UVic GS 505 student research helps make the lives of BC children better

GS 505 student Drexler Ortiz, reviewed literature to inform policies and resources to prepare prospective and current adoptive parents for parenting adolescent adoptees.

GS 505 student Darren Paterson, explored literature on grandparent caregiver networks and the lived experiences of Indigenous grandparents raising their grandchildren.

GS 505 student Elaine Laberge, reviewed literature to explore early years funding models relevant for Indigenous Early Years Services.

Students Jane Buchanan and Nadia Salman explored the results of Indigenous cultural empathy training.

Jacquelyn Boychuk and Addison Mott explained the role of cultural stereotyping in diagnosing Indigenous children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.

Paulina Gornicki presents research on Indigenous child welfare practices focusing on early intervention, family preservation, and preventing child removal.

Devon Caldwell and Melissa Nauta present on their country-wide review of child development screening practices.

GS 505 is not your typical course where student research projects end their journey on a professor’s desk. The BC Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) staff propose priority research topics from their service areas, and UVic School of Child and Youth Care professor Sibylle Artz and course coordinator PhD student and GS 505 alumna Thais Amorim match students with research projects that will strengthen their skills.

The GS 505 course is part of a decade long partnership between the MCFD and the University of Victoria (UVic) facilitated by Research Partnerships and Knowledge Mobilization (RPKM). The course draws on interdisciplinary research, fostering the skills, enthusiasm, and the diverse backgrounds of students from an array of disciplines, which according to Amorim, “means that everyone brings rich resources to enhance each other’s academic and professional experiences.”

Students pursue real lines of inquiry by planning and conducting the research projects, which may include a literature review, jurisdictional scan, designing a program evaluation, a needs assessment or a comparative study, or conducting qualitative interviews. Students then write a government style report including an Executive Summary presenting their findings and analysis of the data and literature, and their recommendations. The students receive support and feedback throughout the research process from their instructors, MCFD staff members and their student colleagues. Master’s student in Public Health Anika Brown says “GS 505 gave me a taste of the research component that I often feel like I am missing in my own program. The small class size and the interactive teaching model was very appreciated and I learned something new every week”.

Darren Patterson, master’s student in English Literature adds that the learning goes beyond research methodology. “By pairing students with a seasoned ministry staff member, GS 505 provides an opportunity to practice the networking skills — such as communication, co-operative research, and balancing multiple scheduling demands — necessary for any successful graduate student”. 

Sharing knowledge for the benefit of society

Students end the course by presenting their research findings to Ministry practitioners and policymakers and providing the research report to the Ministry. For many students, this is the first time writing a research report for and presenting to government which is a little different than a typical university course research project.

For Elaine Laberge, doctoral student in Sociology, “writing a research report for the government was completely outside my experience. The guidance of my teachers was essential such as ‘no emotionally-laden language!’ I was able to conduct research on a project that is outside my own area and learn so much that will shape my research and knowledge mobilization going forward.”

Drexler Ortix, master’s student in Psychology explains, “it was interesting to have a small snippet into the intersection of policy and research, and what research goes into making decisions at the level of government planning. This insight will help me in the future when I want to mobilize my research into its implications for policy.”

The Ministry can apply the students’ findings and recommendations to inform programs and policy. The presentations showcase the students' hard work and are available in person and online so that MCFD staff can attend from across the province. This knowledge mobilization component of the GS 505 course offers a holistic presentation of all the research projects and generates lots of discussion among staff and students.

The GS 505 course is an excellent partnership building tool between the Ministry and UVic, and is seen as a "win-win" opportunity. The Ministry gets research needs met quickly and students get experience with real lines of inquiry. Many GS 505 alumni have gone on to pursue employment with the Ministry or build on their course research for their thesis.

2019 GS 505 research topics

The 2019 projects all have an Indigenous focus. This year, the call for research projects expanded to MCFD's Delegated Aboriginal Agencies (DAA) and GS 505 had its first DAA sponsored project.

  • Culturally attuned ways to keep children safe and in their communities
  • Parenting adopted children through adolescence
  • Culturally safe service delivery for Indigenous children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
  • Strengths-based culturally-grounded supervision models in child welfare
  • A profile of Indigenous grandparents raising grandchildren
  • A comparative analysis of Indigenous early years services government funding models

Find out more

Facilitated by UVic Research Partnerships and Knowledge Mobilization, GS 505 is a partnership between MCFD and UVic, and this article is written in collaboration. We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Province of British Columbia through the MCFD. For more information about GS 505, contact .