeds and culture• Conducts on-going reviewsof assessment approachesand tools, and makesrecommendations for adoptionof best practices• Monitors and evaluates theresults of assessments anddelivers training and guidanceto assessors, as required• Assists staff in learning abouthow social determinants ofhealth and concurrent disorderscan impact or influencesubstance use behaviours• Facilitates the development ofpeer support networks to helpyouth respond to substanceuse challenges they encounter• Facilitates coordination of multidisciplinaryactivities• Collaborates with andsometimes leads a range ofcommunity organizations tocoordinate referrals betweenagencies• Monitors and evaluates casefiles and systems to ensurethey are complete and tofacilitate referrals and multidisciplinaryservice delivery• Works with other agencies toensure processes are in placeto provide multi-disciplinaryand seamless activity deliverythat is both culturally andgeographically appropriateEXAMPLES© Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, 2015 Competencies for the Youth Substance Use Prevention Workforce


Prevention Workforce Competencies ReportBEHAVIOUR INDICATORS BY LEVEL OF PROFICIENCYMEDIA SAVVY20MEDIA SAVVY: Using a full range of social and business media to reach youth, communities and relevant organizations with informationrelated to youth substance use prevention and community health efforts.1 = Introductory 2 = Developing 3 = Intermediate 4 = Advanced• Explains the influence of mediaas a contributor to ideas,experiences, knowledge andperceptions of youth about theacceptability of substance use• Describes the importanceof social media as a tool formaximizing the reach andimpact of substance useprevention communication• Explains which social mediaplatforms are used most oftenby local youth• Summarizes organizationalpolicies related to havingaccess to and using socialmedia• Accesses and interactswith youth on establishedand emerging social mediaplatforms• Monitors and updates websitewith relevant social mediacontent• Increases youth awarenessof privacy issues whileencouraging them to sharetheir stories, highlight theirsuccesses and reach out totheir peers through socialmedia• Describes the benefits ofprevention activities in nonconventionalvenues, and ofusing social media and newtechnologies to highlight theseefforts• Engages with youth to discusshow they are depicted in themedia• Explores with youth thebenefits, short- and long-termdisadvantages, and possiblerepercussions of sharing theirstories through social media• Challenges and opposes thedepiction of youth engaging insubstance use in entertainmentmedia and advertising• Provides examples of howmedia can be used to conveyto youth positive and negativemessages related to substanceuse• When engaging with youthabout social media and theInternet, emphasizes the valueof assessing the validity andcredibility of any informationthey access online• Visits sites and accessessocial media platforms usedmost often by local youth tolearn about their concerns andissues• Uses social media to enableyouth to learn about thepotential for exposure tocues and triggers related tosubstance use• Facilitates community’s andfamilies’ understanding of thepotential for both positive andnegative effects of social mediause among youth• Develops and sharesapproaches designed toengage youth to develop theirown media message basedon issues of interest andimportance to them• Develops and shares materials,apps, etc. to help youth assessthe credibility of informationthey access online• Develops positive and culturallyrelevant content for mediaplatforms when promotinghealthy behaviours• Develops key messages for useon social media• Advocates for activities thateducate youth on the influenceof media messaging onsubstance use• Establishes and maintainsorganizational policy on useof and access to the media,including social media• Creates forums with otheragencies to encourage criticalthinking about effective use ofmedia to convey constructivemessages to youth• Collaborates with communitypartners to share or leveragemedia-related resources anddevelop positive and appealingpromotional materials for youthusing a variety of mediaEXAMPLES© Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, 2015 Competencies for the Youth Substance Use Prevention Workforce


Prevention Workforce Competencies ReportBEHAVIOUR INDICATORS BY LEVEL OF PROFICIENCYPERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT21PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT: The process of continually developing and improving skills and knowledge to staycurrent on developments and best practices related to preventing youth substance use. Personal and professional development also coversongoing engagement in self-care practices both within and outside the work environment.1 = Introductory 2 = Developing 3 = Intermediate 4 = Advanced• Researches developments andchanges related to substanceuse in the community, such as“street names” for substancesand emerging trends insubstances being used• Shares knowledge aboutyouth substance use in thecommunity with colleagues• Works, with assistance fromsenior staff, to adapt skills, asnecessary, for working withinthe cultural context of