CAPC Kaslo “Strong Start Parent and Child Time” (SSPACT)
North Kootenay Lake Community Services Society (NKLCSS), in Kaslo, BC, is a non-profit, multi-service organization offering community counseling; addictions and alcohol counseling; children and youth counseling; victims assistance and counseling; family support; and two Family Centres. NKLCSS also provides Lifeline emergency call services for elderly or ill persons living alone and operates Safe Home, a refuge for women and their children leaving an abusive relationship.
Founded in 1976, NKLCSS has a long history of providing essential services to people from Ainsworth to Meadow Creek, Howser, Argenta and Johnsons’s Landing; a group of small communities in the North Kootenay Lake area. Keeping in Touch interviewed Barb Cry, Program Coordinator, to learn more about their history of offering parent support programs, as well as a new approach to family support they are currently piloting.
NKLCSS has been offering CAPC programming since 1995, initially in private homes and church halls, then from a storefront Family Centre, and is now based in the local school. Through operating their storefront Family Centre, NKLCSS were well aware of the advantages of centralizing family programs in a single access location for the local community: Kaslo has about 1000 residents, with up to 40 or 50 participants attending the drop-in program. When NKLCSS partnered with J.V. Humphries school to apply for Strong Start funding in 2009, arrangements were made for NKLCSS to relocate all of their family programs in the school, in order to continue this tradition of centralized family services. Kaslo Family Resource Centre has now been operating out of the school for 6 years. While there have been many details to sort out in this partnership with a large K-12 school, NKLCSS staff members have been very happy with the outcome. Both NKLCSS and JVH school staff and administration have worked hard to build a strong relationship. Through the Kaslo Family Resource Centre, CAPC offers a monthly speaker series for parents, with topics chosen by the parents. CAPC also partners with School District 8 (Strong Start), Province of British Columbia Office of the Early Years (MCFD), and Family Resource Program (MCFD) to create an enhanced Strong Start program called “Strong Start Parent and Child Time” (SSPACT).
Since 2003, NKLCSS has run the SSPACT drop-in each week during daytime hours. Last spring, with the addition of ‘Early Years Centre’ funding from the Provincial Office for the Early Years, the decision was reached to change the afternoon program to an evening program. One of the hopes was that this new time slot would help fathers and working parents participate. In Kaslo, the CAPC programs have always had dads involved, usually about 2 or 4 different fathers per month. Since changing to the evening program, the number of fathers attending has roughly doubled. Many fathers are now attending consistently (weekly, rather than once or twice a month). Several whole families, including school-aged children are attending.
The evening program includes a hot meal with a suggested donation of $2 - $7 per person per meal. Families are made aware that the donation is not required if they are living on low income or experiencing temporary financial hardship. Now that the program has run for 3 months and is building momentum, it’s clear that the donations received will make a big difference in offering the meal program
The program is held on Tuesday evenings, and each session starts with gym time. This is a really active, fun session. Adults are encouraged to join in and play with the kids. Barb shared, “I can’t remember the last time I had the experience of running full out and chasing another adult, both of us squealing the whole way!” She says the kids have a look of real thrill when they see their parents joining wholeheartedly in the play. Barb comments that adding ‘dad energy’ has been a real plus, and helps make this part of the evening a lot of fun.
One of the participant fathers has commented that, “The Kaslo family center Tuesday night experience is a heartfelt and fun opportunity for our family. For me personally, time with other men in a setting like this is unusual; I'm normally the only man, but here there are nearly as many fathers as mothers. I speculate that this is true because of how comfortable the hosts have helped it to feel, not to mention the great food and the support it provides for us to be together as families, and to have some "down time" in our often crazy life schedules.”
Having some whole families present has been a real enhancement to the program, especially during the meal. Sharing a whole meal, rather than a snack, makes it feel more like a welcoming extended family get-together.
After the meal, the program structure is designed to model a healthy bedtime routine and to encourage families to build these routines into their family life. Parents are welcome to bring their children’s pajamas and toothbrushes, and to prepare the children for bed. Once comfy, everyone joins together for a circle time and bedtime stories. Toothbrushes and toothpaste are available for people who’ve forgotten theirs. Staff are still working at encouraging this portion of the program; keeping the programs fresh and relevant to participants is always their goal.
Being situated in the school has real advantages for the program, includng access to the gym and the school library. The session moves to the library for circle time and bedtime stories. Barb comments that it is delightfully cozy to watch the adults yawning and rubbing their eyes, just like the children! After storytime, parents can sign out books to take home to read with their children.
Barb says, “I often speak of how much I love my job. The introduction of this evening SSPACT session has added a new gem in my schedule each week. This program feels fun and nourishing and supportive. I have felt continually touched to see the deepening relationships among the families attending. Parents work so hard to care for their children-there is nothing more challenging (and rewarding) than parenting. I’m extremely honoured to do my small part in caring for the parents.”