A Systematic and Person-Centered Harmonizing Framework for Housing Individuals with FASD

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Elizabeth Carlson

Elizabeth Carlson is a doctoral student in the School and Clinical Child Psychology program at the University of Alberta. Elizabeth takes a collaborative, holistic, and strengths-based approach to working with children, adolescents, and emerging adults who have experienced significant adversity. She is interested in working with youth with complex needs who are deemed “at-risk,” including youth with FASD. Elizabeth’s interest in this area was driven by her own life experiences, including her work in group home, outreach, school, and outpatient forensic service settings. She strives to learn ways of improving assessment and intervention practices to best serve youth with complex needs. Elizabeth is currently a part of the Housing Initiatives research team, a collaborative venture between CanFASD, the University of Alberta, and community experts to create a practical and research-based housing framework for individuals with FASD.

On behalf of the Alberta Clinical and Community-Based Evaluation Research Team (ACCERT), and the extended Housing Initiatives team comprised of individuals with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), parents of children with FASD, academic researchers, and housing and FASD experts, I am pleased to announce that we have completed our framework and evaluation plan for housing individuals with FASD. This document, Creating Intersections: A Systematic and Person-Centered Harmonizing Framework for Housing Individuals with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, is the culmination of two years’ collaborative work spanning a comprehensive literature review, meetings with experts in the areas of FASD and housing, and multiple rounds of feedback and revision.

This project was driven by service providers and individuals with FASD, as well as their caregivers, all of whom described challenges navigating conventional housing support systems. This work is of critical importance amidst movements to end the Canadian housing crisis.  Providing, accessing, and maintaining housing is complex, and we responded to our community partners’ calls that “one size cannot fit all” and to “humanize the system.”  This was no easy feat as tensions exist between those attempting to access housing services, those supporting individuals accessing housing services, and those who drive housing policy decisions.  All involved in the project provided various viewpoints regarding knowledge gaps, successes, areas for improvement, and the path forward; however, participants agreed that we needed to build upon what’s going right at the individual, organizational, and systems levels and that “it will take time and hard work, but it is possible.”  They asked, “How are we defining success in housing?”, and they put forth that “working from the operations level to develop a usable framework for housing is the best way forward.”

Stemming from our expansive review of the literature and the Housing Initiatives meeting in November 2017, we understood that we needed shared understandings that could inform housing action. Shared understandings reduce tensions between involved parties, prevent the siloing of information, and facilitate communication to drive collaborative action.  Through the creation this document we hoped to contribute to that shared understanding by carefully framing the task at hand, and acknowledging involved parties’ vested interests.  To create shared understandings we knew we needed to have a publicly available evaluation framework from which to work – to allow us to speak the same language.

The resulting harmonizing housing framework offers a responsive, complexity-sensitive way of meeting the ever-changing needs of individuals with FASD who are unhoused.  This framework will facilitate our ultimate goal of engaging and supporting these individuals in housing tenure in ways that promote individual success and goal attainment. In essence, with the support of many community partners, we are attempting to harmonize processes for tenants, caregivers, and service providers as they navigate changing circumstances.

We hope that all those involved in and impacted by housing decisions will see their knowledge and expertise reflected in this document. As collaborative movement forward was the inspiration for this project, we highlight throughout the document the resounding importance of making intersections. Our goal was to create an accessible document that would allow each person to recognize their role in and opportunities for forward collaborative movement in housing individuals with FASD. Our two main hopes for the framework are that it empowers service providers in their efforts to support individuals in meaningful ways, and that it reflects the voices of individuals struggling to be housed. We hope that through the use of this framework we can begin to recognize current practices, celebrate successes, and adapt programming to better meet the needs of individuals with FASD. As our community partners would say, “Enough talk, let’s make change!”

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