By Owen Charters
Last week, I joined Boys and Girls Clubs of Winnipeg as they released a much-anticipated study about the impact they have had on children and youth in their community. It’s really exciting news, and something that we have been eagerly awaiting as we know that the data collected is reflective of all our Clubs.
Conducted by the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy at the University of Manitoba, researchers looked at 12 years of data and studied 8,990 children and youth who participated in programs at the Winnipeg Club’s locations. That data was then compared to 69,980 children and youth who were comparable—living in the same postal codes and encountering similar life events and demographics—but did not attend the Club.
The study was possible because in Manitoba your personal health number ties you (anonymously) to data in other government databases, so you can track the interactions that any individual has in regard to their education and health outcomes, their interactions with the justice system, etc.
The first thing to note is who goes to the Club. The data shows these kids experience more adverse life events and experiences than most of the population, at a very significant rate.
- About 44% had a mom who was a teenager when she had her ﬁrst baby, as compared to the Manitoba provincial average of 6%
- Almost 49% had a mom who had seen a doctor for a mood or anxiety disorder vs the provincial average of 20%
- Nearly 49% were from families who had received services from Child and Family Services vs the provincial average of 9%
- 20% were from families who had previously had a child taken into care of Child and Family Services vs the provincial average of 4%
- 55% are in the lowest quintile for family income in the province
There’s no doubt that these are kids who need the Club.
Now, let’s look at what happens because these children attend the Club. Researchers noted that the optimal Club experience happens around 150 visits, or less than one school year of attending the Club almost daily. Positive impacts start even after a few visits, but at 150 visits and more, the positive effects really start to have a major impact.
Education: Participating in Club programs was associated with doing well in math in grade 3 and being highly engaged in learning in grade 7. Essentially, kids in the Club demonstrated that they were performing academically at the expected average for their grade. Given the challenges that these kids may have been facing, performing at their grade level is significant.
From the study results: “Performing well in Grade 3 numeracy and Grade 7 student engagement was strongly and significantly associated with Club participation.” Most amazingly, positive results are noted starting at just 20 visits to the Club.
Health: The more a young person participated in the Clubs, the lower their risk of having a teen pregnancy or getting a sexually transmitted infection. In fact, for every ten visits to the Club, these youth had a 1.3% lower risk of a teen pregnancy.
Justice System: The more a young person participated in the Club, the lower their risk of becoming involved with the justice system. To be exact, for every ten visits to the Club, a youth experienced a 1% lower risk of interacting with the justice system. The study did note that there is higher likelihood that Club youth will be more involved with the justice system than the general population, but this naturally reflects the Club’s aim to be a resource for troubled teens who face numerous challenges.
The study concluded that participation in the Club does act as a protective factor and the more a youth participates in Club programming, the lower their risk of justice system incidents.
This data is important. It underlines what we already know from qualitative outcomes—the day-to-day work of our Clubs changes lives. In my remarks in Winnipeg, I noted that we rely a lot on the stories of how Clubs have impacted the children and youth we serve. And we always will. But thanks to the work done by the Winnipeg Club and these researchers, we also have the proof, the hard data, to support our stories.
A big thank you to Ron Brown and everyone at the Winnipeg Club for kickstarting this research, to United Way Winnipeg, the Winnipeg Foundation, and the BGCC Foundation for funding the study, and to all the MCHP researchers for their hard work over the last two years.
Read the results here: