Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Arts




Crooks, Claire


Child welfare-involved youth require support to enhance their relationship skills given their susceptibility to engaging in high-risk interpersonal behaviours. This case study explored the feasibility of implementing an evidence-based healthy relationships program, the Healthy Relationships Program - Enhanced (HRP-E), with child welfare-involved youth. Over 9 months, four HRP-E groups were facilitated at an Ontario Children’s Aid Society, involving 28 youth. Interviews were conducted with facilitators (n = 5) and youth (n = 13) to examine their view of the program. Facilitators completed surveys that evaluated the facilitation of each session and overall program implementation. Thematic analysis of the data were conducted and results indicated that the HRP-E is perceived as a valuable program that is relevant and useful for child welfare-involved youth but requires trauma-informed facilitation and commitment of child welfare agency resources. The outcomes of this study contribute to understanding the factors to consider when implementing a healthy relationships program with child welfare-involved youth.

Summary for Lay Audience

Child welfare services in Ontario provide essential support for children and youth who are are experiencing, or at risk of experiencing, maltreatment from their guardians or caregivers. Maltreatment can consist of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, neglect, or abandonment. Child welfare-involved youth are at risk of developing poor relationship skills because of their past experiences of maltreatment and the instability of their relationships with guardians and caregivers. Poor relationship skills make child welfare-involved youth at risk of becoming both victims and perpetrators of violence and abuse. Child welfare-involved youth may benefit from participating in a program that enhances their relationship skills. There has been limited research on or development of healthy relationship programming for youth involved in Ontario child welfare. The present study aimed to address this gap by examining the implementation of a healthy relationships program within an Ontario child welfare agency.

A healthy relationships program was facilitated at an Ontario Children’s Aid Society for youth involved in child welfare services. The researchers interviewed the program facilitators and youth to understand their view of the program. The program facilitators also completed a survey that evaluated their experience facilitating each program session and implementing the overall program. The findings from the present study identified that the program was relevant and useful for the youth. However, the program requires modifications that consider the impact of maltreatment, and that child welfare agencies provide resources to support program implementation and the well-being of program participants. The findings contribute to understanding how to appropriately implement a healthy relationships program with child welfare-involved youth and, thereby, how society can better support the needs of this vulnerable population.