OKN’s Indigenous Reconciliation initiative considers Truth and Reconciliation as two distinct entities, as illustrated above. Learn more about this graphic in our Indigenous Reconciliation Strategy.

Children spend a great deal of their first 8 years learning in schools, thus, how schools connect to their community is important. Progress in this area will show good connections between schools, parents, community resources and the local neighbourhood.

  • Parental involvement in schools
  • Youth as resources
  • Volunteerism
  • Community use of schools
Children thrive in neighbourhoods that are safe and connected. Neighbourhoods that can meet all of our needs are valued.

  • Neighbourhood safety
  • Neighbourhood cohesion
  • Walkability
  • Caring for the community
Safe environments benefit children by providing a sense of personal security that allows them to take maximum advantage of learning, playing and making new friendships.

  • Child care capacity
  • Quality child care
  • Parenting capacity
  • Parental monitoring
  • Quality time at home with family
Safe environments benefit children by providing a sense of personal security that allows them to take maximum advantage of learning, playing and making new friendships.

  • Serious injury
  • At-risk behaviours
  • Safety from harm
All children need positive connections to their parents/caregivers, peers, school and community.

  • Supportive and caring environments
  • Boundaries and expectations
  • Commitment to learning
  • Positive values
  • Social competencies

Learning is one of the cornerstones for success in life and starts at birth. Community progress for this result will show that children are learning both in their preschool and school years.

  • Preschool learning opportunities
  • Student achievement (EQAO)
  • Healthy body weight
  • School engagement

Good health is a prerequisite for positive outcomes for children and youth. Both physical and emotional health are valued in this result. In addition, given the critical brain development that takes place in the first 12 months of life, infant health is closely monitored.

  • At-risk births
  • Healthy eating
  • Healthy body weight
  • Physical activity
  • Mental health

Behind The Numbers

Belonging and Connectedness for Halton Youth

Do young people in Halton have strong relationships and a sense of belonging, and how can we help them feel connected?

A bunch of students walk together with colorful backpacks on their back

Findings reflect the responses of 1915 youth in the 13 to 18 age range.

Relationships and belonging in times of COVID-19

COVID-19 brought specific challenges for youth. Out of 361 open comments in the survey, 37 (10%) either stated their frustration with COVID-19 constraints or longed for a return to their pre-pandemic lives. Youth wanted to go back to playing sports or participating in in-person school activities. They missed their friends and building relationships with their neighbours and peers. Impacts of COVID-19 on their social life and relationships were also highlighted by participants of the Youth Data Party. As one youth said:

Grade 9 [is the] time to make strong relationships at school but [the] pandemic interrupted this.

Seventy-nine (22%) of the comments expressed the need for more opportunities to participate in their communities. Youth wanted to see more safe spaces where they can be with their friends and other people, such as parks, libraries, community centres and programs, skate parks, basketball courts, and youth spaces. Community initiatives, such as community gardens, fairs and festivals, protests, clean-up events and others were also highlighted as opportunities to foster connection and belonging. However, for youth to benefit from these opportunities, they suggested these events need to be promoted widely. In addition, easy access to public transportation, walkable and safe neighbourhoods and locally based initiatives are essential for removing barriers to participation and fostering a sense of belonging to their community.

Virtual spaces can also promote relationships and connection, but this must be intentional. One youth explained that they felt better learning online when the teacher was taking the time to build connections with the students.

Youth also reflected on the connection between belonging and inclusion. For example, raising the pride flag would help LGBTQ2S+ students feel accepted and included in their school. Meeting people from different backgrounds, ages and cultures with a respectful and open attitude was highlighted by some youth as an important way to build a strong sense of community belonging where all can participate.

Research has shown that, for some young people, learning online was beneficial because they felt shielded from invalidating and stressful experiences, such as racism and bullying or could manage their anxiety levels better. One young person at the Youth Data Party mentioned that being back in school was overwhelming, and they felt a lot of anxiety about being at school, especially after spending a long time at home. Twenty-one (5%) of the comments in the survey were from young people who were happy with their lives and their communities, even during the pandemic and online schooling. As young peoples’ lives resume to in-person activities, it is particularly important to take notice of those who may still be isolated and lonely.


  • These findings cover only responses of youth in the 13-18 age range
  • Open invitation sampling strategy (non-probabilistic)
    • Sample is not necessarily representative of all children and youth living in Halton.
    • It is not possible to determine a response rate.
    • However, considering the geographic coverage and the size of the final sample, it’s fair to assume that we have a reasonably good cross-section of children and youth living in Halton.
  • A higher degree of diversity within this sample calls for caution when interpreting overall ratios. For more details on the composition of the sample see the sociodemographic table
  • The data are meant to provide a snapshot of youth wellbeing during COVID, and caution should be used when comparing across time.
  • While each indicator is important, using multiple indicators as evidence of strengths and needs provides a more comprehensive representation
  • This is a self-report survey and several types of response bias have been identified related to self-report surveys. Use caution when interpreting the findings
OKN organization graphic