Out of the box thinking helped the participants and staff at Jewison House not only learn winter survival skills but also enabled a youth to spend time with his family.

The Ranch provides meaningful programming to all its participants while ensuring activities adhere to the CARE model. We are guided by this model and the six principles, which are aimed at improving services for children and youth in care.

Throughout the pandemic, caregivers have been challenged to find creative ways to offer engaging and meaningful programming, while incorporating all the principles. One of the most difficult principles to incorporate has been the family-centred one, as there have been restrictions on having physical contact with people from different households.

In the summer months, it was easier to invite families to outdoor events, but cold weather accompanied by the high case numbers of COVID-19, and family engagement in group programming has become quite a bit more challenging.

Fortunately, a participant’s grandfather offered a unique solution. The family member is an experienced outdoorsman and hunter. He offered to teach the participants new winter skills while also spending time with his young grandson, during an afternoon outing at Ehrlo Valley Park.

The grandfather took all the Jewison House participants and their caregivers to Echo Valley Park for the afternoon. The group hiked, chopped wood and built a fire, and enjoyed hot dogs, s’mores, and bannock. After lunch the youth had a great time skating around the lake, building forts, and staying warm near the fire.

Nicholas Hadjistavropoulos, a youth care leader, explained the importance of having family involved while youth are in care, “We really value collaborating with families to ensure our participants feel fully supported and connected to their roots. It has a profound impact on participants’ self-esteem, and sense of safety and security.”

He added, “It meant a lot to our participant to have his grandpa take the group out for an afternoon of winter activities. Our participant was very proud to introduce his knowledgeable and experienced grandfather to his group of peers and the kids were very responsive and respectful toward their winter guide.”