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To Protect Battered Women, You Have to Protect Their Pets

Posted by on Jan 13, 2014 in Advice, Featured Article, Resources | 0 comments

To Protect Battered Women, You Have to Protect Their Pets

Earlier this year, a New York City woman—I’ll call her Mary—tried to leave her abusive husband. She contacted a shelter, but the shelter wouldn’t take pets. Nor would any other shelter in the city. Mary’s son said he couldn’t leave his three cats behind. And so, since Mary couldn’t leave without her son, she stayed outside the shelter system.

Pets do not get much attention in research on domestic violence, but there is reason to believe that situations like Mary’s are amazingly common. A 2007 summary of available research, published in the journal Violence Against Women, found that in the dozen or so shelters in the country that collect data on the issue, between 18 and 48 percent of women said they had delayed leaving their abusers because it meant leaving their pets. In one study conducted in upstate New York, researchers found that among women who had seen their pets abused, 65 percent had put off seeking help. Presumably, many others with pets never leave home at all.

In 2008, there were only four shelters in the country that accommodated domestic animals. Today there are 73, but that’s still only about three percent of shelters nationwide, and to date, no program in a city as large or dense as New York has allowed women to “co-shelter” directly with their animals.

Between 20 and 71 percent of pet-owning women entering shelters have seen their animals harmed or threatened by their abuser.

That might be changing. In June, Mary, her children, and their cats became the first participants in a program called People and Animals Living Safely, a six-month pilot conceived by the Urban Resource Institute, a non-profit that runs four shelters in New York City, and the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, a non-profit coalition of animal rescue groups. Now Mary, kids, and pets live together in a sparsely furnished third-floor apartment in the Urban Resource Institute’s biggest shelter. Ten of the building’s 38 units have been designated pet-friendly and outfitted with crates, litter boxes, window screens, and pet food. For the pilot period, women will be allowed to bring cats and smaller animals with them into the shelter, and if enough money can be raised to build a dog run in the alley, there are plans to accept dogs by December. The Urban Resource Institute hopes to expand the PALS program to all its shelters—and prod the rest of the city’s system to do the same. When I accompanied a group of visitors there this summer, Mary was proud to show us her three new matching pet crates; the cats sat pressed against the backs of their cages, warily eyeing the outsiders.

According to the Violence Against Women research summary, between 20 and 71 percent of pet-owning women entering shelters have seen their animals harmed or threatened by their abuser. Pets can become scapegoats or hostages, the targets of threats or abuse meant to terrorize another person. But animals can also be the lone comforters and sometime protectors of isolated victims. All this makes the prospect of leaving a pet behind particularly terrifying.

Recent history has yielded some spectacular demonstrations of how far people will go to protect their pets. Eight years ago, the nation watched as many residents of New Orleans refused to evacuate their homes in advance of Hurricane Katrina in order to stay with their animals, which were barred from shelters like the Superdome. A year after the storm, Congress passed legislation requiring states to include domestic animals in their disaster evacuation plans if they wanted to receive federal disaster aid. When Hurricane Sandy hit the Eastern Seaboard last year, New York’s shelters all aggressively advertised pet-friendly policies.

Katrina was an epiphany for policymakers, says Jenny Coffey, a social worker with the Mayor’s Alliance. “People were photographed holding on to their animals for dear life. The shelters that didn’t allow the animals didn’t realize how much they were losing. … What hasn’t happened,” Coffey adds, “is the trickle-down of that understanding to the small, personal life crises— specifically domestic violence. Until this plan.”

There are still glitches to be worked out with the PALS program. For instance, the city’s domestic violence hotline, which matches victims with shelters, does not yet ask callers whether they have pets. Consequently, few women learn that pet-friendly options exist. And it remains to be seen how shelters can best deal with allergies, pet health, and liabilities if residents are bitten or scratched.

But there’s little doubt that pets are on victims’ minds. In the shelter where Mary and her children now live, the walls of the basement rec room are covered with pictures from kids’ art-therapy sessions. Almost all of them are of cats and dogs.

Kathryn Joyce is the author of The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption, among other books.
Article courtesy Pacific Standard:

Crystal Meth // The Hardest Drug – Documentary 2013

Posted by on Nov 18, 2013 in Advice, Featured Article, Health, Parenting, Resources | 0 comments

Crystal Meth // The Hardest Drug – Documentary 2013

A hard hitting documentary which follows a journalist as he explores the harsh underbelly of the California drug scene

Baby Makes Six: Victoria parents, we salute you.

Posted by on Nov 18, 2013 in Advice, Parenting, Resources | 0 comments

Baby Makes Six: Victoria parents, we salute you.

A few months ago, a picture of a woman in one of those desperate parenting situations was covered by several news organizations. It showed the woman holding a toddler boy over a public trash can somewhere in B.C. so he could go pee — which he was doing in spectacular fashion.

In the photo on the news sites, both of their eyes were hidden by a black band, but I’m sure that poor woman knew it was her and the toddler.

