SHLWhat does SEE HEAR LOVE mean to you in the context of your work?

Marcia: See through a lens that is not bias, through eyes of Christ – imago dei, that we have to recognize brokenness but also see hope, hear truth, but just our own conclusions – Hear the voice of pain and fear and hurt – needs to encompass listening. When you See, Hear things that are painful, you need to draw from Love that Christ puts in our heart to do that the work that we do. Loving people back to life and hope. Loving enough to see and hear without judgement and exercising righteous judgement (to be able to discern what needs to be done, advocacy etc). single parents etc

SHLHow do we understand Families in Crisis – what are the problems? Solutions? What are the numbers like in a city like Toronto? Are they similar in other cities? 

Marcia: Statistics show that a large percentage of those living below the poverty line are immigrants to Canada and single parent families. Recognizing the needs of our community, YSM responded by creating our Family Services dept, which launched March 2015.  As with the rest of YSM, we serve Regent Park, St. James Town & Moss Park. Family Services offers a holistic approach to family care (restorative care and care management programs) and currently touches the lives of hundreds of families through our education, daycare, employment and counselling services. Programs include daycare, educational support (tutoring and after school homework club), care management and computer lab. Family Services works with all members of the family that need support. They provide parents with tailored workshops to their area of struggle that help families gain the skills and knowledge to guide and interact with their children effectively. This keeps them together as a unit and increases the children’s educational success and wellbeing.

SHL: What does “Families in Crisis” mean?

Marcia: Ultimately crisis is defined as anything that undermined the stability of the family unit. Families in crisis fall into one of two categories:

  • Those that are either in a state of static, chronic poverty, often lacking the basic needs such as safe, decent housing and enough money to buy food or pay rent.
  • Those who are experiencing the impact of debilitating trauma or challenges such as loss of a major breadwinner, legal issues, threat of eviction etc.

Our staff also work closely with families in crisis. The level of crisis varies by family, a lot of families that come to YSM are experiencing relationship breakdown that can be a result of a death in the family, divorce, domestic violence, job loss, child apprehension, to name a few – there is no clear cut list of ways that families experience crisis. Program staff also advocate on behalf of families, this includes housing, education, criminal and family court and with other agencies, such as CAS.

SHL: What are the STATISTICS of Families in Crisis in Canada?

Marcia: Over 1.3 million children in Canada live in poverty, with Toronto as the child poverty capital of Canada. In Toronto, Regent Park continues to have the highest rate of child poverty at 58%. In 2016, we had over 300,000 visits to YSM’s Family Services Programs 

SHL: How do we build healthy families? What is the importance of families and how do you create them/become a part of one if you don’t have a healthy family?

Marcia: Healthy families can be built through preventative and restorative programs. Relationships are crucial to starting the healing process and it is the job of the person(s) who is aiding them to reinforce respect, confidentiality and remain teachable. It can be very destructive, and also push the families back into their reclusiveness if one comes with prejudice/biases towards situations or people.     

  • First step – Families need to acknowledge that they need help and that there is no shame in asking for help. One of the most difficult steps is overcoming the shame of asking for help – that is what community is about.
  • Second step – Families need to navigate through finding resources and how to get help – this can be done through agencies who offer support services, like YSM does.
    • It is important for those who are assisting these families to recognize barriers that impede them from accessing resources and supports. This ultimately affects the process. One example of this is mobility – transportation is expensive and some families can only go to places by walking, which makes it a challenge to get to resources that are not within walking distance.
  • Third step – Families need to have some trust/build trust with those they are seeking help from. T rust needs to be built before traumas can be addresses. Once the trust is in place, healing can begin. The two parties need to position themselves as allies – it is a collaboration. Those who are assisting the families need to have the capacity to break it down in a practical way to allow them to work on issues. YSM is very family focused, and the restorative/preventative plan is not driven by what YSM thinks need to be done, rather it is based on what family wishes to work on.

SHL:  What kind of programs does YSM offer to restore and support families? What causes instability in a family?

Marcia: Instability can be a result of a death in the family, divorce, domestic violence, job loss, child apprehension, to name a few – there is no clear cut list of ways that families experience crisis. The causes of instability vary from family to family and is defined as anything that undermined the stability of the family unit

YSM has an array of programs. The food bank is one of the first places of relief that we have to respond to. It gives us an opportunity to invite them to sit with us and talk about what else is needed. Other programs are:

  • Educational supports (tutoring grades 8-12)
  • Homework club (grades 1-8)
  • Safety supports for kids, let them have time to work on their own issues. Preventative and restorative measures.
  • Computer lab (kids, youth & adults can decrease digital gap needed to function in school and to be employable)
  • Case management – meet with family in safe space and hear them, allow them to share their trauma
    • Then refer them to experts who can help them further with their traumas
  • Housing supports – our family services team works with the housing team to get them into live able conditions and work on long term plan

This is where you begin to build trust – building self-esteem, parenting classes etc. All programs show them YSM is there with then on the journey & reconnect them back to community.

In 2016, YSM made an intentional effort to provide family with more support through their journey to change. YSM wanted to engage families within the community and program staff found that the families that attend YSM programs had very little support, healthy relationships and positive role models and relationships to connect with. When our case workers believe that the families are ready for the next step, they will pair them with a mentor family so that they can begin to build healthy relationships with other families. We already run youth mentoring programs, and those have been very successful so our program staff wanted to provide see if it would have the same effect on families.

The purpose of the mentorship program is to see things from a new perspective because a lot of the families that we interact with do not have healthy relationships or positive people in their lives who can show them that another life is possible. Since all of the families live in poverty, they usually run in the same circles, which creates barriers because they don’t push out of their comfort zones. The mentors will provide perspective and hope, share their own experiences, model healthy boundaries, demonstrate healthy parenting skills, conflict resolution, how to restore balance, do activities together. Learn about other cultures (both families and kids are learning from each other, different perspectives)

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