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Who do we Serve? Young Parents!


By petra - Posted on 18 April 2012

We serve parents age 13-29 and their children.

 

Virtually all of our participants live in poverty.

Of participants who were surveyed between 2009 & 2011, 75% identified as a single parent. An additional 17% of participants indicated that they are a single parent ‘sometimes’.  We serve young mums, young dads and young couples in whatever configuration they come to us!

 

A  snapshot: a sample of our participants reported the following life experiences:

• 81% (29/36) of participants are or have been on income assistance.

• 14% (5/36) of participants have accessed or are currently receiving disability benefits.

• 100% (36/36) live below the 'low-income cut-off'.

• 31% (11/35) identify as Indigenous or Métis. One participant indicated she was ‘not sure’ how she identified.

• 42% (15/36) identify their children as Indigenous or Métis

• Number of children per family: 1-4

• Age of children: infancy-14 years

• 33% (12/36) of participants are high school graduates (when we asked!)

• 64% (23/36) identified that they have been to a transition house at least once

• 57% (20/35) of participants were raised by single parents. One participant declined to answer this question.

• 29% (10/35) spent time in foster care as children. One participant declined to answer this question.

• 65% (22/34) indicated that their parents or caregivers were alcoholics or addicts when they were children. Two participants chose not to respond to this question.

 

Participants range from young parents who feel isolated and need some support but who live with minimal risk, to those who face risk factors that would bring most people to their knees within the course of a day, including homelessness, street involvement, mental health issues, addiction, relationship violence, histories that include extensive sexual violence, and sex trade involvement. It is not unusual for a young parent participant to be experiencing two or three of the risk factors mentioned above at the time that she connects with us. Some of these participants will access intensive support services (which always include referrals to appropriate supports in the community) for 1-3 years, during which time she (or he) and her (or his) child(ren) may access a variety YPSN programming, from outreach, to preinatal support, to parenting education, our naturopath clinic, drop-in group, and Future Planning.

Young parents who have reached a degree of stability in their lives and no longer need to access intensive support services frequently continue participating with our organization as volunteers. For example, our board of directors is comprised entirely of current and past participants who want to give back to the organization. Once a parent has the tools and community connections she needs to move on, she is encouraged to do so. At any given time, participants will be at different phases in this process, and so (ideally) a natural mentoring takes place between those who are further along in their journey, and those who are still beginning. It is important to remember that those who face the most complex risk usually connect by outreach only. Young parents connect in the ways that work best for them.

 

We use the word 'participants' intentionally

We refer to the families we serve as ‘participants’, rather than ‘clients’. As participants, people co-create the organization in non-limited ways. Young parents can participate in YPSN through accessing support services, becoming volunteers, and perhaps becoming staff. In this way, we are all participants: staff, volunteers, and those accessing service. Together with all others who are involved in the organization at any given time, we are YPSN. Though we are all participants, the word ‘participant’ is understood to especially refer to the young parent families that we serve. The use of the word ‘client’ can act to separate young parents from full participation and suggest that their role is static and confined to that of passive receivers of services. Within YPSN, the goal is for participants who receive services to also be decision-makers.

Of course, there are other appropriate ways to refer to the families we serve. Strident political correctness is not our goal. But maybe only Jacquelin can get away with calling participants ‘chiquitas’ without sounding offensive!