RAFT fea­tured tonight in CBC doc

The Standard (St. Catharines) - - Local -

A unique pro­gram of­fered by a

St. Catharines pro­gram for at risk youth is the fo­cus of a new doc­u­men­tary, pre­mier­ing on CBC tonight.

The doc­u­men­tary, called “Next of Kin,” fo­cuses on a fam­ily-find­ing pro­gram of­fered by The RAFT (Re­source As­so­ci­a­tion for Teens), which con­nects home­less youths with their bi­o­log­i­cal par­ents or other fam­ily mem­bers, with a goal of giv­ing them ac­cess to the sup­port of fam­ily mem­bers that in some cases they never knew they had.

The doc­u­men­tary by film­maker Na­dine Pe­queneza tells the story of RAFT so­cial work­ers Jackie Winger and Amanda Elam, who help a strug­gling Ja­cob, 21, and Tahy­lour, 24, con­nect with their fam­i­lies, and in do­ing so over­come the life-threat­en­ing is­sues they face.

With RAFT’s help, Ja­cob — a new fa­ther at risk of re­turn­ing to jail — meets his grand­mother De­bra for the first time and learns of his In­dige­nous her­itage; and Tahy­lour — a young woman suf­fer­ing from de­pres­sion who has trieds to take her own life — finds an­swers she’s been look­ing dur­ing a year-long search for her fa­ther.

A me­dia re­lease is­sued by Pe­queneza’s com­pany Hit Play Pro­duc­tions says more than 60,000 Cana­dian chil­dren have been sep­a­rated from their fam­i­lies and placed in ei­ther fos­ter care or group homes, only to face the world alone when they are dis­charged from the child wel­fare sys­tem usu­ally when they reach age 19.

RAFT ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Mike Lethby said the pro­gram has given ev­ery youth re­united with fam­ily mem­bers “a new un­der­stand­ing of who they are.”

“Sud­denly, they have the knowl­edge of where they came from, they un­der­stand their cul­ture, and they fi­nally have an iden­tity,” he said in the me­dia re­lease.

Pe­queneza de­scribed the two young peo­ple at the heart of her doc­u­men­tary as “in­cred­i­bly re­silient and re­source­ful.”

The doc­u­men­tary will be broad­cast at 9 p.m., and is avail­able on­line at cbc.ca/watch and on the CBC app start­ing at noon.

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