Lots of people may think what she did was disgusting. I could only salute her in commiseration and acknowledge she most likely tried her best in a bad situation.

We live in a society that is quick to wag the finger at parents, to blame them for everything from rude kids to axe murderers. We should always strive to be the best parents we can, and to do our best to raise respectful, polite and, above all, moral children. But parents also don’t get nearly enough recognition when they are nailing it.

Maybe most people don’t notice us when we’re doing it right, and only see us in public when our child is pitching a fit, displaying rude behaviour or peeing in a garbage can.

But, parents in Victoria, I notice you. I watch you with your kids at the grocery store, on the bus and on the way to school. Most of you are doing an exemplary job, and it’s about time someone told you so.

I’ve seen you say no to the cookie, to insist the child try a vegetable, to make a child pick up litter dropped on the ground. I’ve noticed you leaping parental pitfalls with aplomb.

The grocery store is a form of parental purgatory, a place where toddlers are bound to throw tantrums and bigger kids can act out in all sorts of embarrassing ways. I have seen many a parent handle enormous tantrums with grace, humour and astounding self-control. I’ve seen many more avoid the tantrum with a well-placed game of I Spy, or another distraction.

I see a lot of great parenting on the bus, much of it done by younger parents with small children. A few weeks ago, a very young mother got on a bus pushing a stroller. Her baby was crying and the mother looked exhausted. She parked the stroller, sat down and tried to console the baby. Baby continued to cry. She tried to feed him. More wails. Finally, she put him over her shoulder, rocking him and whispering, “It’s all right. It’s all right. It’s going to be OK. I know it’s not your fault.”

I wanted to hug the mom; being on a bus with a crying baby is stressful, and yet she focused on baby’s needs rather than getting angry or breaking down in humiliated tears.

I cycle to work sometimes. One warm early autumn day, I watched a mother with a child in a trailer and another two on bikes pedalling her way up the switch bridge on the Galloping Goose. As she struggled to get up the hill, she was calling back to her cycling daughters, “You can do it. Just keep pedalling. Don’t give up. You’re so strong, I know you can!”

Her daughters were staring ahead, puffing and pedalling. When they got to the top, their mother cheering, they looked as proud as if they’d climbed the tallest mountain.

My loudest applause, though, is for the dad I passed on the Goose this summer, walking with his teenage son. A pretty woman jogged by, and the boy whistled.

His father put out an arm to stop him, looked him in the eye and said, “That was a terribly demeaning thing you just did. Don’t ever do that again.”

Bad parenting moments are like dandelions popping out of a verdant lawn. They’re easy to notice. This week, I encourage you to notice the grass instead. It’s everywhere.

Article courtesy:
Cindy MacDougall / Times Colonist

Comfort Food

Posted by on Nov 18, 2013 in Advice, Featured Article, Health, Resources | 0 comments

Comfort Food

No one brings dinner when your daughter is an addict.

When my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer, we ate well. Mary Beth and I had both read the terrifying pathology report of a tumor the size of an olive. The surgical digging for lymph nodes was followed by months of radiation. We ate very well.

Friends drove Mary Beth to her radiation sessions and sometimes to her favorite ice cream shop on the half-hour drive back from the hospital. She always ordered a chocolate malt. Extra thick.

Our family feasted for months on the lovingly prepared dishes brought by friends from work and church and the neighborhood: chicken breasts encrusted with parmesan, covered safely in tin foil; pots of thick soup with hearty bread; bubbling pans of lasagna and macaroni and cheese. There were warm home-baked rolls in tea towel–covered baskets, ham with dark baked pineapple rings, scalloped potatoes, and warm pies overflowing with the syrups of cherries or apples.

Leftovers piled up in the refrigerator, and soon the freezer filled up too, this tsunami of food offerings an edible symbol of our community’s abundant generosity.

Although few said the word breast unless it belonged to a chicken, many friends were familiar with the word cancer and said it often, without flinching. They asked how we were doing, sent notes and cards, passed along things they’d read about treatments and medications, emailed links to good recovery websites and the titles of helpful books, called frequently, placed gentle if tentative hands on shoulders, spoke in low and warm tones, wondered if we had enough food. The phrase we heard most was: “If there’s anything I can do … ”

In the following months, after Mary Beth had begun speaking in full sentences again and could stay awake for an entire meal, the stored foods in the freezer ran out, and we began cooking on our own again. Our children, Nick and Maggie, sometimes complained jokingly about our daily fare. “Someone should get cancer so we can eat better food,” they’d say. And we actually laughed.

Almost a decade later, our daughter, Maggie, was admitted to a psychiatric hospital and diagnosed with bipolar disorder, following years of secret alcohol and drug abuse.

No warm casseroles.

At 19, she was arrested for drug possession, faced a judge, and was placed on a probation program. Before her hearings, we ate soup and grilled cheese in a restaurant near the courthouse, mere booths away from the lawyers, police officers, and court clerks she might later see.

No scalloped potatoes in tinfoil pans.

