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Our world changed dramatically in 2020. The spread of COVID-19 across all continents, in over 200 countries, in both urban and rural regions, has impacted virtually everyone and every aspect of social, cultural and economic activity. It has, of course, also impacted politically, potentially altering the course of incumbent governments鈥 legitimacy crises on one end of the spectrum, or reelection prospects on the other end of the spectrum. Whether or not these impacts of the pandemic are permanent remains to be seen. Economies will likely recover eventually, people will go back to work, and the fundamental structures of societies will probably bounce back. But some things may well have changed permanently; first and foremost, this pandemic may indeed have changed the way we are together on this planet. From the seemingly mundane changes to how we greet each other 鈥 avoiding handshakes and kisses on the cheeks 鈥 to the obviously more substantive issues of how we trust each other, subtle movement toward new ways of being together is already becoming apparent. Perhaps just as importantly, 2020 will leave us with a new chapter in history; a chapter during which some rose to the challenge of the collective good, while others retreated to the protection of individual well-being and survival. We will remember each other鈥檚 actions, non-actions, statements and positions. And, we will either choose to remember or choose to forget the sacrifices and important deeds of those who have kept many of us alive through their work 鈥 the health care workers, the grocery store clerks, the community workers. We designated them as heroes at the start of this crisis; notably, this language is quietly retreating, special wage increases of chronically underpaid workers are being rolled back, and state support programs for those most impacted by the crisis are nearing their end.

One of the more peculiar aspects of this crisis has been the impact on and the narrative about children and youth. Most crises, such as war, ecological disaster, and famine focus significantly on the impact on children and youth. This crisis, quite uniquely, really struggled with centering our usual victims. It turns out that just this once, children and youth appeared physically better equipped to fight the virus that has been killing especially the elderly by the hundreds of thousands. In many narratives about this crisis, children and youth have become weaponized 鈥 the virus infects them to no effect but they transfer it to the adults in their lives. Children and youth suddenly are dangerous, a threat to those in our societies accustomed to being in control.

We are putting together this Special Issue of Child & Youth Services because we wondered about how all of these shifts, movements and changes will impact the ways we are with children, youth, their families and their communities and the ways in which we will be with them post-pandemic. Many of those with a stake in this journal are professionals and academics who spend every day thinking about some aspect of being with children, youth, their families and their communities. And so we wonder: will anything have changed once this pandemic subsides? Will the wounds of contemporary society, exposed through the course of this pandemic, impact our relationships?

The wounds exposed are plentiful. In North America in particular, the pandemic has been accompanied by a renewed agitation related to police violence, anti-Black racism, and neo-colonial practices impacting disproportionately on equity-seeking communities. Fueled by the empirical data about racialized injustice in social sectors, in health care and in education laid bare through the pandemic, will there ever be trust in the relationships between white and racialized communities? Will young people recover from the potentially traumatic loss of grandparents and parents to the virus? Will adults recover from the pain of watching their parents die in old age homes, which, it turns out, are in many cases reflective of the worst of human indignity? Will professional social service workers reengage with communities that live in precarious, high-risk circumstance where the reemergence of infectious disease seems likely? Will we collectively be able to heal?

All of these are big questions with no certain answers. We will all have to wait and see. But in the meantime, we wanted to pose these kinds of questions to people with a stake in the future of our relationships with children, youth, their families and their communities. And so we did. Our editorial team of four includes: Dr. Grant Charles, a Social Work professor at the University of British Columbia and one of the managing Editors of this journal; Dr. Ashley Quinn, an Indigenous Social Work professor at the University of Toronto, Shadan Hyder, a community activist and child and youth care practitioner based in Toronto, and Dr. Kiaras Gharabaghi, a Professor of Child & Youth Care at Ryerson University in Toronto and formerly a Managing Editor of this journal. We asked the authors to provide their perspective on how we will be with children and youth, their families and communities, post-pandemic. We were determined to seek out people who can bring different wisdom, different experiences, different geographies to the table. Assembled in this Special Issue are the voices of very established academics and high-status professionals as well as the voices of students, of frontline community workers and those themselves deeply impacted by this pandemic. Our contributors identify with many communities, including Indigenous communities, Black communities, Muslim communities, LGBTQ2s鈥+鈥塩ommunities, disability communities and others. They have experience in health care sectors, community service sectors, education, universities, policy sectors and elsewhere. And they geographically represent urban centers and small towns in Canada, the United States, Germany, Hong Kong, Ghana, India, Jamaica, Australia and Norway.

We asked for short, reflective pieces of writing informed by both personal experience and professional or scholarly engagement. While we hoped for a direct engagement with the core question about future relations with children, youth, their families and communities, what we received in response varied. For many of our contributors, it is the here and now that needed to be addressed 鈥 both in positive ways that celebrate the creativity and the hard work of organizations and individuals to respond to this crisis, and in more critical ways that ask hard questions of longstanding and emerging social injustices, racisms, exclusions and marginalization. Other contributors were quick to move toward the future; they provide possibilities for what we might expect years down the road that are informed by a wide range of worldviews and perspectives. From the psychiatric lens to the on-going battle against racism, and from the challenges for traditional institutions such as schools to the opportunities for social innovators, our contributors have something to say about many possible scenarios. Their writing was subject to editorial review processes to ensure a quality of narrative commensurate with the journal鈥檚 expectations, especially where English may not have been the first language of the author(s); and we also provided for a modified, external and blind peer review process, focused primarily on the internal consistency of arguments and the avoidance of empirical inaccuracies.

We present this Special Issue with considerable pride; these are difficult times for many people around the world, but there is comfort in knowing that many people are also thinking deeply about what we are facing now and where we might find opportunities to make positive and meaningful change. Some contributions end on hopeful notes; others provide for clear and unequivocal warnings that we are in deep trouble as a human collective. Regardless, collectively these contributions give us a sense of possibilities, and that is in and of itself invaluable at a time of great uncertainty.