thecommunity• Complies with relevantlegislation, ethical standardsand rules of professionalconduct• Articulates career goals andplans for development tosupervisor• Implements steps to reachgoals based on performancefeedback• Explains the relationshipbetween overwork, inadequateself-care and burnout• Sets personal and professionalboundaries and limits toprevent or mitigate compassionfatigue, vicarious trauma andburnout• Stays current and engaged indevelopments in the preventionfield through independent review ofresearch• Assesses career in relation toperformance feedback• Participates in and advocatesfor appropriate supervision fromsuperiors• Seeks opportunities to learn newskills through various venues• Seeks out work challenges andtakes other steps, as required, tomaintain enthusiasm• Takes independent action toimprove in areas of personal andprofessional weakness• Proactively engages in positivehealth behaviours (e.g., work–lifebalance, proper nutrition and goodphysical health habits)• Builds informal support system forself at work• Self-assesses and seeks feedbackfrom others to identify skills andknowledge gaps• Closes knowledge and skills gapsthrough self-study, continuingeducation and coaching, and byseeking assistance or advice• Engages in reciprocallearning experiences withcolleagues and supervisors• Maintains a network ofprofessional relationships• Maintains professionalcredentialing andcertification on own initiativeand in conjunction withorganization’s resources,where available• Leverages professionalrelationships to stay currentin substance use preventiontrends and best andpromising practices• Builds skills necessary forworking within the culturalcontext of the community• Recommends appropriateperformance improvementmeasures to managers andteam leads• Models ethical behaviourand facilitates discussionsof ethics-related situationswith colleagues to exploreconsiderations and potentialsolutions for ethicaldilemmas• Monitors the workenvironment to guardagainst duplication ofactivities and unnecessary,inadequate or inappropriateactivities• Ensures establishment of,compliance with and trainingon legal standards, ethicalstandards and rules ofprofessional conduct• Ensures training plans displaylinkages between individual andorganizational goals• Reviews operational plans toensure goals can be achievedwithout jeopardizing staff selfcare• Establishes and implementspolicies mandatingorganizational responsibility toallow and encourage self-careefforts of all staff at all levels• Conducts appropriatesupervisory sessions with staffand ensures that both teamand individual work plans areachievable without sacrificinggood self-careEXAMPLES• Implements self-careassessments and selfmonitoringprograms• Demonstrates flexibility andfairness in supporting theadjustment of work demandsfor employees who maybe experiencing personalchallenges• Encourages staff to seek outboth personal and professionaldevelopment opportunitiescontinued on next page© Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, 2015 Competencies for the Youth Substance Use Prevention Workforce


Prevention Workforce Competencies ReportBEHAVIOUR INDICATORS BY LEVEL OF PROFICIENCYPERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT221 = Introductory 2 = Developing 3 = Intermediate 4 = Advanced• Creates a healthy work spacefor self and takes responsibilityfor maintaining reasonable workhours and addressing overworkconcerns with supervisor• Applies new knowledge, skillsand lessons learned to one’sjob in a timely manner• Develops informal supportsystems and social networks toassist self and peers in positiveself-care• Practices self-care andrefers others experiencingcompassion fatigue, vicarioustrauma or burnout toappropriate resources• Creates opportunities to sharebest and promising practicesand emerging trends withothers inside the organization• Actively contributes to buildinga learning culture, encouraginglearning and knowledgesharing, and advocating forprofessional developmentactivities• Strategically undertakes andencourages learning related tofuture operational needs• Uses organizational changes asopportunities to develop newskills and increase knowledgein self and others• Promotes, creates and sustainsknowledge sharing and alearning culture within theorganizationEXAMPLES© Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, 2015 Competencies for the Youth Substance Use Prevention Workforce


Prevention Workforce Competencies ReportBEHAVIOUR INDICATORS BY LEVEL OF PROFICIENCYTEAMWORK AND LEADERSHIP23TEAMWORK AND LEADERSHIP: Displaying the skills, knowledge, attitudes and flexibility required to act as a team member, mentor orleader when engaging with youth, colleagues and other stakeholders throughout the community.1 = Introductory 2 = Developing 3 = Intermediate 4 = Advanced• Assesses work priorities forself and seeks clarification asneeded• Adheres to set timelines• Willingly shares the workloadof other team members andassists them• Coordinates own work withthat of others• Independently initiates andconducts straightforwardtasks that go beyond routinedemands• Contributes positively bysharing information andlistening, accepting andlearning from others’ points ofview• Maintains a positive