Brock researchers receive grants from SSHRC’s COVID-19 Special Initiative program

Brock University research on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic is again in the spotlight with the awarding of two national research grants.

Assistant Professor of Recreation and Leisure Studies Corliss Bean and Assistant Professor of Child and Youth Studies Heather Ramey have been awarded Partnership Engage Grants (PEG) from the federal government’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada.

The grants, totalling $49,793, come from the PEG COVID-19 Special Initiative program.

“We’re grateful to SSHRC for their support, which allows Dr. Ramey and Dr. Bean to give us not only deeper insights into how the pandemic is affecting children and youth but also how we can address those impacts,” says Vice-President, Research Tim Kenyon.

Bean’s research study, “COVID-19: Building Capacity of Trauma-Informed Practices in a National Youth-Serving Organization during COVID-19 and Beyond,” involves a partnership with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada (BGCC), a national, non-profit organization that serves more than 200,000 children and youth each year primarily from under-resourced neighbourhoods.

Bean and her team, which includes Tanya Forneris from the University of British Columbia’s School of Health and Exercise Sciences and Lou Bergholz, Founder of Edgework Consulting, have been working with the BGCC for the past four years to integrate trauma-informed practices into their recreation programming.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, facilitating in-person training with BGCC staff is no longer feasible, says Bean.

“Thus, this grant will allow the team to work together to pivot the trauma-informed training program into online training, allowing for greater reach, accessibility and, ultimately, sustainability of trauma-informed practices in clubhouses across Canada,” she says.

The researchers will then pilot test the adapted virtual training with BGCC youth workers across Canada and evaluate the delivery and effectiveness of the virtual training.

“This grant will help address a self-identified need within the BGCC through building both organizational and staff capacity in the area of trauma-informed practices so that the clubs and their providers can increase their responsiveness to children’s unique needs,” says Bean, adding that the online training program can “act as a blueprint for other in-house virtual training needs, which has become so pertinent in the current landscape.”

Ramey’s research program, “COVID-19: Children’s Experiences and Views of COVID-19: Canada in a Multinational Context,” is a partnership with UNICEF Canada and the Centre of Excellence for Youth Engagement at the Students Commission of Canada.

The team, consisting of Yana Berardini at the Centre of Excellence for Youth Engagement and Heather Lawford, Canada Research Chair in youth development at Bishop’s University, will lead a cross-country study on how children and youth view the COVID-19 situation and how it has impacted their well-being.

Although this is a Canadian study, the research is part of a larger collaboration with the UNICEF-Office of Research Innocenti. The Canadian project will occur in parallel with projects in Italy and sub-Saharan Africa. The Canadian team will produce reports and policy recommendations for Canada, and will partner on international reports.

Ramey says she and her team are using a “child- and youth-centred lens” to find out how pandemic measures have affected children and youth, how they coped with these measures, what they think the pandemic’s long-term effects are, and recommendations they would have on how to handle the situation differently to better protect children’s rights.

For instance, children and youth advisory teams are advising the project throughout its duration, and young people will be collaborating at every step of the study and reporting process, she says.

“We will dialogue with children and youth about their worries and aspirations, involve them in decision-making, and co-design solutions,” says Ramey. “Our findings will enable children’s views and recommendations to inform policy changes and practices on COVID-19 and on future emergency and crisis situations.”

The $7.1-million PEG COVID-19 Special Initiative was created last spring to enable researchers to address COVID-19-related issues such as the adaptability of health services organizations, domestic violence and the mental health of disadvantaged youth.

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