Maggie was disciplined by her college for breaking the drug and alcohol rules. She began an outpatient recovery program. She took a medical leave from school. She was admitted to a psychiatric hospital, diagnosed, released. She began years of counseling, recovery meetings, and intensive outpatient rehabilitation. She lived in a recovery house, relapsed, then spent seven weeks in a drug and alcohol addiction treatment center.

No soup, no homemade loaves of bread.

Maggie progressed well at the treatment center. When the insurance coverage on inpatient treatment ran out for the year, she was transferred to a “partial house” where she and other women slept at night then were returned by van to the facility for full days of recovery sessions, meals, volleyball games, counseling, and horticultural therapy. This daughter who once stayed as far away from my garden as possible lest I catch a whiff of my stolen whiskey on her breath was now planting a garden herself, arranging painted rocks around an angel statue donated by a counselor, carrying buckets of water to nurture impatiens, petunia, delphinium, and geranium.

Friends talk about cancer and other physical maladies more easily than about psychological afflictions. Breasts might draw blushes, but brains are unmentionable. These questions are rarely heard: “How’s your depression these days?” “What improvements do you notice now that you have treatment for your ADD?” “Do you find your manic episodes are less intense now that you are on medication?” “What does depression feel like?” “Is the counseling helpful?” A much smaller circle of friends than those who’d fed us during cancer now asked guarded questions. No one ever showed up at our door with a meal.

We drove nearly five hours round trip each Sunday for our one weekly visiting hour. The sustenance of food, candy, and fiction were forbidden as gifts to patients at the treatment center. Instead, we brought Maggie cigarettes, sketchbooks, colored pencils, and phone cards. Any beef roasts or spaghetti dinners we ate were ones we’d prepared ourselves or bought in a restaurant on the long road to the center.

Then, late one night in June, Maggie and another patient were riding in the treatment center’s van on the way back to their house after a full day of the hard work of addiction recovery. The number of patients in the partial house had diminished from six a few days before, after a scandal involving small bags of ground coffee some smuggled from the house to the center and sold as though it were cocaine to addicts craving real coffee. (The center, like many, served only decaf.) Dozing off and comfortable in the seat behind the driver, Maggie might have been thinking of those coffee dealers who had been returned to the main facility or dismissed. Or maybe she was thinking about the upcoming wedding of her brother, Nick. A light pink bridesmaid’s dress waited in her closet at our house. Her release from the center was scheduled for two days before she and Mary Beth were to fly to Wisconsin for the wedding.

That night, an oncoming speeding car hit the van head-on.

The medics radioed for helicopters, and soon the air over Chester County, Pa., was full of them, four coming from Philadelphia, Coatesville, and Wilmington, one for each patient. The accident site was soon a garish roadside attraction of backboards, neck braces, IV tubes, oxygen tanks, gurneys, strobing lights, the deep thumping of helicopter blades, and the whine of turbines.

A newspaper picture later showed five firefighters, all in full gear, lifting a woman from a van—only her feet and an edge of the backboard visible. The van’s roof, dark and torn and jagged in the picture, had been removed by hydraulic cutters while the huddled victims, Maggie unconscious among them, were carefully covered with blankets. One of her front teeth lay in a puddle of blood on the ground.

When we saw her in the hospital, her face was a swollen mass of stitches, bruises, and torn flesh. Brown dried blood was still caked in her ears. Mary Beth carefully cleaned it with a licked paper towel, as if she were gently wiping Maggie’s face of grape jelly smudges or white donut powder just before Sunday school. At first, Maggie only remembered headlights, but soon she would mention “a cute EMS tech waking me up,” and the muffled chattering of helicopters.

The day she was released from the hospital, Maggie insisted on returning to the rehab center to complete her program, a heroine in a wheelchair among heroin addicts and alcoholics. On the way there, we stopped at a restaurant for lunch, where Maggie ate mashed potatoes, a little soup, and sucked a mango smoothie through a straw held carefully where her tooth was missing. Back at the center, we rolled her out to see her garden.

While Maggie was in the hospital, cards and letters filled our mailbox at home. For the two weeks that Maggie remained in rehab, and even while she flew to the Midwest, then wore her pink dress at Nick’s wedding and danced triumphantly with her cousins, offers of food crackled from our answering machine and scrolled out on email: “If there’s anything I can do … ”


Article courtesy: Larry M. Lake


So How Do You “Just Breathe?” 3 Tips For Relaxation

Posted by on Sep 23, 2013 in Advice, Featured Article, New Releases, Parenting, Resources | 0 comments

