One of the major funders of the now-defunct parent-child groups at Many Rivers says the cash is still available if the right group were to take on the job.
Many Rivers Counselling and Support Services has had to return about $26,000 in grant funding after it cancelled the programs that money was supposed to help fund.
For the last 20 years, Many Rivers has been receiving $28,900 from the Partners for Children program.
Partners for Children is run out of Yukon College but is funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Co-ordinator Kate Swales called the Many Rivers groups really important for the community.
“They’re the only real programs available for infants and the youngest that are free and accessible,” she said.
“When you’re a new mom, or a new parent, those are places you can go to get support.”
In June, Many Rivers stopped offering the Mother Goose and Mothering Your Baby the First Year groups and the Nobody’s Perfect parenting course.
Executive director Brent Ramsay said the funding agreement with the Yukon government doesn’t cover the programs.
Parents in the Yukon have decried the cancellation.
An online petition has 92 names and a steering committee has been rapidly assembled to try and save the cancelled programs.
Of the money given by Partners for Children, about $21,000 was returned, Swales said. The full amount was supposed to be for the fiscal year starting in April.
Swales said she’s holding on to the money. There are criteria she would consider before giving the cash to a new organization.
The space needs to be accessible to everyone and be of high quality, she said. The person running the groups also needs to be appropriately trained.
“These programs require somebody who knows what they’re doing, that have been trained and have experience.”
A second funder was the United Way.
Joan Turner is on the committee that decides which groups get money.
She said she is “pleased and proud” of the programs United Way supported.
Before she retired five years ago she worked as the family educator at Many Rivers since 1992. That’s the same position that has now been eliminated.
Now she’s on the steering committee looking to save the cancelled programs.
She said Many Rivers was given $8,660 to go towards the mothering in the first year program. They received 90 per cent of that on April 1 and have since returned two-thirds of the grant, $5,196.
Many Rivers used to apply for a second grant to go towards the Mother Goose program, but didn’t this year, she said.
Grants are usually between $8,000 and $10,000.
Turner said she believes United Way would have funded the second grant, if they’d been asked.
They’ve been giving both grants for years.
Ramsay said, “United Way advised they were focusing on new innovative and creative proposals for this year and recommended we provide such.”
He pointed out that grants are not guaranteed and are not sustainable funding.
United Way president Dave Whiteside said Turner is not authorized to speak for the organization.
He said United Way doesn’t get involved in telling groups to apply for grants.
Whiteside said the funding committee considers many things when considering a program.
“One of them is, what will happen to the program if we don’t fund it?”
Whiteside said he would have been “optimistic” that it would have been funded. “That said, the national organization, United Way nationally, they absolutely want to do new projects.”
Ramsay, who started with the organization about a year ago, says even with the grants, Many Rivers was about $40,000 short. That’s about half of the total cost of the programs that was left to be covered, he said.
In its latest annual report, for 2013-2014, Many Rivers says “Yukon government provides 90 per cent of our overall funding to support our Counselling, Family Education, Youth Outreach and Outreach Van services.”
The cancelled programs are not a part of the Yukon government’s funding agreement with Many Rivers, signed in April of this year. That covers general counselling, the outreach van and youth outreach, the Health Department said.
In an interview earlier this week, Ramsay said there was “never sustainable funding, there was never core funding for the program.”
He said the non-profit was “doing our best to keep it afloat without the core funding and without having it as part of our agreement. The cost could really no longer be covered.”
That doesn’t jive with Turner’s recollection of things when she worked there.
“There was always Yukon government money involved, and it was always in the contract,” she said.
In past years, the executive director would use government money on top of any grants that were received, she said.
“It was up to the ED’s (executive director’s) discretion as to how much that would get bumped up.”
Amidst this confusion, the newly formed steering committee has gone to work.
“There are a lot of people who are concerned,” Turner said. “There’s no sponsoring agency the way Many Rivers was, there’s no home for the programs. So that’s what our group is wanting to problem-solve around. Where can we find a home for these programs so that they don’t disappear?”
The Department of Health and Social Services has already said it will help take over the Mothering Your Baby the First Year program. Details are slowly trickling out about what that’s going to look like.
For 15 years the program was co-facilitated by the Many Rivers family educator and a Yukon government public health nurse, said spokesperson Marcelle Dube.
“Whitehorse Health Centre remains interested in partnering with another group to continue this program.”
Interested mothers can contact Whitehorse Health Centre at 667-8864, Dube said.
When a session is being offered, those on the list will be contacted with more details.
There’s still no word on who will be brought on to help run the program, or which organization will cover the costs.
The funds to pay the nurse came from the health centre’s budget.
Contact Ashley Joannou at