outlook,shows flexibility and is open tonew approaches and ideas• Supports and embracesdiversity• Supports team decisions• Engages in team-buildingefforts• Solicits ideas and opinions fromothers to help form specificdecisions or plans• Works with others to set and thenachieve goals and expectations• Ensures that those involved havethe information they need to effectchange• Provides meaningful feedback byaugmenting general observationswith specific examples• Responds constructively toguidance and input from others• Provides opportunities for youthto develop interpersonal andleadership skills to effect change intheir environment• Creates or takes advantage ofopportunities to learn from youthleaders• Coaches youth through theprocess of providing support aspeer leaders• Helps youth develop realistic plansand goals and responds to thoseplans and goals with an open mind• Creates opportunities forsoliciting employee feedback• Produces realistic andachievable work plans,accurately assessing scopeof projects and difficulty oftasks• Establishes priorities for selfand others• Monitors outcomes,activities and use ofresources• Updates employees,management andstakeholders regularly onstatus of projects• Engages with youth,schools, community partnersand other staff to provideopportunities for youth toassume leadership roles• Evaluates the quantity andquality of activities provided• Challenges rules or practicesthat present barriers toindependent action anddecision making• Conveys appreciation ofthe efforts of other teammembers and bringsexcellent performance to theattention of the organization• Exercises sound judgmentin new situations in theabsence of specificguidance• Ensures that tasks requiredof both leaders and teammembers are clear andachievable• Ensures activities are monitoredto track progress, outcomesand optimal use of resources,and adjustments are made, asneeded• Determines and communicatesobjectives, priorities andstrategies that provide directionfor the organization• Ensures that policies,systems and processes areimplemented and reviewedperiodically to supportcontinuous learning, teamworkand improved practices amongstaffEXAMPLES• Assembles teams withcomplementary skills andpromotes the expectation thatthey will learn from one another• Delegates authority to matchresponsibility and holds staffaccountable for agreed-uponcommitments• Provides new information ordata to key decision makers orstakeholders to enhance theirunderstanding and decisionscontinued on next page© Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, 2015 Competencies for the Youth Substance Use Prevention Workforce


Prevention Workforce Competencies ReportBEHAVIOUR INDICATORS BY LEVEL OF PROFICIENCYTEAMWORK AND LEADERSHIP241 = Introductory 2 = Developing 3 = Intermediate 4 = Advanced• Displays effective problemidentification and solution skills,even when responding tocomplex or sensitive issues• Facilitates collaboration andcooperation within and acrossteams to achieve commongoals and eliminate functional,structural and cultural barriers• Demonstrates anunderstanding of the dynamicrelationships, viewpoints andagendas, both acknowledgedand implicit, of key players andstakeholders• Values, recognizes and rewardsindividual and team successesthrough organizational initiatives• Promotes the sharing ofexpertise and resources• Oversees others deliveringsubstance use preventionactivities• Promotes, supports andenhances a variety of outreachactivities in the community,adhering to evidence-basedand evidence-informedstandards and best practicesEXAMPLES© Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, 2015 Competencies for the Youth Substance Use Prevention Workforce


Prevention Workforce Competencies ReportAPPENDIX: THE STORIES25APPENDIX: THE STORIESParticipants in the preliminary focus groups of frontline staffprovided narratives that illustrated their prevention efforts withyouth. Some of these are true stories about particular youth(names have been changed) and others amalgamate storiesabout several youth.Note that these stories are in the words ofthe focus groups and have been edited byCCSA only for grammar, sentence structureand continuity.The Power of a Candid Relationship, Time andPatienceJackson met a young Aboriginal woman, Layla, when shewas 11 years old. She was already smoking and drinkingand having a tremendous amount of trouble at school. Thecounsellors at school were unable to help her. Jackson, aformer addict who had served time in prison, had given talksat the school about substance abuse, and he had been candidabout his background. He presented jointly with the RCMP toteach the kids about the reality of the criminal justice systemand that the consequences of drug use can involve contactwith the criminal justice system. He says being in recovery hasbeen one of the most important aspects of his ability to buildrapport with the kids.The kids attending Jackson’s presentations learn aboutJackson and see his mug shots, which opens the door toconversation. In the process of that conversation, he builds alevel of trust. Jackson is able to say he’s been there (addictedto drugs and in jail) and tells them the truth about what canhappen when they use substances. Jackson believes