Peter Joseph Smyth Author of Evaluating Organization Development

Peter Joseph Smyth

Social Worker, Specialist for High Risk Youth Initiative
Alberta Childrens Services/University of Calgary

Peter Smyth, MSW, RSW, is a social worker working in the areas of child protection and community development, and specializing in services to complex and troubled youth. I also do teaching, consulting and training in the areas of engaging and working with high-risk youth; trauma, attachment and brain development; and harm reduction. I also have a background in journalism and now combine social work and writing. I grew up in Wales and moved to Canada in 1975. I am married with four kids, 12-26.


Peter Smyth, M.S.W., R.S.W., has been a social worker for over 28 years and is cur-rently with Alberta Children Services, Edmonton Region Child and Youth Services Division, overseeing the High Risk Youth Initiative. From 2005 to 2012, he was the supervisor of the High Risk Youth Unit using a practice framework and philosophy develop with the first caseload created in 1999. The practice framework and philosophy incorporating non-traditional intervention methods to better meet the needs of this challenging population. Prior to this, I supervised the Inner City Con-nections partnership between government and inner-city agencies. I am a co-founder of the Old Strathcona Youth Society in Edmonton, Alberta, which has served home┬Čless and disadvantaged youth since 1998. I have written about issues confronting youth and provide consultation, training, and workshops on engaging and work┬Čing with youth and understanding youth through an attachment, trauma, and brain development lens, and through using harm reduction approaches, and collaborating with community stakeholders. I am also a part of the committee organizing the Allies for Youth Connections Conference (formerly the High Risk Youth Conference) which takes place every two years in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. More recently I was pleased to accept a position of sessional instructor at the University of Calgary, Faculty of Social Work, Central and Northern Alberta Region. I have been married for over 27 years and we have four children all over 18 years of age.

Areas of Research / Professional Expertise

    I have written and trained in the areas of engaging and working with complex and troubled youth; attachment, trauma and brain development; and harm reduction approaches to practice. I have been involved in research on young Aboriginal mothers who have lived through the child welfare system; youth and homelessness and health, as well as youth exclusion and marginalization.

Personal Interests

    I enjoy reading textbooks that are related to my work interests, as well as politics. I also enjoy music and go to concerts and folk music festivals with my wife and children. I have a interest in sports, particularly soccer, and photography. I travel when I can and have good memories of camping as a family.


Featured Title
 Featured Title - Working with High-Risk Youth - Smyth - 1st Edition book cover


Transforming Child Welfare: Interdisciplinary Practices, Field Education, and Research

Aligning Practice, Ethics and Policy: Adopting a Harm Reduction Approach in Work

Published: Nov 01, 2016 by Transforming Child Welfare: Interdisciplinary Practices, Field Education, and Research
Authors: Peter Smyth (Eds: D. Fuchs, D. Badry, H. M. Montgomery, D. Kikulwe)

This book chapter speaks to need to start incorporatting harm reduction approaches into child welfare practice. This will help the mandate service be more anti-oppressive, empowers service users, and ensures children, youth and families are invbolved in the descision-making process. This is consistent with relationship-based perpectives and is consistent with social work values.

Canadian Social Work 18(1), 54-68

Navigating through systems: The journey of young mothers to adulthood

Published: Oct 31, 2016 by Canadian Social Work 18(1), 54-68
Authors: Peter Smyth

Research was consducted with young Aboriginal mothers.

The New Social Worker 22(2), 18-21

High risk youth, harm reduction, and the shift to relationship-based practice

Published: Mar 22, 2015 by The New Social Worker 22(2), 18-21
Authors: Peter Smyth

This article discusses the shift away from traditional punishment-based approaches to child protection work with youth, to a relationship-based practice that incorporates harme reduction approaches. Such an approach helps in the engagement process and makes sense for the youth and the worker when in the working phase of the relationship. This has been part of the practice framework within the High Risk Youth Initiative in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

The New Social Worker (online)

The Legacy We Leave (poem)

Published: Mar 01, 2014 by The New Social Worker (online)
Authors: Peter Smyth

This is a peom about the challenges of child welfare work in which adminsitrative tasks can take precedence over building connections with our children and youth.

Social Work Today, 13(6), 10

A Different Approach to High Risk Youths

Published: Nov 01, 2013 by Social Work Today, 13(6), 10
Authors: Peter Smyth

The article discusses how youth who have been involved in the child welfare system have not had positive outcomes once they have aged out. This is particularly tru for high-risk youth, often called "the disconnected" as they do not have a support system to guide them through their many challenges in life. It is critical that case workers focus on building relationships. Strategie for engaging and working with youth are outlined.

Passion for Action in Child and Family Services: Voices from the Prairies (Canadian Plains Research)

Making the Connection: Strategies for Working with High-risk Youth

Published: Oct 15, 2009 by Passion for Action in Child and Family Services: Voices from the Prairies (Canadian Plains Research)
Authors: Peter Smyth and Arlene Easton -Erickson (Eds: S. McKay, D. Fuchs, I. Brown, 2009)

This book chapter discusses a practice framework and philosophy in engaging and working with high-risk youth (called, "the disconnected"), a poluation that challenges all child welfare jurisdictions. Startegies are outlined through the use of harm reductions and resiliency and strength-based approaches, and community collaboration.

Journal for Services to Children and Families

Community Integration: The Next Challenge for Child Welfare

Published: Sep 22, 2009 by Journal for Services to Children and Families
Authors: Peter Smyth

This article discussionthe need and importance child practice to be integrated in to the community, and be seen as collaborators rather than working in isolation. As Brian Wharf stated in 2002, community social work and community organizing are negelcted but potential powerful strategies for improving child welfare. In 2017, we still have a long way to go, though this has improved as we recognize the wisdom we can tap into in our communities.