I am one of the parents who started the petition to request Many Rivers reinstate their family education position and programs. We started this petition as several of the parents we spoke with wanted somewhere to voice their concerns. Many Rivers has indicated that Health and Social Services does not include family education in their funding agreement, and consequently we also encourage them to use this petition to advocate with their funders.
I will admit that family education programs were not on my radar until I had a child. However, once I experienced the confusion of an inconsolable baby and nights without sleep I decided to seek support from the family educator. Unfortunately, by the time I needed this service, it had been cut.
From a best practice perspective, it is known that activities such as singing, playing and engaging with your child build attachment, resiliency and language skills. Groups such as Mother Goose help new parents learn how to interact with their baby. Mothering Your Child and Nobody’s Perfect support parents to learn how to manage challenges.
Groups also allow parents to connect with a trained facilitator and each other, which is important as social support and early intervention reduces the impacts of postpartum depression.
I am a former staff member of Many Rivers and have worked in other capacities as a counsellor in town. I have not known of any other groups that have the same interest and participation as the family education groups. From what I understand, they fill quickly and often carry wait lists. It seems to me this is a program that should not be eliminated.
I also know of other parents who depended on the existence of a family educator to call or visit when in times of parenting crisis. She was available for all parents during those times when you think you can’t manage or have questions or need someone to talk to. The family educator provided immediate, non-judgmental, well-informed and evidence-based support.
This is a unique position with a specific expertise and not simply replaceable by a generalist counsellor.
I understand how NGOs are funded, and appreciate the issue of limited financial support. In their annual reports, including the most recent version, Many Rivers states that Yukon Health and Social Services funds “90 per cent of their programs, including Family Education.”
I am not sure who made the decision to change the funding mandate, but I encourage either Many Rivers or Health and Social Services to reconsider. Family education is important and I hope it exists for the next parent who needs support.