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Home News Saskatoon youth centre develops province-wide app for missing at-risk kids

Saskatoon youth centre develops province-wide app for missing at-risk kids

Saskatoon youth centre develops province-wide app for missing at-risk kids
The creators of a new phone app say it will help reduce the number of Saskatchewan youth reported missing from government care. -- Herald File Photo

In partnership with the Saskatoon Police Service and the Government of Saskatchewan, the Saskatoon Downtown Youth Centre – EGADZ is launching a new app to help reduce the number of young people who are reported missing from government care.

“I am pleased to announce we provided close to $50,000 to support the development of the Missing Youth Saskatchewan app to engage and support these youth,” Saskatoon Willowgrove MLA Ken Cheveldayoff said on behalf of Social Services Minister Gene Makowsky. “EGADZ continues to be one of the most innovative community-based organizations in all of Canada, and we are so proud to partner with them to support vulnerable youth here in Saskatoon.”

The app builds on EGADZ’s Operation Runaway risk assessment tool that helps youth worker engage with and assess a youth’s level of risk if they don’t return to their home as scheduled. It was developed using input from the EGADZ youth committee and is informed by their lived experiences with being in care.

If the app guides the worker to report the young person missing, with a click of a button the worker can easily share all relevant information with their local police service. The app will first be rolled out to Saskatoon agencies before being expanded to agencies across Saskatchewan in the coming months.

“The Saskatoon Police Service has had a long and successful partnership with EGADZ in our joint efforts to address the needs of youth at risk,” said Saskatoon Police Service Deputy Chief Randy Huisman. “We look forward to the digital expansion of the Operation Runaway program and the opportunity to build additional working relationships with other youth care homes.”

According to a media release, since the implementation of their risk assessment tool, the number of youth reported missing from EGADZ’s My Homes has steadily declined. Of the nearly 1,500 risk assessments completed by EGADZ staff in 2022, only 235 resulted in missing person reports to Saskatoon police.

“Not all young people who miss a check-in with their worker are at risk of harm,” EGADZ Executive Director Don Meikle said. “Our youth committee was really clear that we need to engage police services for youth who need to be prioritized and report young people who are truly at risk.”

Examples of some factors that may create an increased safety risk for a young person includes mental illness or drug use.

EGADZ is a nationally and internationally social innovator and won Saskatchewan’s first Governor General’s Award for Innovation in 2019. The organization offers several programs and services to Saskatoon’s children, youth and their families to improve their quality of life, including street outreach, housing, education and employment support and parenting programming.

The Ministry of Social Services provides annualized funding for EGADZ residential, street outreach and Operation Runaway programs that provide support to at-risk children and youth.