So How Do You “Just Breathe?” 3 Tips For Relaxation
Amidst the hustle and bustle of daily life, relaxation can seem like an out-of-reach fantasy. If your friends and family have ever told you to “just breathe,” they were right. “Just breathing” is often the first step in learning how to relax spontaneously, but it takes a little practice.
Relaxation happens quickly, even after only a few minutes. Focused concentration on breathing by itself is a simple and profoundly effective relaxation technique that can be done nearly any time you have a few minutes — while waiting at a stoplight, during a break at the office, or while waiting for water to boil.
Breathing is unique in that it’s an automatic response that can also be controlled with voluntary actions. When we control our breathing it ties into other autonomic responses. Slowing the rate of breathing is associated with a decreased heart rate, decreased blood pressure, and — very importantly — decreased adrenaline levels. Slowed breathing also is associated with increased production of endorphins, those wonderful internal chemicals that improve our sense of wellbeing.
Most of us breathe with our chest muscles. The more uptight we are, the shorter and shallower the breath becomes, and the more tension there is in the shoulders and neck. When relaxed, we use abdominal breathing: instead of using the chest wall muscles, we’re then using mainly the diaphragm.
You may have heard someone tell you to “just breathe,” but if you’re wondering how to do that — you’re breathing all the time, right? — here are three simple ways to start you on the path to relaxation:
1. Practice abdominal breathing. 
Start by first lying comfortably on your back. Control and slow your breathing to an easy rhythm. Place one hand on the abdomen, close to the belly button. As you breathe, try to keep the chest wall still and pull air into the lungs by expanding the abdominal muscles. Your hand should rise and fall with each breath. Breathing should be done through the nose, not through the mouth. Inhalations and exhalations should be equal.
2. Learn to slow your breath. 
Using abdominal breathing, try to extend your breath for as long as possible without holding your breath. Inspiration and expiration should be equal. On your first attempts, your inspiration and expiration will be about 5-7 seconds each, but your goal is to extend each to 15 seconds, resulting in only 2 complete breaths in one minute. Don’t strain. Make it easy and comfortable. Work up to 15 seconds slowly. You can practice this one anywhere, even at a stoplight.
3. Count to 10: 
Another simple breathing exercise is sequential count-to-10. Using abdominal breathing of normal length, begin counting each breath. Count first to up to 2 and then start over, 1-2-3. Continue with 1-2-3-4, and so forth, up to the sequence 1-10. It takes more concentration than you can imagine. Completion of two sequences of 10 often results in deep relaxation with lowered pulse rate and normalized blood pressure. This is also a great exercise to improve focus.
Article courtesy DR. WILLIAM RAWLS

‘Aging Out’: Tough Road for Teens Too Old to Be ‘In Care’

Posted by on Sep 23, 2013 in Advice, Featured Article, Health, Resources | 0 comments

‘Aging Out’: Tough Road for Teens Too Old to Be ‘In Care’

You’re 19, officially an adult. Happy birthday. Now get out of the house.

As parents, few of us would take such a brutal approach. Yet in our role as citizens that is exactly the style we adopt toward teenagers “in care” of the Crown — for whom the government is, institutionally speaking, their legal “parent.”

If you have been under any of the forms of “care” the province provides for such kids — in foster care, a group home, or living independently with some kind of structured financial support — the day you turn 19 you “age out” of eligibility for that care. The government’s responsibility for you abruptly ends. For nearly nine out of 10 such kids, that means you’ll be kicked out of your home, or if you’ve been living on your own, the cheques from the province stop coming.

Johnny, who would rather withhold his last name, discovered what that feels like a little over two years ago. He turned 19 the week before Christmas. Now 21, he recalls spending Christmas Eve lying alone on a mattress surrounded by fighting and drugs at a shelter in downtown Vancouver.

It probably wasn’t the lowest point in his young life. Johnny’s childhood was scarred by rape and beatings. The bruises they left failed to get the attention of his public school teachers or anyone else in his suburban community, he recalls. After a stint in a psychiatric facility when he was 16, the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) — which administers or contracts out the government’s institutional child care — provided him with foster families, then group homes, and finally a support contract that paid his rent and expenses as he finished high school. Then Johnny turned 19 and was unceremoniously evicted from his apartment, he said.

Over the next couple of years, Johnny, who is aboriginal but doesn’t have status, shuttled between shelters. Now, he’s living on a Fraser Valley reserve where he collects welfare and helps out around the community.

His story is disturbingly familiar to children “parented” by the public through the intervention of the Crown.

Strikingly, the ministry doesn’t keep track of how many of its graduates end up on the street. But examining the question from the other end, Vancouver’s McCreary Centre Society found in 2007 that 40 per cent of “street-involved youth” had spent at least some time in government care. “[A]lmost one in 10 (nine per cent) were in foster or a group home at the time of the survey.”

Like Johnny, few such kids meet typical middle-class goals even before their 19th birthday. Nearly two-thirds fail to complete high school within the standard four years after starting Grade 8. By the time they reach 19, more than 40 per cent have been recommended for criminal charges, according to Lauren Freedman, a PhD student in Criminology at Simon Fraser University who studies foster teens and the criminal justice system. According to a report in 2012, roughly half of kids in permanent care of the province were in special education programs at school.

