Trail FAIR rewarded for family-first idea

Society awarded $10,000 for ‘Keeping Vunerable Families Together’ concept

An idea whose time has come was awarded $10,000 last week for an innovative proposal on improving social and economic well being in Greater Trail.

Although still in the gestation phase, Trail’s Family and Individuals Resource (FAIR) centre society’s Keeping Vulnerable Families Together—to help families avoid foster care—was given the money by the Columbia Basin Trust (CBT) as part of the province-wide BC Ideas competition.

Rather than placing a child in foster care, the FAIR solution will allow vulnerable children and their parents to stay together by offering supported housing and training in areas such as parenting and employment skills.

“This idea grew out of the belief that some parents—often people whose own childhoods were chaotic or abusive—need more intensive help in order to be successful as parents,” said Gail Lavery, FAIR executive director, in a press release.

There are inter-generational barriers in many of these families, FAIR’s proposal statement read. The parents love their kids, want to be parents to them and the kids want to go home.

It also costs the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) a great deal to keep them in foster care. In many cases parents and children can be effectively reunited.

“In the case of a sizable minority—generally parents who come from a generation or more of substance abuse, poverty and other issues that have prevented them from having their own needs met as children—they are not successful,” FAIR’s website read.

The program will be based on FAIR’s current Second Stage Housing for women who have left a Transition House and are needing additional time and support.

It will involve purchase or rental of an apartment building for parents who are still struggling with parenting issues, substance abuse and basic life skills so children could be safely returned home, providing an incentive to parents and minimizing the mutual trauma of separation.

Under the proposal, FAIR would provide an overnight building manager with parent support skills (human service diploma), a building caretaker and family support and children’s support workers.

Parents would be supported in connecting with Selkirk College for education and skills upgrades, the Skills Centre for employment counselling, alcohol and drug and mental health counsellors when relevant, as well as other FAIR programs.

Up to six families per year could receive one year of intensive housing, parenting and life skills support so they are able to successfully keep their kids without further MCFD involvement, said Lavery.

“The supportive housing environment, along with the other supports we currently provide, will keep children with their parents, ensure the children’s environment is safe and support parents in making the deep changes and acquiring the full range of skills they need to successfully raise their children,” she said.

The grant money would go towards funding a feasibility study focused on practical issues like building purchase options including grants, building maintenance cost issues, pitfalls, real estate market assessment and the start of a project fund.

The BC Ideas competition, launched in May 2012, sought innovative solutions to challenges faced by BC communities. There were over 460 submissions from 82 communities, of which 33 are receiving more than $270,000. In addition, CBT committed $50,000 for five Basin-based solutions.

Other Basin-based ideas awarded money included Nelson’s Community Mediation Services (Transition Nelson), Green Heat Initiative (Community Futures East Kootenay) and Signs of Safety for Families: Reforming Child Welfare for Aboriginal Families (Ktunaxa Kinbasket Child and Family Services Society).