#Youthincare to #Youthincharge: Youth-Led Documentary Filmmaking for Social and Policy Change in the Canadian Child Welfare System

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

In 2021, researchers, filmmakers, community providers, and youth from the Canadian Child Welfare System partnered to build on previous work and co-create a youth-led documentary: For Those Who Come Next. This film transforms the outputs from two community-based research projects into a cohesive shared story with the aim of raising awareness and promoting critical dialogue about concepts such as thriving, and the mental health experiences of youth in and from the child welfare system. In this highly personal point-of-view documentary short, the past and present converge through digital stories, interviews, and reflections on meaningful moments, to reveal experiences that are too often rendered invisible or carried beneath the surface of public and policy discourse. In this symposium, we discuss both the process and the product of youth-partnered filmmaking for advocacy by highlighting how film can inform policy change and systems reform by moving beyond empathy to inspire action.


Chantalle Clarkin
Dr. Chantalle Clarkin is a Registered Nurse and qualitative researcher with a passion for participatory arts-based approaches and cinematic storytelling for health. She has a Doctorate in Education, and a specialization in non-fiction media and documentary filmmaking. She is Project Scientist in Virtual Mental Health and Outreach at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, and the Associate Director of HeART Lab (healthequityart.com), a health humanities research lab that brings together patients, caregivers, community members, healthcare providers, and artists through collaborative co-design. Her research interests include community-based intergenerational storytelling, adolescent mental health, resilience, and arts-based research for community engagement and social activism.

Jessica Van der Vee
Jessica was adopted at six years old. She spoke in the House of Commons for the first time at age 12 and has not slowed down since. She has won numerous community awards for advocacy and volunteerism, and has created safe spaces across Canada for youth in care to support each other. She is working towards a future where no child has to feel alone in the child welfare system.

Key takeaways

  • We know that youth in the Canadian welfare system are disproportionately impacted by mental ill-health
  • Youth Speak Out Storyteller have hosted 20+ workshops (3 days process) , reaching out to 200+ youth
  • The bonds created at the workshop are "unbreakable"
  • Showed a documentary (with consent) of youth who felt empowered during the workshop
  • Filmmakers partnered in the co-creation & advocated for youth inclusion in policy/social change in the child welfare system
  • To watch the film/documentary:  https://www.healthequityart.com/forthosewhocomenext​ 
  • GBS grants enabled them to pay their youth partners during the film creation process
  • It takes a unified effort to make change, especially in filmmaking/documentary
  • Youth generated 8 concrete recommendations to generate action in the welfare system

Key Learning Objectives (defined by presenters)

Participants attending our session will be able to:

  1. Describe youth-driven recommendations for change and reform in the Child Welfare System
  2. Discuss youth-led documentary filmmaking as a method to advance advocacy, challenge stigma, and address omissions in dominant media
  3. Reflect on the potential fit of youth-led filmmaking methods with the programs and approaches used within their organizations 

Key Themes

  1. Youth perspectives of the child welfare system
  2. Advocacy

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