A half billion dollar preparation for the street

Every year, about 1,100 kids in various kinds of government care turn 19. Within six months, nearly half (49 per cent) apply for income assistance — two-thirds of those for disability assistance the rest for welfare, according to an email from MCFD communications. A handful, slightly more than one in 10 (about 12 per cent), receive continuing support in the form of either a living stipend of up to about $1,100 per month or annual postsecondary education grants of up to $5,500; to qualify they must be working full-time, in a formal recovery program from drug or alcohol abuse, or going to school full time.

For whatever reason, the vast majority do not use either program designed to help them through their young adult years.

Although reliable data are missing, anecdotal information and simple math indicate that some youth do make the transition from provincial care to employment and independence. Some return to their biological families or continue to live with their former foster families.

And a network of nonprofit housing and other nongovernmental services offer continued support for vulnerable youth, including former kids in care. Funded in part by government, they include Aunt Leah’s Independent Lifeskills Society, Covenant House Vancouver, and Urban Native Youth Association (collectively, these three received nearly $5.5 million in public funding in 2012), as well as others.

Still other 19-year-olds who are developmentally disabled become eligible for support from Community Living B.C.

But like Johnny, many “graduates” from public parenting simply hit the streets.

This unhappy record has not come cheaply. At 2012 rates, maintaining one child in foster care and public school from birth to age 19, exclusive of administration, special education costs, and other expenses, would cost the taxpayer $280,377 — more than a quarter of a million dollars. Altogether, B.C. spends nearly $500 million per year on child and teen care.

Since 2002, according to an email from MCFD communications, the province has distributed another $8.9 million to about 1,300 young adults formerly in its care to support their post-secondary education, an average of $6,846 each. (MCFD doesn’t evaluate whether those kids graduate from their programs or go on to work in a related field.)

The disappointing result from so much public spending is not news to the ministry.

The message I heard from deputy minister Stephen Brown in a phone interview in mid-March was, in effect: we know that many former youth in care flounder when they turn 19; fixing this is a high priority for us; watch for changes in the near future.

An in-depth review of provincial residential care tabled in the legislature in June 2012 exposed its particular failure in caring for aboriginal and Metis youth like Johnny. Many of these kids, the review admitted, emerge from the Crown’s parenting, “at an increased risk of homelessness, school incompletion, unemployment, poverty and dependence on income assistance, and persistent and unresolved trauma.”

Brown seems determined to do better. Since stepping into his role two years ago, he has been meeting with former youth in care across the province. At first, they helped him understand the problems they’d had with their foster care, independent-living contracts and group homes. More recently, he’s been listening to them as the ministry prepares to overhaul its child protection, foster care, and “post-majority services” — the official term for what the government offers to those who turn 19.

“We’re going to struggle with this until we get it right,” Brown said.

Supporting a longer ‘launch’

“What could the ministry have done better?” Johnny pondered, repeating my question. “Well, not kicked me out on my 19th birthday.”

The idea that kids of all stripes take longer to make the transition from adolescence to adulthood in the new century than they may once have done has gained wide acceptance in recent years.

In 2003, former U.S. president Jimmy Carter drew Americans’ attention to youth homelessness and foster care in that country, when he wrote the forward to On Their Own: What Happens to Kids When They Age Out of the Foster Care System. That report profiled eight teens and highlighted the strong connection between child protection failures and youth homelessness. It made no specific recommendations but did point out that when polled, Americans expressed the view that independence should come at 23 or 25 — not 18 (the legal age there).


“Few of us push our children out the door when they reach the age of majority,” the authors concluded. “As citizens of states that assumed legal custody of these young people until they were 18, we have at least a moral obligation to help them through their transitions to adulthood.”

Subsequently, one of President George W. Bush’s last acts in office in 2008 was to sign the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act. The highly praised legislation gave states access to federal dollars to extend care to foster kids to age 21 (there are some conditions, but it allows for continued foster family care).

How much would it cost B.C. to do the same? The province currently pays foster families $909.95 a month to care for teens. An extra two years would cost $21,838 per child — roughly $48 million in all for the 2,200 kids who would turn 19 in that period. Extending the same support to age 24 would cost taxpayers about $60 million more every year.

Last year’s residential-care review recommended that young adults be allowed to receive up to $1,100 a month (the current maximum benefit under the independent living contracts available to those under 19, and to eligible “graduates” from care for up to another two years). until they turn 24. If everyone who “aged out” over the additional five year eligibility period took advantage of such support, that would add about $363 million to provincial spending.

The provincial budget tabled in February promised to extend support to former Crown wards after age 19. “This is a hot issue,” deputy minister Brown told me. “It’s long overdue. The vast majority of young people still need that support.” So far, however, these changes have not materialized in practice.

The Liberal government has taken one important step. On March 14, the legislature gave B.C.’s child protection watchdog, the Representative for Children and Youth, the mandate to investigate the province’s treatment of 19 to 24-year-olds – just as she does now for children and younger teens.

Money is not enough

As important as extending support after 19 may be, one of Vancouver’s most highly-respected youth outreach workers believes that more investment alone won’t lead to better outcomes without changing how services are delivered. It’s a criticism I’ve heard several times.

