Families are able to plan and choose the help they need to give their child the best start possible.
Many community resource centers already strive to build long-term supportive and trusting relationships with families. The services and resources they offer, however, are often held back by a lack of resources or funding. We are seeking to change that and explore what might be possible if the supports that families value most were given the resources and flexibility needed to work with families as-needed. We partnered with a local, established non-profit organization to work with expectant parents and their families over several months and facilitate their creation of a whole-family health and wellness plan, while connecting them with the supports that they felt they needed most.
In partnership with the Andrews Street Family Centre (ASFC) we provided help and guidance through a whole-family health and wellness planning process, including:
- Information and referrals to existing community programs and training (e.g., addictions programs, counseling)
- Help in navigating family and community care systems (e.g., Manitoba Housing, Child and Family Services)
- Resources that helped the ASFC to respond in a flexible way to each family’s unique needs
- Time, space, and activities to build trust and relationships with support staff
The Child-Centred Model–a way of working for positive change developed by the community of Point Douglas–helped us find the best ways to support families in creating a health and wellness plan.
We listened and responded to the help that families asked for, rather than assuming that professionals know better.
We worked to support the whole extended family, rather than focusing only on the needs of children or parents.
We worked to give families the time and space to plan and dream, rather than providing help only during crises.
When we work with the Child-Centred Model as our guide, we are able to support positive change for children, parents, families, and the community.
To learn more about the Child-Centred Model, read the full report here.
Why did we focus on Health and Wellness Planning?
Children have many natural supports – their parents and family, the community, relatives, and elders among them. However, these eco-systems need to be strengthened and supported themselves in order to give children their best start. The help that systems provide to families is generally reactive in nature, meaning that families often cannot access many resources unless they are in the midst of a crisis. Preventative measures are sometimes nonexistant when it comes to helping families avoid crises in the first place.
While the care and services that systems provide are intended to help families and have the best of intentions, they sometimes miss the mark. More efforts are needed to help expectant parents and their families plan and access the supports they need to have a healthy pregnancy and ensure a positive start to life for their baby. This can be achieved by prioritizing keeping families together, funding resources for families to avoid apprehension by child and family services, and allowing expectant parents to determine a resource plan for both for themselves and their children.
Reducing the number of Indigenous children in care and keeping families together is action that has been called for by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Providing supports like Health and Wellness Planning is an important step in giving children the best care possible.
What creates barriers to families accessing Health and Wellness Planning?
Natural Supports are not Properly Resourced
Existing supports that are best for a child—their natural supports such as parents and extended family—are not provided the resources that they need to be most effective, leading to families often encountering crises.
Loss of Trust
Many of the policies that systems implement can at times be punitive to families, even though they’re meant to help those facing challenges. As a result, families will often not seek the help of these organizations even in times of need.
Lack of Whole Family Supports
While there are some existing supports for mothers and women, more opportunities to access help are needed that include everyone who cares for children, including men and fathers. Gaps in existing services makes it difficult for whole families to participate in family health and wellness planning.
Rigidity of Services
Families need resources that meet them where they are at and respond to their individual needs. Existing services should provide more flexible options in order to build healthy, supportive, and trusting longterm relationships with families.
Lack of Preventative Resources
Existing resources are focused on helping families respond to crises, but do not prioritize helping them prevent crises or make plans for a healthy future. Many families only gain access to services like counseling after they have had intervention from systems (e.g., gaining access to counseling once children are in professional care).
Not Knowing What’s Available
Families may not be aware of the supports that are available to them or how they can help.