The Young Parents Support Network, which has been offering its services for more than 20 years, was started by young parents themselves.
“They, at that time, identified the need for specific programming that was really geared toward where they were at in their lives,” said executive director Jacquelin Green.
That focus has been maintained over the years, Green said.
“So things that matter to them,” she said. “All of the parents that we work with are low-income and most of them are women, but we do serve dads, as well.
“Really, what we want to do is provide a safe space for young parents to gather, for social connection, for parenting support, for individual support to meet whatever goals it is that they have, to address issues in their lives.”
The network also works with parents involved with the Ministry of Children and Family Development.
Both single people and couples take advantage of the services, Green said. Parents up to 29 are accommodated.
Parents are included in every aspect of what goes on. The volunteer board of directors is made up of current and former clients, and all programs are established with parent involvement.
The most requested program, by far, is called Future Planning, Green said. It receives funding from the Victoria Foundation and is being offered in conjunction with the YM-YWCA Young Moms initiative.
“It’s a program that’s designed to offer both weekly support and individualized support for folks who are trying to figure out: ‘What next?’” she said. “For lots, they’re beginning to work on educational goals or employment goals, some have mental-health concerns that they want to work on, others just want to get a driver’s licence.
“We work with them to identify whatever goals that they think are important, and then we work on addressing those goals.”
Skills such as how to write a resume are also presented.
“Built into that is parenting support and the opportunity to connect with other young parents who are in the same place on their journey,” Green said. “Because they have kids, that always has to be part of the equation. How do you balance going back to school or doing some job training with having a child? How do you get child care?
“All of those pieces are really important and so we try to provide a holistic approach to that so they’re basically set up for the next stage of their life.”
All programs are free and include bus passes, food and child care, Green said.
The network is headquartered in Saanich Neighbourhood Place, at Pearkes Recreation Centre.