thattelling kids not to do drugs might make them more likely todo so. He also believes that a one-time effort (presentationor intervention) will have no lasting effects; if you build arelationship and speak one-on-one over time, there will belasting effects.Layla wanted to talk with Jackson because she could relateto various aspects of his story. At 13, she became pregnant;she told people about the pregnancy seven months afterconception. She birthed the child and went back to grade 8.The child went to a familial setting and was close to her. Shewent through a time when she needed to be close to the fatherand remained in tremendous trouble in school.When Layla entered high school, her level of substanceabuse escalated. When things grew very bad, she went toJackson with her family members, saying she’d decided togo into treatment. Jackson and her family connected her withthe appropriate services, which included the youth advisorycommittee (many young people). She changed the peopleshe was hanging out with and improved her life significantly.The health promotion approach and peer support werecrucial to her success. She was also connected to an Elderwho helped her gain insight and she became more involvedwith and committed to her cultural beliefs.Layla turned a corner. She now has a loving, close relationshipwith her child. She finished high school and sits on the youthadvisory council that Jackson runs, where she provides peerto-peersupport. She went from using substances to leadingconversations about not using substances. The opportunityto be a respected member of the community and to play aleadership role helped to focus her efforts, as did the Elderwho helped her connect with her heritage and the culture thathelped to ground her.The Family as a SystemCaitlin, who worked as a school counsellor in Northern Canadaat the time, told this story. She believes it typifies many of thedrug and alcohol abuse issues she saw there.Rosie, a high-school student, was caught using drugs aroundthe school. Her parents approached Caitlin and asked her tohelp them. When Caitlin asked them where they thought theirdaughter got the hash, cannabis, cigarettes and alcohol shewas using, they replied that they gave the substances to herbecause she asked for them.This was not unusual. Many of the youth Caitlin workedwith were forced into supplying drugs to their parents orgrandparents or felt forced to do so, and vice versa. The factthat some community leaders were well-known drug userscomplicated the situation; Caitlin thought it probably allowedfamily members to think that substance use is acceptable.Caitlin talks a lot about power and choices and looking atindividual power to make one’s own decisions. Caitlin providessessions to everyone (youth and parents) and these meetingsare based on trust. She believes that if trust is established,youth can reach the stage where they can be honest withparents about how their parents’ drug use affects them andhow their parents’ drug use compares to their own. She saysthat if you think you can do anything in isolation, you’re foolingyourself and you won’t get anywhere.© Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, 2015 Competencies for the Youth Substance Use Prevention Workforce


Prevention Workforce Competencies ReportAPPENDIX: THE STORIES26Rosie’s parents told Caitlin that they felt they couldn’t say noto her because she would threaten them with committingsuicide. Caitlin worked a lot with Rosie, her parents and herbrother, and her efforts were successful. Rosie stopped herdrug use and her father cut down drastically. Both Rosie andher younger brother are doing extremely well. Both finishedhigh school: one is in college and the other is working for thegovernment. Caitlin says they’re both smoking cigarettes andshe thinks it’s possible that they may be using substances but,in her opinion, neither is abusing substances.Caitlin believes that a key factor contributing to Rosie’ssuccess and the success of others she knows is helpingyouth realize they have power and control over their decisions.She also thinks that her being clear about the ground rulesin her sessions with youth and parents helps people to becomfortable and forthcoming because they know there will beno surprises.The Power of Youth-to-Youth ApproachesWhile working in the treatment world, Alec began to examinethe issue of serious marijuana use. He began by speaking toyouth in schools to find out what was of interest to youth whowere involved with or affected by marijuana use. Alec quicklyrealized that the solution was a harm reduction approachthat began by acknowledging the issues related to frequentmarijuana use by youth.To tailor a program effectively for the local population, the youthAlec worked with were invited to identify what they wanted tolearn in a program designed to deal with the issues related toserious marijuana use. Alec quickly realized that decreasingserious marijuana use by youth did not involve challengingtheir opinions; rather, it involved reducing risk and applyinginformation surrounding its use.As Alec and his colleagues moved forward in their research,the principal of the school allowed two students who hadbeen expelled for selling marijuana, thereby