Psychology, Research

Dave Pasalich Working with Parents of At-Risk-Youth

September 19, 2013

For a number of at-risk youth living in British Columbia, out-of-home care is a necessity.  As articulated in mainstream media like The Tyee or The Province and as acknowledged in the most recent Service Plan proposed by the Ministry of Children and Family Development, at-risk youth desperately need stable, safe, permanent care so that children’s well-being, safety and social/emotional development can be facilitated by parents and by child welfare workers on the frontlines. Yet, when one hears stories that involve RCMP tasering an 11-year-old boy, in custody of BC Child and Family Services, one cannot help but question the effectiveness of out-of-home-care for youth who find themselves in conflict with the law. 

At SFU, the Psychology Department’s Dr. Dave Pasalich has a project specifically aimed at answering the question of where at-risk youth belong. Working out of SFU’s Institute for the Reduction of Youth Violence, Pasalich’s project, “A Preventative Parenting Program for Family Reunification,” recently won the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research trainee award: funding of more than $100,000 over three years.  The main objective of the project, Pasalich explains, will be to work with parents and clinical professionals to “develop models of preventative parenting so that children who are presently in out-of-home care can reunite with their parents and return to living with their families of origin.”

Originally from Sydney, Australia, Pasalich completed his doctoral degree at the University of New South Wales, Kensington—a suburb of Sydney, NSW. And with an extensive background working as a mentor to youth in out-of-home care gives him a special insight and—as he articulates— much of the impetus for the important project:  “I've mentored kids in Sydney, Miami, and now Vancouver. Currently I mentor through an agency called KidStart. The mentoring experience has allowed me to develop a deeper appreciation of the many challenges experienced by children living in out-of-home care, as well as their various needs.” 

Pasalich explains that he was drawn to SFU because of the Institute for the Reduction of Youth Violence, which is led by Dr. Robert McMahon, BC Leadership Chair in Proactive Approaches to Reducing Risk for Violence among Children and Youth, and in particular to the Institute’s unique focus on establishing both research and clinical connections through such organizations as the Child and Family Research Institute of BC. At this developmental stage, he goes on, the project is taking a two-pronged approach: first, in partnership with community organizations, adapting an evidence-based parenting program to serve the needs of families involved with the child welfare system; second, examining the feasibility of this program as delivered by frontline clinical workers.  

Pasalich explains that he is currently working on building ties with other community organizations and while he cannot reveal much as of yet (for obvious ethics and privacy reasons) he’s excited to move forward with the work at hand. An important project thus finds a great home here at SFU’s Institute for the Reduction of Youth Violence with a committed, dynamic researcher and mentor in Dave Pasalich to both further the research and contribute to the community at large.