More than ever before, vulnerable young parent families and
pregnant youth are in need of support during the COVID19 pandemic. With daycares, schools and many social
services closed, they are facing more barriers to accessing necessities and
emotional support while facing long days of isolation with their children.
The Salvation Army’s Bethany Hope Centre is reaching out to
their participants to provide comfort, food and baby items as well as continuing
to offer virtual programs to help them work towards their goals.
To reduce the number of trips outside of the home and on
public transportation with children, The Bethany Hope Centre has partnered with
Gopher It Deliveries to help deliver boxes of food to families in need. The
Bethany Hope Centre is seeing about twice as many of their participants looking
for food support during these difficult times.
Families receive about a week’s worth of food that includes
fresh produce, eggs, cheese, milk, non- perishable food items and baby food and
supplies where needed. The Bethany Hope Center is also continuing to offer
their lunch box program.
“Children still need healthy food,” said Crystal Gallant,
Nourish Family Food Coordinator. “Many of these families are used to relying on
school breakfast programs and after school programs to help feed their
children, so we need to make sure these gaps are filled.” The lunches are added
to the food deliveries in addition to some healthy recipes, instructions, food
tips and nutrition facts.
The Parent Support program at The Bethany Hope Centre is
also adding activity sheets and crafts to the food boxes to help keep children
busy while at home. The activities include writing letters to their parents,
time capsule ideas, activities around expressing emotions, listing what they
are grateful for and making handprints of everyone in their household.
The Parent Support first weekly Zoom Circle with parents and
children was held on zoom video conferencing in late April.
“This is similar to what we do in playgroup only moved to an
online format to adhere to social distancing,” said Rachel Arnold, Infant and
Child Development Worker. “It’s a way to
check in with families, sing some classic children’s songs and do a story time
with a familiar puppet. Our nurse from
the Bethany Hope Centre Health Clinic was also present to answer any
Nurse Cathryn Fortier, has also been available to participants
through phone calls, email and a chat app to answer health related questions
and help connect them to a doctor or refill a prescription through a
partnership with Bruyere Family Medicine Centre.
give patients the number of the Bruyere clinic, but they are often more likely
to call me first. I think it’s about having someone they know and are
comfortable talking to,” said Nurse Cathy.
Pamphlets with health-related
phone numbers and health information including hand washing and who to reach
out to in cases of family violence are also being put into the food boxes.
While young parents are at home
with their children, The Bethany Hope Centre Learning Coach program continues
to encourage them to continue their studies, if that is their goal.
The Bethany Hope Centre Learning
Coach program helps young parents finish high school by offering them a
flexible schedule with one on one teacher support as well as wrap around
services including a playroom where the children are looked after while they
Because schools, daycares and many
services including The Bethany Hope Centre have had to close their doors during
the pandemic, young parents are at home full time with their children, making
it a little more challenging to complete assignments and study for exams.
“The students are very enthusiastic,
but it’s become more difficult for them without any in-class time with their
peers and the supports they had,” said Phil Wakeford, Learning Coach. “The students however, already worked on
their studies remotely and do their courses online, so we were able to make the
transition smoothly and I am there to offer help over email or over the phone.”
Along with education help, The
Bethany Hope Centre’s Employment Coordinator Stacey Alexandre is helping young
parents with resume building, budgeting and keeping them informed on government
benefits they may be entitled to during the pandemic.
“A lot of industries are closed right now so it’s a
difficult time to be looking for employment, but I am still working with
clients via email to help them build skills and provide pathways of support,”
Stacey is creating videos and
social media posts around self-care, tips to save on groceries and exploring
transitioning from home to work. She is also sharing free professional
development opportunities such as Smart Serve and the Brain Story as well as
employment webinars to assist with pre-employment skills.
The Bethany Hope Centre continues
to reach out to young parents and help them continue on their path to reaching
their goals, even if right now that means keeping their family healthy and
happy during these difficult times until we can open the doors and be together
To support the work of The Salvation Army please visit www.salvationarmy.ca or call 1-800-SAL-ARMY.
By: Caroline Franks