Holly Steeves has worked with at-risk youth in group homes, transitional homes, shelters, and treatment centres for over ten years. She expanded her BA in criminology and psychology with a Certificate in Restorative Justice, and has been educated in a myriad of subjects ranging from resiliency in youth, to trauma informed care. This past month Holly travelled to the Northwest Territories (NWT) for the first time to work front-line with her team at Shift, where she is a Youth Care Coordinator. We caught up with her to learn about her experience.

Q: In anticipation of your first visit to Fort Smith, NWT, what were you most excited for?
A: I was most excited to travel to Fort Smith to meet with my front-line staff and meet all the youth from our treatment center and group home. I always love the opportunity to travel and especially travelling within the country. This was my first-time visiting NWT and it was an incredible experience.

Q: What is the community of Fort Smith like?
A: The community of Fort Smith reminded me of a little town near where I grew up. I come from Pembroke, in the Ottawa Valley. Fort Smith reminds me of Chalk River. Fort Smith was comforting in its familiarity, yet still new in its beauty. I had the pleasure of spending time with members of the community. The girls from our group home invited me to join them at the church rummage sale. It was nice to spend time in the community. I also had the privilege of going on an incredible hike with a group of our youth. Our local supervisor also took me to Wood Buffalo National Park where I was able to see a mother and baby buffalo. The view was amazing! When we spotted the buffalos, they were running in the distance, yet what they were running from remains a mystery.

Q: What was the biggest reward and challenge while in Fort Smith?
A: This is a tough question. The biggest reward would have to be creating strong connections and being part of the day-to-day interactions with staff and the youth. Having some of the same experiences as my staff allowed us to form relationships on a deeper and more personal level.

The biggest challenge I had to face while in Fort Smith was at the end of my trip. I had mixed emotions about leaving. I wanted to stay and be on the front-line. It is a role I have done for many years so it was easy to slip back into those old comfortable habits. But I know I have an important role here at the head office in Nova Scotia. I was lucky enough to speak with Nicole (Youth Care Manager) when I had feelings of being torn between two places. She reminded me of the important work that I do from Nova Scotia and reminded me of the amazing team we have in Fort Smith who are so great with the youth and the community of Fort Smith.

Q: What do you want readers to know about working in NWT?
A: I want readers to know how amazing it is to travel within your own country. It is a treasured opportunity to see more of your own backyard. I am grateful for the experience of being in a new place while also contributing to the field of Youth Care.  Having said this, I want to stress the need for humility when visiting a new place. It is easy to make assumptions of a culture or a community that you aren’t familiar with, but until you have your own experiences– you cannot truly understand that culture or community. I want readers who may want to work in NWT to be humble. At Shift, we are fortunate to have two residential programs in NWT that are made up of local staff and staff from away. This relationship is the best resource we have in working with our youth and is highly valued in our agency.

Q: What is the best part of your job as a Youth Care Coordinator with Shift?
A: I am constantly learning in my job; I am learning how to best contribute to the youth care field. I learn from my team in NWT and the team here at Shift head office. It is so important that we all work together to provide the best level of care to the children in our homes. I never presume to understand everything in this field. It takes a village. Every member of our team brings their unique skill set, together is when we are the strongest. Child and youth care is an ever changing and ever evolving facet and I love learning along with it.

Holly will be making more trips back to NWT in the near future and is so excited for the opportunity this job presents her to travel within Canada and meet with community members across the nation. The child and youth care industry is tight knit and Holly looks forward to growing her passion and absorbing more knowledge that this career provides.