Family support is out there
Support for parents gains momentum in community

Glen Vienneau
Northern News Services

Yellowknife ( May 12/00) - A support program for families is beginning to fill a major gap in the community. "

It used to be that before we had a lot more support through external families, extended families, now society is more individualized -- with that lost and with people being taken into residential schools and the loss of culture up here, we tend to lose a lot of parenting skills," said Caroline Johnson, program co-ordinator of the Family Support Program.

The program, established three years ago, aims to provide home-based intervention programs for families in collaboration with various community agencies.

Operating from the Yellowknife Women's Centre's 48th Street location, it is supported by a staff of five, including Johnson, and is funded by the Department of Education, Culture and Employment under the Healthy Children Initiative.

"We go in and actually work with families to provide parenting skills, life skills and advocacy," said Johnson.

The goal of the program is to assist those needing support in making informed decisions regarding their child or family.

Some families utilizing the program may have problems ranging from receiving an eviction notice, not receiving their income support cheques or having a child who has run away from home.

The program also helps families gain the resources needed to become more independent in the long term.

"We try to work with other resources that can help them," she said.

The program operates on a four-step system. First, the support worker attempts to visit the family's home for a assessment. Then, networking with the community government agencies takes place. Next, support workers try to identify the family's needs, whether they be food, shelter or spiritual.

Finally, they work towards achieving the family's short and long term goals.

"The only thing that restricts people gaining services is if we don't have a worker here. Our funding comes mostly for children, parents with children under six, but, we don't turn down anyone," Johnson said.

As well as the home-based intervention program, two other related programs are offered. The Parental Group workshop, given on Fridays, offers parenting skills, discipline for children, life skills and assists in developing social networking.

"It's one thing to know how to change a diaper, it's another thing to know how to raise your children," she said. Another project offered is the One, Two, Three Rhyme With Me interactive literary program for parents and children, which began May 11 at the women's centre.

This weekly program gives parents the opportunity to learn rhymes, songs and stories which can be shared with their children, helping to build their child's first steps towards literacy. Johnson says that plans for other literacy programs are under way.

Funded by the Department of Education, Culture and Employment, staff include Amanda Rumbolt, full-time family support worker; Vickie Cook, part-time youth and child worker; and Ursula Haack, part-time group development and group facilitator. Another part-time worker, Pat Weir, is in training via funds through the Department of Human Resources Development Canada.