bringing harm toother students, to participate. These former dealers becameadvocates, which Alec attributes to the non-threateningleadership and youth engagement.One of the outcomes that Alec’s team wanted to establish waswhat the next steps should be. From a prevention perspective,the youth were asked: what do you want to see and how doyou want to move forward and prevent future harm? There wasan outreach liaison component in that Alec’s team discoveredwhat youth wanted to move forward in their lives and to learnabout services and resources available for them.Alec and his youth advocates convened a group of 12 youngpeople in high school who were considered problematic —either suspended or expelled dealers with a history of seriousmarijuana use — as peer advocates. Guided by what thisgroup had to say about meaningful interaction and messages,they developed eight sessions that were open to interestedyouth in the school. These interactive sessions were designedto encourage dialogue and it was hoped that the youthwould open up.The objectives of these sessions were to promote goodbehaviour, and problem-solving and decision-making skills,and to switch bad behaviours to good ones. The BehaviouralCompetencies were very important to the service providerestablishing a climate of receptivity; that is, the guidance theyprovide enabled Alec to establish an environment where youthwere receptive. Everyone agreed that a connection is numberone! The ability to have rapport with the kids is paramount. Ifyou lack such skills, you can’t accomplish much.The Power of Holistic and Youth-to-YouthApproachesTen years ago in our community, organizations were prettymuch stand-alone. Since then, the Health and WellnessCentre and the Sports and Recreation Association haveworked together to promote a drug-free lifestyle by sharingresources to fund activities for the kids. This work was initiatedby one woman who worked with youth dealing with theintergenerational effects of residential schools. The parents ofthese youth couldn’t convey love to them because they weretoo desensitized by their experiences in residential schools.This situation inspired the organizations to work together.The service providers acknowledged that there are somecommunity-building advantages in small areas like ours,because people know their community and that makesorganizing easier. However, community building in big cities ispossible by forging small communities.Integrating services is very important. By coordinating withothers, we avoid having two organizations offering the sameservices to one youth. Further, the holistic approach is goodbecause there are intersections (sports, drug-free lifestyle,etc.) that afford opportunities for service providers to bemultifaceted. For instance, a service provider can teach youthboth sports and life skills simultaneously. This allows the youthand service providers to become, and stay, close. It ensuresthat youth feel safe coming to us with any problems andsharing their experiences. In turn, we are expected to act asrole models and leaders.© Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, 2015 Competencies for the Youth Substance Use Prevention Workforce


Prevention Workforce Competencies ReportAPPENDIX: THE STORIES27Being a role model and leader is important to young peoplein the community. It also is a powerful incentive for potentialservice providers, who must live a drug-free lifestyle for at leasttwo years prior to working with these youth. The idea of beinga leader is part of the success of the community’s approach,as it affords the youth the opportunity to look up to leadersand become leaders themselves.The Impact of Sudden, Imposed ChangesThe Boys and Girls Club in our community was once veryyouth driven and it hosted dances and club nights. At first,we were relaxed about substance use because we figured theyouth were in a safe environment at the organization’s events.When the organization imposed a zero-tolerance policy onsubstance use, 85% of youth stopped showing up and manyof those who did show up had consumed substances.In trying to understand the failure of the dances and clubnights, we learned that one major issue was that policies andprocedures require youth input, and not just brief input, butcontinuing engagement. The major lesson learned was thatforcing a radical shift in position caused difficulty and was noteffective. It is all relationship-based; it is a matter of engagingwith these people and slowly integrating messages and lessonsdemonstrating the value of living alcohol- and drug-free lives.Prevention workers must be slow to teach and never judge.The Benefits of Youth OwnershipWe tried to connect with a population of youth by offering agroup called Drug Abuse Group. Not many youth showed up,so we thought we would change the group name to somethingmore positive. Once the name was changed to somethingmore appropriate, we had a better turn out. We learnt thatif you don’t have the right language, youth won’t show up.Despite having a much better turn out, we thought we couldconnect with still more youth.We decided that we needed to develop a program. Weapproached a group of at-risk youth (drug users) and askedthem if they would help us develop a