Sexuality is an important part of the overall wellness of all people, including youth

Introduction to supporting high risk youth to talk about sexuality

 The Canadian Guidelines for Sexual Health Education emphasize that all Canadians have a right to accessible sexuality education.1 High risk youth, such as street involved youth, do not always have access to sexuality education. Many street-involved youth are not in school and do not have access to school-based sexual health education. They often experience significant barriers to health care and other supports. Community-based organizations may be the only available and accessible source of sexual health education for street-involved and vulnerably-housed people. People who use drugs and sex workers may avoid contact with traditional service agencies for fear of judgment. (1, p.79) It is important for service providers working with high risk youth to provide ongoing sexuality education and support.

Good to know

Street involved youth face several challenges and are at risk for poor sexual health outcomes such as sexually transmitted infections (STIs), unintended pregnancy and violence.1,2 In a Canadian study3 of 1407 street involved youth, aged 15-24:

  • Nearly 13% of youth tested positive for chlamydia.
  • Around 2% of youth tested positive for gonorrhea.
  • Almost 43% of females had experienced a pregnancy at least once.
  • Around 5% of females and 2% of males stated that sex work was their major income source.

A quick word about terms

Sexuality is not just sexual intercourse or sexual activity. Sexuality includes: 
  • Gender roles, identities and sexual orientation.
  • Body image.
  • Relationships with others.
  • How we grow and change over the years.
  • How we reproduce.
  • Personality, communication, expression, and values.

For more information about what sexuality is, see the Sexuality Wheel.

Good to know

Even though high risk youth such as street-involved youth face many challenges, they have several strengths and are hopeful for a better life.2 It is important to acknowledge and build upon the strengths of these youth. In a study of street-involved youth and their service providers,2 one youth said,

“It’s true, you learn a lot about yourself; your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to depending on yourself… I noticed that I learned a lot about myself when I was homeless because it puts you to the test. It’s like… are you gonna live or [are] you gonna starve or [are] you gonna ask for help? What are you gonna do? …You learn a lot depending on what choice you make…” – Jade, Youth

Why develop TASCC?

In 2009, in Calgary, in-depth interviews were conducted with nine street-involved youth and six service providers working with high risk youth. Participants said service providers need more information, resources and support to better assist the youth they work with.2,4 Specifically,

1. Service providers need knowledge of the sexual and reproductive health issues street-involved youth face, such as

  •         Knowledge related to community resources.
  •         Basic knowledge related to pregnancy.
  •         Basic knowledge related to STIs and HIV.
  •         Basic knowledge related to safer sex and harm reduction (contraception and condoms).
  •         Knowledge related to promoting healthy relationships/communication.
  •         Knowledge related to substance use and sexual decision-making.
  •         Knowledge related to sexual and gender diversity.
  •         Basic knowledge related to anatomy and physiology.


2. Service providers want the opportunity to connect with one another.


3. Service providers need accessible and convenient resources and tools (e.g., an “online toolbox”) which includes accurate and user friendly information and teaching aids.2,4

Navigating TASCC

When you make your way around the website, you will see highlighted some practical tips and strategies to use with your child or youth. You will also see good to know facts that will help you to understand what your youth may be experiencing.

 Throughout this website, you will also see stories that encourage you to think about how the information can be used in real life. When you read the stories, we encourage you to think about the following:

  •  How did you react to the story?
  •  Why do you think you reacted that way?
  •  How can you best support this person?

Tips for talking about sexuality

Young person sitting with an adult talking.
  • Avoid lecturing. Provide factual information without telling them what to do.
  • Use open-ended questions (e.g., how do you feel about…? What do you need from me?).
  • Consider your values and your unconscious bias. Answer questions without judgement.
  • Know where and who to refer youth to.
  • Use examples that de-personalize so that you do not assume or accuse.
  • Use teachable moments (e.g., use a news story as a way to start talking about tough topics).
  • Celebrate success. Let youth know you notice when they do things that show they are being responsible.
1SIECCAN. (2019). Canadian Guidelines for Sexual Health Education. Toronto, ON: Sex Information & Education Council of Canada (SIECCAN).
2Lokanc-Diluzio, W. (2014). A mixed methods study of service provider capacity development to protect and promote the sexual and reproductive health of street-involved youth: An evaluation of two training approaches. (Doctoral dissertation). Available from
 3Public Health Agency of Canada. (2017). Summary of key findings from Y-Track: Phase 6 (2009-2012). Retrieved from,
4Lokanc-Diluzio, W., & Reilly, S.M. (in press). Enhancing the personal skills of service providers to promote the sexual health of street-involved youth. In A. R. Vollman, E.T. Anderson, & J. McFarlane (Eds.) Canadian community as partner: Theory & multidisciplinary practice (5th ed.). New York: Wolters Kluwer Health.