Sharing Best Practices: An Interview with Mark Turner

Photo Credit: Unsplash User  Wendy Aros-Routman

Photo Credit: Unsplash User Wendy Aros-Routman

Mark Turner has worked with CAPC at the Hiiye’yu Lelum Society on Vancouver Island since 1996, as Coordinator of the Healthy Children Healthy Futures CAPC, as an active member of Advisories for CAPC provincial and regional training initiatives, and on a National Projects committee.

When asked, “What would you say to someone just starting out as a Coordinator?” Mark’s immediate reply was to get to know your Program Consultant and make connections with other Coordinators, the easiest way of doing being through the Coordinator’s conference calls.  He recommended finding a mentor from amongst the other Coordinators (either by consulting with your Program Consultant or your local connections), asking them question, “How did you do this?” and not trying to ‘reinvent the wheel’ of a program that has worked so well for three decades.

Mark joked that one big change in the program over the years is that we no longer use Word Perfect and floppy discs in our records keeping.  On a more serious note, he expressed concern that, without increases in funding over a number of years, the program has become encapsulated to protect its basic operations, and is no longer able to afford to reach out as effectively to community partners, with the multiplicative benefit that creates for parents and children in the community.

A major change has been the re-focusing of the evaluation model.  He misses the input of Dr. Marla Stenberg, the evaluation program consultant who helped shape the evaluation components of the BC CAPC programs.  He commented that the current evaluation looks at national trends and less distinctively reflects BC’s unique coalition model.  Structural changes and re-shaping of the training models for BC, especially the loss of the Provincial Training Conference, mean that Coordinators no longer have a strong face-to-face relationship with Program Consultants, other PHAC staff, and other program Coordinators provincially, which has increased the isolation for program Coordinators, with much more reliance on technology for communication.

For families at risk who access the CAPC programs, one of the biggest challenges has been the freezing of provincial welfare rates since 2007.  Other new challenges include the low cost and addictiveness of readily available drugs, the high birthrate in young aboriginal parents, and cellphone dependency (including prioritizing buying phone minutes over buying food, because there is food support through the food bank, but no financial support available for phone connection).

Mark’s mentors over the years for working in the program have been the Program Consultants, such as Liana Zimmer, Connie Chapman, and Colleen Wickenheiser.  Connie was a particular source of inspiration, as she lived on the Island and was readily available, and they were able to maintain a face-to-face relationship.

Mark received two notes during his first year of work that have been an ongoing touchstone and inspiration:

  • “The great way is not difficult to follow for those with few preferences.” This serves as a reminder to give up personal bias and work from where the families are. 
  • From the late Linda Bell:  “Model, repetition, and teachable moments.” An example of this came from a family who have had all their children apprehended at birth.  They have been able to move from hating the foster parents, and thinking of them as competitors, to thinking of the foster parents as a team with whom they work together to create a strong environment for the their children, and in partnership with whom, they can be the best parents they can be, in their personal circumstances. The quote is also helpful in supporting frontline workers, with its reminder to trust and empower their power to serve families.

Another great source of inspiration for Mark has been the children.  Mark has watched babies grow up to be parents, in strobe light snapshots of time, as their needs intersect with the services of the Friendship Centre.

Mark’s final source of inspiration has been his co-workers, from Christine Sim (Port Alberni) to Greta Pearson (Duncan), and their dedication to the work.

One of the nice thing about being a program Coordinator has been being involved in many program initiatives over the years, including highlights such as:

  • Participating in a national project fund on Environmental Toxins.  It only went through first phase, but awareness of the impacts of environmental toxins on vulnerable and remote communities has been greatly heightened over the past decade.  This project was cutting edge.
  • Updating our parenting education program three times, doing program re-writes and updates, developing on the original program model, and introducing new content into the program teaching.
  • Seeing how the program teaching is accepted by participant families.
  • Many provincial initiatives arising out of provincial training. 
  • Working collaboratively on Advisories for provincial and regional training over many years.
  • Stream days, when each of the three streams could break out separately during a portion of the provincial conference.

Mark spoke about two trainings he has taken over the years that had particular impact:

  • In 2006, with Connie Chapman’s encouragement and support, they had Jane Middleton-Moz come to the Island in a snowstorm to do regional training on frontline worker coping and other skills.
  • When Dr. Gabor Mate spoke at the last provincial conference, Mark, as emcee, got to interview Dr. Mate personally before the presentation to prepare some notes.  Getting to talk with him briefly as an individual, before hearing his presentation, increased the power of the learning.

Mark shared that having the privilege of immersing in an Aboriginal cultural environment through the lens of a Friendship Centre, has been one of the most rewarding elements of his work with the CAPC program.

As he moves on from his work with Healthy Children Healthy Futures, Mark is looking forward to exploring his role within a new community, and to having the freedom to consider doing international development work.

Mark’s hope for CAPC is that the funding will be able to be increased to reflect the quality of the program and its versatile, flexible operational module that has allowed it to respond so effectively to meet the changing needs of communities.

Mark’s final wisdom to share comes back round to two main items:

  • “Model, repetition, and teachable moments!”
  • Ask your Program Consultant for their help, because they have knowledge and experience, and access to the national picture.