At just 28, Alejandro Zuluaga is already a veteran front-line worker. Most evenings he can be found strolling Commercial Drive, a particular haunt of youth who don’t want to go home. His gift is building genuine relationships with vulnerable teens. He chats with them constantly. For some it takes a year before they tell him anything significant. That’s okay, he told me over eggs and sausage at a coffee shop near his office at Britannia Community Centre. Given their life circumstances, why would they want to share with anyone?

Zuluaga would never argue that services shouldn’t be extended to young adults. Of course they should, he said. But foster kids and vulnerable teens don’t suddenly become homeless at 19, he argued. They’re set up for it by a system that fails to connect to those it’s supposed to serve.

“I was at one meeting about a youth who refused to shower,” he said. There were 17 professionals in the room, including a doctor, one-to-one outreach workers, his foster parent, his social worker, his drug counsellor. The list goes on.

“Okay. If you haven’t built a relationship with the kid where you can get him to shower, just adding more services isn’t going to do it.”

Johnny is one of about two dozen youth I’ve spoken with over the last couple of months, all kids formerly in government care who hit the streets before or after turning 19. He’s slowly pulling his life together, but he’s still struggling with things most 21-year-olds take for granted: a place to call home; a family to feed and protect him; mentors to guide him.

Whoever wins the coming election and takes over the unfinished business of reforming the “post-majority” parenting of kids who come into public care, it’s clear we could be doing better.


At any one time, about 5,500 young British Columbians who were formerly wards of the province are between the ages of 19 and 24. Some ways the government continues to support (some of) them:

As of January 2013, 410 of these young adults (approximately 7.5 per cent of the total) had independent-living contracts with the Ministry of Children and Family Development known as Agreements With Young Adults (AYAs). These pay up to $1,100 a month in living expenses, in six-months chunks, while young adults attend rehab, go to school, or learn life skills. About one-quarter of those who age out of Crown care receive such support at some point before turning 24; two per cent get an AYA within one month of their 19th birthday.

The ministry also provides annual grants of up to $5,500 for up to four years to former wards who pursue postsecondary education in the province. According to a ministry email, 272 such Youth Education Assistance Fund (YEAF) awards were made for the 2011-12 fiscal year. So far in 2012-13, the ministry has provided 241 awards, covering 4.4 per cent of 19-24 year old former wards.

About half of the 1,100 youth who graduate from care each year apply for income assistance within six months of their 19th birthday: two-thirds for disability assistance ($906.42 a month for a single person), the rest for welfare ($610 for an employable single).

Article courtesy Pieta Woolley, 8 Apr 2013, Tyee Solutions Society

Ten “Make My Life Easier” Tricks

Posted by on May 26, 2013 in Advice, Featured Article, Nicole's Blog, Parenting | 0 comments

Ten “Make My Life Easier” Tricks

Nicole Andrews
The Cridge Young Parent Outreach Program


As a busy Mom, these are some of my tips that I use every day to try and make my life a little easier. I have two kids and my partner has four, so every other week we become a family of eight! We both also work full-time outside of the home. That means there are lots of things that get lost, don’t get done, are forgotten . . . .sometimes even a child! These are just some practical tips I have used to try to make life easier. Hopefully one or more might work for you.

