One of the biggest complaints of the social services sector is the jargon. When speaking to each other, we throw words, phrases, and acronyms around to make communicating easier, but to those outside the sector it can sound like an unknown language. 

On this page, we’ll give both literal definitions and explain why it’s important for jargon that we just can’t avoid. We will also give an example of how the jargon relates specifically to our work. 

If you have any suggestions for additions to this page, please complete this two-field form, and we will add the term as soon as we can. . 


Aging out, or aging out of care, refers to the sudden cessation of government support that faces youth in care on their 19th birthday. 

While the government of BC is working to address this harmful event, many youth still approach their 19th birthdays with dread and fear (see this February 2023 article in The Tyee).

Our annual campaign “Ready or Not” addresses Aging Out of Care in more detail:  Ready or Not: Aging out of Care 

In keeping with the definition of “Youth in Care,” a “Former Youth in Care” is someone who had contact with government services at some point between the ages of 0 and 19, but are no longer connected to those services. 

Many former youth in care will have “aged out” (see above) on their 19th birthday, and understanding that experience helps inform their interactions with Threshold staff. 

Harm reduction is term for programs, policies and practices that reduce the negative consequences associated with behaviors that are typically considered high risk. It is also a philosophy of providing care and support that is based in respect, compassion and inclusion.

When applied to youth, and especially youth substance use and homelessness, “harm reduction” means addressing the factors that lead youth into homelessness and reliance on substances (e.g. lack of income, unresolved trauma), as well as actions to keep youth safe. 

Within Threhold we are guided by our Mission, Vision and Values. In the broader context of how we activate those guides, we rely strongly on the principles of Housing First for Youth (HF4Y). HF4Y begins with acknowledging that housing is a right and therefore comes without conditions. It also acknowledges that youth have particular needs for support as they transition into adulthood. 

During the intake process, staff will – with the permission of a youth – connect with other services the youth may be accessing to assess their well-being, safety, and resources. ICM may be used to triage applicants, or to connect them with the most appropriate housing or program option. 

The low-income cut off, also called “LICO” is the calculation of the official “poverty line” in Canada. Unfortunately, a national low-income cut off fails to recognise the great economic differences from one region to another. When we use a low-income cut off, or discuss the poverty line, we use the federal calculation, but apply it to local data. 

Other indicators of low-income may be the “market basket measure,” which calculates the total for a standardised order of groceries, or the “living wage,” which calculates the income needed for a two-income, two-child family to live a dignified life. 

Since both the market basket measure and the living wage are calculated to address family income, the poverty line, or LICO, is a more accurate measure for youth. 

A natural support, as in the Family and Natural Support Program, is any adult with whom a youth has an already present relationship that is not based on a work relationship. For example, a youth may develop a caring, and supportive relationship with someone from their faith community, or from another civic group they are part of. This might also be “friends of the family” who step in when a family is struggling. 

While teachers, support workers, counsellors and others may go beyond the limits of their profession to support a youth, they are only considered “natural supports” if that relationship continues beyond the professional connection.  

Youth who are connected to Threshold while on the waitlist for housing receive necessary supports to keep them safe. These start with a free Telus phone and phone plan, grocery cards, transit passes, and can also include any of the wrap-around supports avai’able to all Threshold youth. 

Along the housing continuum of care, supportive and supported have different meanings indicating the level of support that accompanies the housing. 

In supportive housing, such as Threshold’s Supportive Recovery Program, supports are embedded in the house and there are specialized 24/7 staff with training in the particular needs of the housing residents. 

In supported housing, such as Safe Housing for Youth apartments, supports are available as and when needed by the youth living in the suite. The support is attached to the client, and moves with the client as they move along the housing spectrum, or if they have to change apartments. 

Trauma-informed care. Trauma-informed practice. A trauma-informed workplace. Whatever term we use, being trauma-informed includes: 

  • Trauma awareness (building an understanding of how pervasive trauma is, and it’s impact and adaptations)
  • Emphasis on safety and trustworthiness
  • Opportunity for choice, collaboration and connection
  • Strengths-based and skill building
  • Cultural, gender, and historical issues

In short, being trauma-informed is an empathetic and ethical approach to interacting with other  people. While each one of these princples could (and eventually will) have their own definition in this list, they work together in being trauma-informed. 

In every day practice, this may include acknowledging that a youth who misses their counselling appointment may need more time to build trust, supporting a staff member whose work reminds them of their own traumatic experiences, or helping youth connect with community support. 

Threshold is working to become a trauma-informed organization, from the intake team to the administration office, and all staff have access to  training in being trauma-informed, whether they work directly with staff or not. 

Additional Learning: Canadian Medical Association: Trauma Informed Care 

The concept of the Window of Tolerance, developed by Dr. Dan Siegel, MD, is an approach to understand how trauma and ongoing stress impact a person’s ability to manage life crises. Unhealed trauma shrinks the body and mind’s ability to tolerate further stress and trauma – the window of tolerance. As a result, people verge into Hyperarousal and the fight or flight mode or Hypoarousal in which the mind and body shut down.

The Federation of BC Youth in Care Networks define “Youth in Care” as

having accessed services from the Ministry of Children and Family Development and Delegated Aboriginal Agencies at any time between the ages of 0-19.

Examples include foster homes, groups homes, the youth justice system, youth agreements, and  homelessness. 

At Threshold, at least 50% of the youth we service have experienced government care. What we often overlook in discussing the impacts of being ayouth in care is the trauma that has already occurred even before the government intervenes. 

“Youth in care,” as with all aspects of homelessness in Canada, is also a window into the lingering impact of colonizaation, as Indigenous youth make up 54% of the youth-in-care population, but on ly 8% of the general population.

To learn about Threshold’s advocacy for youth in care and former youth in care, visit our “Ready or Not” campaign. 


A to L
M to Z

Agreement with Young Adults, a contract between the Ministry of Child and Family Development and a youth to support indepenedent or semi-independent living. An alternative to foster care. 

Former Youth in Care (see above)

Family and Natural Supports (see above)

Income assistance. 
Sometimes called social assistance or, in the older term, welfare. 

Integrated Case Management (see above)

Ministry of Child and Family Development. The BC government ministry responsible for child and youth safety. 

Person with a disability, generally one receiving designated government support for their disability. 

Youth on youth agreement (see AYA)

Youth Case Managers are an essential part of our staff team. Elsewhere they might be called a case worker, but we like to emphasise their work in connecting youth to community, other services, and each other. 

A Youth Case Manager may begin working with youth while they are on the waitlist as part of our pre-housing support. They then stick with that youth through their entire journey, whether the youth is living at the Supportive Recovery Program House, in congregate housing, or in a SHY apartment. 

Youth Education Assistance Fund

YEL stood for “Youth Engagement Liaison,” the former title of our Youth Case Managers. While the title was updated to reflect their actual work, sometimes it still pops up in our communications. 

Youth in Care (see above)

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