In the many community-based Family Community Organizations (FCOs) that exist, approximately 90,000 families find advice, solutions or help each year. Responding to the needs of destitute, dissatisfied or isolated parents, these organizations prove to be more than just service centers, but living environments.
The situations that lead families to a community organization Famille are varied. “Recently, a young mother took out a bottle in a CLSC and was shown the door, in the name of promoting breastfeeding. Another parent of a restless little boy was summoned three weeks after the start of kindergarten to be told that he needed to consult as soon as possible – in the private sector – when he could not afford it and the school offered no other solution. Aside from waiting lists, closed doors and unaffordable consultations, these families, among many others, have found in the OCFs a place where “they do not feel judged.
The action of the OCFs can be broken down into several ways, the first level of action being support for “the exercise of the parental role”. Their credo is to give families weapons, the power to act and to commit themselves, in order to counter a trend that deprives certain families of their means of action. Indeed, Louisane Côté underlines the fragility of certain families in the face of the health system or society. “Being a parent means continually receiving criticism from all the professionals who work with children. And when a professional takes a critical look at parents with few resources, they are powerless to deal with it. This normative view prevents them from feeling confident about their child’s development. However, she recalls, “there are multiple ways to educate children, different cultures and different living conditions. And not all children are equally adaptable. “Workshops on parenting, development, budgeting and separation are designed to help these parents become “actors in their child’s development.
At the same time, OCFs also provide a means for collective action. When several families are experiencing the same difficulties, the OCF allows them to come together to find solutions and respond to the issues they face. This may involve approaching the municipality to improve the safety of a neighbourhood or the health of a park, to develop the construction of social housing or to improve their living conditions. “We work with a social development objective,” says Louisane Côté. While many families are struggling to fill their grocery baskets, some OCFs have found partners to provide food or organize collective kitchens so that the families concerned leave with three or four healthy meals at home. This is particularly the case at the Maison de quartier de Fabreville in Laval, where a food bank, set up in partnership with local farmers, helps about 100 families every two weeks. “When this Maison de quartier was created 31 years ago, I never thought I would be able to help out with food. But today, 21% of the neighbourhood’s population is below the poverty line and we don’t have enough food to meet the needs,” explains the Maison’s director, Diane Vallée.
To break the isolation and give families confidence, the organization offers above all a living environment: for mothers, young people or toddlers, the Maison offers daily help, a place to rest and relax. A daycare that welcomes the little ones while mom participates in a workshop, meetings where life experiences can be shared without complexes, creative or motor skills activities, cooking sessions for teens, often torn between junk food and anorexia, apple outings or childless restaurants are opportunities to forge ties that go beyond the formal setting. Parents are encouraged to become volunteers, facilitate workshops, supervise activities or share experiences, and can become actively involved in the organization. “We don’t want them to come in as consumers of services, but rather as participants in a living environment. »
In this way, FBOs can take over from services such as the CLSC or the DPJ through a personal approach, especially with mothers who have difficulty communicating with social services. “It is not a CLSC worker who will sit down with these marginalized mothers and take them by the hand to help them. In our living environment, we have the opportunity to do that. We manage to create links through playful activities, walks or moments of relaxation. And, a few months later, these mothers participate in early stimulation workshops or collective kitchens,” continues Diane Vallée. Another challenge is that of integrating immigrant families, which is complicated by the language barrier. This is a new phenomenon at the Maison de Fabreville, but a very real one, since 47% of the families today come from cultural communities. “Many mothers drop off their children but do not stay for the activities. “To break the ice, the counsellors use discreet but progressive approaches, such as making eye contact or helping the child undress, before gradually getting them to participate in the workshops.
Fragile, single-parent families
The Fédération des associations de familles monoparentales et recomposées du Québec (FAFMRQ) urges caution about early prevention programs that over-target single-parent families, especially those with low incomes. Even if they start out with good intentions, they can prove harmful, in the end, to the populations they are intended to help.
In 2000, for example, the government announced $22 million over six years to fund a program for young single mothers to prevent social adjustment difficulties among children by encouraging healthy lifestyles. In 2008, a new fund of $400 million over ten years was created to promote the development of children aged 0 to 5 years in vulnerable situations, with a view to intervening from early childhood and even during pregnancy.
But for the Federation, these “ferocious early prevention” programs, developed by “experts who explain that if a child is not stimulated at this age, he will be a dropout and a delinquent,” help to establish a correlation between these difficult family situations and the inability to raise a child, explains Laurence Lagouarde, Research and Communications Officer. “The assumption is that a single mother is not able to raise her child properly. »
The result created is systematic stigmatization, to the extent that single-parent families have to “live with prejudice on a daily basis”. There is constant talk of “vulnerable” populations, “at-risk” families and “intergenerational transmission of poverty” as if it were a genetic disease. In fact, the term “single parent” has become synonymous with future offenders, to the point that some people refuse to use this term. “There is an enormous amount of work to be done on how these families are viewed. »
Kindergarten 4-year-olds are no exception to the rule: intended especially for so-called vulnerable families, they run the risk, according to the Federation, of creating school ghettos and sticking a devaluing label on the children who attend them.