program for their friends.They agreed and, as a result, our program has the terminology,viewpoints and ownership of youth. Our program is currentlya huge success and, because it was developed by friends ofour target population, we have a more committed audience.Furthermore, the at-risk youth involved opened the door forothers by talking about their drug use. This both demonstratedthat they were respected and provided an opportunity forthem to open up safely to the prevention workers tasked withcreating the program.The key lesson we have to share is that allowing a group ofat-risk youth to help create a program is the best methodfor program development, because programs developed withinput from youth are more relevant to youth. We also learntthat focusing on the positives rather than the negatives hasa tremendous benefit. When thinking of a program name, wesuggest avoiding terms like drug prevention and recommendusing another activity instead. We also suggest using positivestatistics; for example, instead of saying how many youth usedrugs, say how many do not.A Successful Engagement Process Starts withAssessmentOur approach to school-based prevention begins by assessingthe climate of the school — conducting an environmentalscan or, if you will, a needs assessment. Important parts ofthe assessment process include:• Lining up allies by finding out who’s on board witha strength-based perspective. That means thata part of the assessment is actually relationshipbuilding. If a key ally in the school administrationleaves, the program can change completely.• Early engagement with school employees. We askto be involved in a staff meeting; we ask schoolemployees to meet with us in small groups and weask them what is going well and what challengesthey are experiencing. This information allows us toget a sense of what is needed and what needs tobe done.• Early engagement with youth. We try to meetwith the youth as soon as possible, because theyactually know what’s going on.• Use of a youth forum. We use a youth forumto hear from youth advocates, youth workers,teachers, and police and program developers, aswell as youth, to describe what youth need, whatyouth want and what drugs youth use. We thencompare the answers of all those invited (youthadvocates, youth workers, teachers, police andprogram developers) with the answers from youth.We’ve found that the descriptions from police,teachers and program developers were way offfrom the descriptions of youth, youth workers andyouth advocates.Once we’ve conducted this initial assessment, we workwith our allies to convince the school administration to allowus in. The language used by the school and the languagewe use affects our success in delivering a school-basedprevention program.© Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, 2015 Competencies for the Youth Substance Use Prevention Workforce


Prevention Workforce Competencies ReportAPPENDIX: THE STORIES28Eventually, we work with teachers and counsellors to developan effective plan that can be built into the curriculum. There aredifferent models, some of which are tailored to individual schoolsand others that are tailored to broader local needs and shared.It is important to have enough service providers involved toimplement the program and maintain continuous engagement(checking up on the school personnel, administering theprogram and continuing to assist with it as required).Generally, we have a foundation program and tailor it to theschools. We start with concurrent disorders and preventativeskill building — self talk, sleeping, hygiene, life skills, etc. Wefollow up with staff and they in turn are expected to follow upwith the students.Treatment plus PreventionEnforcement officers and counsellors end up working withyouth who have already been affected by substance useor abuse. We therefore do prevention and intervention atthe same time. This means that as we intervene, we areconstantly working towards prevention. We try to understandwhat is keeping drug-abusing youth where they are and whattheir goals are. We then try to figure out what roadblocksare preventing them from accomplishing their goals. Wetailor prevention and intervention approaches, as much aspossible, to the individual youth. This involves discoveringwhat motivates the youth to accomplish their goals and whathinders them from doing so. In other words, we figure out theindividual motivation for change.The key to a successful prevention and intervention approachis showing youth respect, as doing so provides an incentivefor them to better themselves. Showing youth respect andaffording them an opportunity to contribute and becomeleaders are some of the most powerful incentives a preventionworker can offer. Therefore, one must have the skill to providerespect as an incentive. As incentives are not always explicit,we must build in incentives to our prevention programs thatare implicit, such as showing respect to youth. We need tofind leverage with the kids; we should be their cheerleadersand be excited when they are not using.© Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, 2015 Competencies for the Youth Substance Use Prevention Workforce


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