Interview with Joseph Dunn, Executive Director, BC Council for Families (BCCF)

Photo Credit: Unsplash User  Laercio Cavalcanti

Photo Credit: Unsplash User Laercio Cavalcanti

We spoke with Joseph Dunn, Executive Director of the BC Council for Families (BCCF), who is a community development and child and family health, training, policy and practice professional with over 16 years of leadership experience in organizational strategic development, both in the non-profit and government sectors across British Columbia.

Joseph came to this work originally from a background as a post-secondary instructor. Around 16 years ago he met Clyde Hertzman, founder of the Human Early Learning Project (HELP), who inspired him to move his career more deeply into issues around early childhood development (ECD) and the social determinants of health.

Joseph then worked with Success by 6 BC for 14 years in regional and provincial ECD and social services provision, and became the provincial director of the Success by 6 partnership initiative, working with service providers and agencies across BC, particularly in Indigenous ECD planning, before taking on his current role as executive director at BCCF.

We spoke about the role of BCCF in the family support community. BCCF has existed now for over 40 years: advocating for families; making sure family needs are made known to government; working together with government, communities and stakeholders; providing training for family support professionals; and providing resources and training for families which are shared widely through agencies. It is known for its provincial coordination of such programs as Parent-Child Mother Goose and Nobody’s Perfect Parenting.

BCCF provides learning supports and materials for parenting, grand-parenting, fathering, LGBTQ families, families going through separation and divorce, blended families, and work-life balance. Their materials support families from preschool through the tweens and teens.

Regular BCCF training dates for family support providers are available in the Lower Mainland and throughout the province, by either sending expert trainers to sites or through their network of locally-based family support trainers throughout BC. Their mandate is to make family support training and family education materials accessible, equitable, low-cost, and available to all regions in BC.

BCCF engages in regular surveying of stakeholders to gather a collective voice from across the province to inform their messaging, ascertain where there are gaps in provision, and assist in the development of resources and professional development training for family support professionals. Their surveys include ECD planners, executive directors of support agencies, and government funders. The Let’s Talk Families survey provides a regular opportunity for parents and guardians to provide feedback on challenges and financial concerns for families and to identify needs for support and resources.

In response to identified needs, BCCF have been developing new programs and family support professional training in the areas of Trauma Informed Practice, Cultural Safety, fathering; support for Indigenous fathers; supporting families of ‘tweens’ (7-12 years old); and support for emerging family structures, such as LGBTQ families.

Nobody’s Perfect Parenting , a Public Health Agency of Canada program, which has been in Canada for over 30 years, is one of BCCF's most popular training programs. The program supports and connects parents of children from birth to age five, and aims to increase parents' knowledge and understanding of their children's health, safety and behaviour. It also incorporates support for fathers and directs participants to new resources such as the PHAC website tip sheets for fathers.

Joseph noted that engaging with fathers in the early years is an area that is still in need of attention, as more and more fathers are actively engaged with child rearing and as single parents/primary caregivers. In response to this need BCCF offers a one-day training, It’s a Dad’s Life, which helps family support workers think through the experience of dads turning up at a drop-in and how that experience differs from that of mothers who arrive for the first time. The workshop incorporates tips, strategies and experiential learning about working with fathers and creating father-friendly environments.

A new workshop, is a two-day professional training , Engaging and Supporting Indigenous Fathers. This training provides professional development around reaching out to dads and setting up new programs in communities to provide culturally-grounded support for Indigenous fathers in B.C.

Using their established Nobody’s Perfect parenting facilitation training and program format of inclusive, experiential learning as a basic design platform, BCCF have created the My Tween and Me program and facilitation training to support youth empowerment and communication, in order to fill a recognized provincial and national provision gap for families of this age group (7-12). The program uses interactive case studies and experiential learning to build resilience and develop potential. It includes training on mental and physiological development, youth strengthening and developmental assets. The program has been designed so that parents and tweens participate together in the learning in order to establish common understanding, opportunities for communication in a safe environment, and mutual accountability. This program is now being offered by BCCF across the country and being recognized for its focus on social and emotional learning in the middle years.

The facilitation training supports skill-building and increased confidence for family support workers to continue working with family units as children grow.

Joseph expressed gratitude for the ongoing work of Kim Schonert-Reichel and the team at the Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP) at the University of British Columbia for the rigorous work they are doing to provide insights on early and middle years development. He also spoke about how BCCF are incorporating trauma-informed practice principles into their workshops for frontline workers, including boundary setting and creative response processes. BCCF will be offering a workshop this fall Boundary Practicel, specifically on how service providers can establish healthy boundaries to enable them to maintain their support for families over the long term.

They are also providing a new two-day regional training on the topic of “Inclusive Trauma Informed Practice through a Cultural Safety Lens” to agencies and communities across BC. This engaging and interactive workshop offers fundamentals of T.I.P. meaningfully understand in the context of supporting Indigenous families.

BCCF also offers the popular 5-day training on Integrated Strategies for Home Visitors. The training is designed to be hands on and informative. It includes:

  • protective factors for workers

  • what does home visitation look like in practice

  • tools and resources for working with families in-home

  • critical skills and factors

  • an individual community focus

All BCCF professional development training is designed to provide ongoing networks of support for participants, tip sheets, current research and application of best practices, and opportunities to connect to follow up workshops and connection points with others working in the same field.

BCCF also acts as provincial coordinator for the Alliance of Professionals Serving Young Parents (AYSYP). This group represents professionals working with young parent programs for 15-20 year olds who are finishing high school whilst parenting their children. BCCF assists with the coordination and ongoing development of parenting programs for the Alliance. Their annual conference will be held in Parksville this fall and is the only provincial conference on professional development best practice and networking for those in BC working to support young parents.

The range of programming and family support resources and services offered by BCCF is wide ranging. We only had time in the interview to cover current issues and new initiatives, but a visit to the website at https://www.bccf.ca is recommended. The website is well designed and easy to navigate, offering a range of resources, training opportunities, information, along with ways to share, connect and engage.