    1. Make a meal plan and shopping list on one sheet of paper. This way you know what you are eating for the week (or month) and you shop for those items instead of adding random items into your grocery basket. I love this too because the kids know what to expect for dinner each night and it saves the bickering at the grocery store about what they want to just toss in. It also means that there are no emergency trips to the store for that one item that turns into ten! There are several great printable templates available on the web. Click here for a site I recommend.
    2. Chore charts aren’t just for kids! You have some chores that need to be done every day, such as the dishes, but laundry doesn’t nor do mowing the lawn, dusting or vacuuming. Using these types of charts allows for the needs of the house to be spread out between many and you know what they say – many hands make light work! Then you can all enjoy only ten minutes of chores a day instead of a daylong battle to get them done all at once. I love this site for their printable charts and helpful hints on age appropriate chores too!
    3. Tech time-out! We are all so connected to the web, social media, gaming and Youtube that we forget that the relationships with the people we love and care about are MORE important. Be honest – you check your phone constantly for updates and many go home to watch the news and later Netflix or a movie. Facebook is an hourly update and those we love are doing the same, but we aren’t engaging with each other, and we are missing out on valuable time that we can’t get back. So decide when you are going to, as a family, go Tech free. Use this time to get outside, go for a walk, go to the park, go visit a friend or have friends over for dinner. We collect all tech at bedtime too! No one sleeps with a phone, DS, tablet, iPod or other device beside them!
    4. Put a large container at the front door for shoes. You may have to dig into it to find the mate but you know where they are. The kids know the expectations of where they go and you won’t be searching the house for five minutes for the lost shoe when you are already running ten minutes late!
    5. I love this one, because it literally sticks to your wall. Click here.
    6. Lysol or other disinfectant wipes are a blessing in disguise! It never fails that when you have your silk blouse on or your new chiffon shirt that you end up wearing spaghetti or coffee or baby spit-up on your adult clothes. My trick is to keep a few of these wipes in a ziplock in your purse. They are like magic at getting out the stain. The alcohol helps lift out the stain and voila, in a minute the alcohol dries and your prized adult clothing is stain free.
    7. Make lunches the night before! I hate mornings and yet I can’t escape them! Six kids mean I’m up early to get them to before school activities and trying to do a morning routine is tough for me from the start. So all I have to do is pull out their lunch kits in the morning and they are ready to go!
    8. The ‘Mommy Bucket’ is a new addition to our house. Before they go to bed the kids are encouraged to do a sweep of the house and collect any items that belong to them and put it away. After they go to bed, if I find it then it goes in the bucket. The kids decided on the chore list that accompanies the release of their item from the bucket. Trust me they went to town on the chore that they might have to do too! Everything from washing a vehicle to gardening for half and hour to washing kitchen walls. They learn quickly that if it means that much to them they need to look after it. If the item is not claimed in a somewhat timely fashion, it goes in the ‘to donate’ pile.
    9. That segued perfectly into this one. The ‘to donate’ bag. It sits in the corner of our office room and as the kids grow out of something or they haven’t claimed it from the “Mommy Box’ or they don’t want it any more it gets put directly in the bag. That way there aren’t dozens of items at any given time not in use in our home. With six kids that can mean a lot of stuff! It adds up quickly too!
    10. Donate to a local second hand store. I love taking our ‘to donate’ bags into Sailor Jack Family Consignment,  I can choose to pick up unsold items or they will continue the green aspect of consignment and donate the items to charity. Its win-win and you can earn money! I use the running tab to buy seasonal items that the kids need. You really can’t beat it! Nice items at a fraction of the retail.

Like I said before, there are dozens of tips I have to running a house of eight more efficiently. Maybe in the next blog I will share the next ten! :-)

Parenting Choices

Posted by on Apr 28, 2013 in Featured Article, Young Parent's Forum | 0 comments

Parenting Choices

In the world of parenting there are a million choices we have to make. How will we diaper and clothe our children? Are we going to baby wear or push them in stroller? Are we going to follow traditional feeding choices when introducing solids or follow baby-led weaning? Perhaps the most critical decision we must make as parents is how are we going to feed our babies!

We are all taught as mothers and fathers from early in pregnancy that breast is best and is the superior choice for our babies. But with professionals recommending that mothers nurse their infants to the age of 2 and beyond, but what happens when breast is best is taken too far?

Have you ever found yourself as a breastfeeding mom judging another mom for feeding her baby formula? Or perhaps you have felt judged for nursing your baby in public by another mother feeding her infant a bottle. This kind of judgmental behavior is becoming more and more evident as our world expands through social networking and media with mothers being attacked for posting breast feeding photos online, choosing to be vocal about their nursing toddlers or choosing to formula feed for various reasons whether it be medical or personal.

The shame associated with this kind of judgment can be very damaging to a family because no one really knows the reasons why a parent chooses to breast or formula feed. In the cyber-world, the amount of bullying that happens by some bloggers and individuals is appalling. Aren’t we all just doing the very best we can?

As I sit here nursing my almost two year old I have encountered this often, being told to cover up or go to the washroom to feed her. Although this rarely happens with bottle-feeding, those mothers also encounter stares and judgmental comments from the general public. It seems everyone has an opinion on how to raise your child and if you aren’t doing it their way it’s the wrong way. News flash! You are doing it the right way because if it’s working for you and your child it is the right way!

As young parents we have enough to deal with let without constant criticism for how we choose to feed our children. Yes breast is best, but formula is just fine too! Whether you choose to breastfeed or formula feed, either choice should be accepted because hey, at least they are getting fed and we are all doing the very best we can for our children!


Heather Beattie




Posted by on Mar 5, 2013 in Advice, Nicole's Blog, Resources | 0 comments


Nicole Andrews
The Cridge Young Parent Outreach Program


It’s an ugly word. It causes blood pressure to go up and makes your palms sweaty. It can disrupt your day, week or months of your life. It takes energy away from other parts of your life and focus away from other issues that you may be facing. But it’s actually a natural condition. Your body produces cortisol, a biological chemical released under times of stress. It’s even, dare I say it, a healthy response to our circumstances in life at any given time. Life is fluid, always moving and changing. It’s part of our human experience. Stress helps to keep us safe. It releases other hormones too, to keep us focused and moving forward.

Sometimes it can be overwhelming too. When the demands exceed our capabilities we get stressed. We all have coping mechanisms that we have learned from very early on to deal with stress. Are you a fighter? Are you a runner? Are you a procrastinator? Are you an avoider? These are some of the human personality traits that we have developed in response to stress.

There is no right way or wrong way to cope with stress that you have. You do the best you can with the biology and skills that you have. But, there are ways of making stress more manageable.

Diet. I know we can’t get away from that word but it actually means what we eat, not reducing what we eat. So making healthy choices. Grabbing a piece of fruit or a dinner with salad and protein. Not the burger and fries. A healthy diet can vastly improve our ability to cope. Giving your body good fuel to run on helps the body as a whole – physically, emotionally and mentally.

Exercise. I know we all agree that with little ones running around and our daily living we get some exercise. But to really exercise means 30 minutes of raising your heart rate, fresh air, and sweat. Moving your body and clearing your mind will help you feel better, live longer and be healthier.

Sleep. Ahh the great unattainable 8 hours a night of uninterrupted sleep with little ones that wake up throughout the night and break us of our sleep patterns. Try to get the best sleep each and every night you can. Some nights are hard but if you can try to head to bed just fifteen minutes earlier you may reap the physical benefits of thirty minutes or more. Take a nap when little ones sleep if you can, and listen to your body. When you are tired in the evening don’t try to push through one more episode of your favorite show. That’s when your body kicks in its second wind and you find yourself recharged in the late evening hours and decide to go for another few hours.

Help. This is the hard one. Asking for help when you need it can seem hard for some, silly for others and is actually stressful on its own for others. As humans we are meant to be in community with each other, allowing others to support us and for us to fall back on their strength, wisdom and knowledge. We need to have others with the skills and experience to encourage and to help work though a stress and come out the other side.

That’s what our program is all about. The Cridge Young Parent Outreach Program is portable and practical support for young families and their children. Having a coffee and a friendly ear to listen can reduce stress. A ride to the doctor’s office or to see the lawyers can be a load off a young parent’s mind as they juggle their other responsibilities. We provide support in finding quality childcare, affordable housing or a program offered in the community. Sharing some of the burden with another about life changes, parenting issues, school work and the social scene can make a situation that looks overwhelming, stressful and exhausting seem just a little easier to tackle when you know that you aren’t alone.

So if you’ve found us, then you are in the right place. If you know of someone else that you think might benefit from our program, tell him or her. We are here for you!


Young Dads

Posted by on Feb 26, 2013 in Advice, Featured Article, Parenting, Pregnancy | 0 comments

Young Dads
Young dads can be great fathers. You are young, fun, and have lots of energy (sometimes). This is a great time to get involved in your child’s life. You can support your baby’s mother emotionally throughout the pregnancy, perhaps attend prenatal classes or Dr. appointments if she would like you to be there. There are a lot of ways you can be part of this baby’s life.

  • Go to prenatal classes with your child’s mother
  • Attend Dr. appointments
  • Join your child’s mother in making healthy choices
    (quit smoking, eat well, etc)
  • Share financial responsibility

Once your baby is born, there are many different ways to be a father to your child. No one way is better than the others. They all contribute to the development and well-being of your child. Like most things in life, it is normal to be nervous at first, but it gets easier with practice. Take this quiz to examine the different ways you can be a dad to your child.


What Type of Dad Will You Be?

Check which applies to you…then read underneath about what type of father a child needs. (Adapted from Involved Fathers) This will probably give you ‘food for thought’ about some things you may never have considered were important in the life of a child. Your relationship with your own father may influence how you see yourself as a Dad.

I can…

  • Provide food for my child
  • Provide clothing for my child
  • Provide shelter for my child
  • Contribute financially

Provider Father

This used to be the traditional role of the father. Nowadays, many mothers as well as fathers provide financially for their children. Working at any job helps contribute to the family’s economic well-being.

I can…

  • Be around my child often
  • Play with my child
  • Demonstrate values in my culture to my baby
  • Expose my child to my religion
  • Allow my child the opportunity to interact with others
  • Help my child see others interacting around them


Interactive Father

Kids learn communication skills, social rules and values by interacting with their parents and by watching their parents interact with others. They need to be played with, talked to and made a part of our world.

I can…

  • Hold my child
  • Comfort my child when he/she is crying
  • Change diapers and give baths
  • Help feed my child


Nurturing Father

Babies need to be held, stroked and touched in order to develop normally. You are helping them feel good on the inside and develop normally when you do all the things listed above.

I can…

  • Hug my child
  • Smile and make faces with my child
  • Kiss my child
  • Reassure my child when he/she is upset


Affectionate Father

You are your child’s first relationship, it is important to fill this relationship with love and warmth. Warmth is also expressed in the way in which you talk to your children and play with them.

I can…

  • Provide a safe home
  • Help supervise my child
  • Get my child to the appropriate medical care when needed
  • Foster my child’s interest in the world


Responsible Father

You are your child’s first teachers. Protecting and teaching shows guidance on what to do and what not to do.

I can…

  • Think of my child when I am away from him/her
  • Talk about my child with friends and family
  • Show commitment through my words
  • Show I will always be available to my child through different gestures.


Committed Father

Kids need to know that they belong and are important to you. No matter what you may be doing, you are always aware you are a father.



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