Show Me The Money, Honey!

So I sit here and the title of this blog post would be “Show Me The Money, Honey”.

But I am conflicted as I write this because I want to write from a place that represents living in poverty and trying to raise a child. But I also have this other compelling side to tell you about how ‘poor’ this social services piece is in this country. How the social services in the community that support up to 1 in 3 people are doing that with no money. So perhaps I break this into 2 posts.

How do you operate a program for the marginalized. The poor. The ‘have nots’. Those facing adversity. Living in poverty and raising a child or two in this era of the rich, the barely making it middle class, those who are the ‘working poor’ and well those who really have nothing? And when I say nothing I am only talking about finances here. Many of my young moms have more ‘assets’ than some well-to-do 40 year olds. But money-wise. I am constantly looking at “the budget”. Trying to make something happen from nothing. Borrowing from one line in my budget to cover essential needs in the other. How hard is it for me to wonder if my funding would come through so I could continue working? So my family would be fed.

As a young parent in Victoria these days, there are more days in the month where creative financing is the name of the game. Making that Income Assistance go the extra mile. To have safe and affordable housing. That can mean sitting on a BC Housing list for up to 5 years before you are able to pay rent based on your income, not market value. If you have $600 in your budget for housing, you’d be hard pressed in Victoria to find a bachelor suite let alone a 1 or a 2 bedroom suite for a mom and babe. To have affordable rent, food, heat, hot water, transportation. Yes, a bus pass is a luxury! To have toiletries, baby care needs, childcare parent fees and yes…., a cell phone. Something that should actually be further up the list but isn’t.  It’s their form of entertainment. Their lifeline. Their communication device.  So taking a meager amount of money and trying to make it stretch is a skill that I still need more practice with but when you have even less, well you have less.

The Moms I work with are actually quite skilled in this area. It’s amazing how you learn to be creative with your budget. Get the necessities and do more with less. I have often thought that  a single mother with one or two kids on income assistance would be a great accounts manager because if you don’t have the money then you don’t have it. This is something that credit cards haven’t taught us well. But really how do they do it? There are success stories. The ones that get a spot at daycare and get housing so then they can go to school or get a job. But that’s a better story. How about the ones living everyday hoping that they can get some fresh groceries this week or need more diapers or another can of formula for baby? The ones that couch surf. The ones that live with a friend or two with 2 kids each in a 2 bedroom so they have shelter.

They network. They use resources. They rely on others to help them and it can be discouraging. I see it on their faces when they have to tell their story again and again to different resources hoping that they might find the right person on the receiving end that can fill that one particular need. But then it starts again with the next need. Parenting is hard work. Being a teenager is stressful. Parenting when you are a teen is hard and doing it alone is downright exhausting and stressful. With the current economic climate looking bleak and the forecast looking worse how do we do it. How do we help them raise their children with all of their needs met. It takes a village to raise a child. And since we don’t live in villages anymore, it takes a community.

Nicole Andrews
The Cridge Young Parent Outreach Program

Mental Illness Leads to Homelessness in BC


And more than half of Vancouver’s homeless and mentally ill suffer from schizophrenia, according to preliminary data from another study.

These findings were among the research presented Monday at a “Health of the Homeless” summit in Vancouver.

Mental illness came first

“Health challenges, and especially trauma experience among homeless individuals, start much earlier then actual living in substandard housing, very often in childhood or critical developmental periods,” said Dr. Michael Krausz, who holds the LEEF Chair for Addiction Research at UBC.

Krausz presented results of a recent study of 500 homeless British Columbians found in Vancouver, Victoria and Prince George.

Among other objectives, the study was designed to address the chicken-or-egg question that has plagued homeless policymakers for decades: Do people lose their housing due to their mental challenges? Or do they become ill as a result of losing their home?

The results were unequivocal: More than half of the men and women in the large study group were found to have suffered from both physical and emotional abuse, often at an early age. More than seven out of every 10 women were also victims of sexual abuse, along with three in 10 men.

In addition to being frequent victims of childhood abuse, the majority of homeless British Columbian are also parents: 71 per cent had one or more children, and 25 per cent had two or more.

Schizophrenia common in Vancouver

Another study found that more than half of the homeless and mentally ill Canadians enrolled in the Vancouver portion of the landmark At Home/Chez Soi study suffer from schizophrenia.

Among that Vancouver study’s “higher needs” subgroup — who include many long-term homeless — fully 72 per cent are affected by the mental disorder, which commonly manifests as auditory hallucinations, paranoid delusions, or disorganized speech and thinking.

The At Home/Chez Soi research demonstration project is investigating mental health and homelessness in five Canadian cities. Vancouver researchers have already enrolled 255 of a planned 500 participants.

“We’re trying to recruit in a way that give us a representative sample of the Vancouver homeless population,” said Dr. Julian Somers, who leads the Vancouver portion of the project.

The Vancouver homeless reported heavy use of emergency services: 58 per cent had been to emergency rooms within the last six months, and 32 per cent were arrested by police within the past six months.

There were also found to be remarkably upbeat. Fully 73 per cent agreed with the statement, “I am hopeful about my future.”

“They believe in themselves,” Somers told the conference. “We have to do likewise.”

Homeless treatment paradox

Dr. Christian G. Schutz, who serves as medical manager for the Burnaby Centre for Mental Health and Addiction, described a “homeless treatment paradox” in which those most in need tend to get the least care.

As an example, Schutz described the fate facing individuals with fetal alcohol syndrome. Though they tend to be intellectually capable as adults, 80 per cent are unable to live independently.

But because British Columbia requires that an individual have an IQ of less than 70 in order to qualify for long-term support services, Schutz said those with fetal alcohol syndrome are systematically excluded from care and consigned to homelessness by the province.

Outreach workers report an extremely high prevalence of fetal alcohol syndrome among the homeless.

“Concurrent disorders are more central than had been recognized before,” Schutz told the conference. “Those with concurrent disorders… are more likely to be Aboriginal, more likely to live on the street… And two to three times more likely to not receive the help they need.”


Monte Paulsen reports for The

Creating Safer Communities

To reduce crime, we must support families and provide opportunities for children
The things that make communities safer from crime lie beyond the criminal justice system: they lie beyond the jurisdiction of law enforcement, courts, corrections. The criminal justice system can react to crime and can provide crime control; it cannot prevent it from happening in the first place.

True crime prevention must focus on the root causes of crime and victimization and be committed to a social development approach to addressing crime and safety. 

Both research and experience into antisocial behaviour indicate that the roots of crime and victimization lie, in large part, within the social and economic environment of the child.

Put in its simplest terms, to reduce crime and victimization, we must support families and provide opportunities for children from the very beginning of their lives. 

The literature on crime prevention is very rich and convincing in the approach that must be taken if we are to be truly committed to reducing crime and making our communities safer.

Crime prevention through social development initiatives attempt to build upon what we know and believe about the social and economic factors that are most closely related to crime. Social development programs hold the most promise of effectively addressing those factors that are strongly correlated with persistent delinquency and criminal activities among adults, namely:

  • family violence
  • lack of supervision from parents or caring adults; parental rejection, and lack of parent-child involvement
  • difficulties in school
  • neighbourhoods characterized by poor housing, lack of recreational, health and educational facilities
  • the disintegration of social supports
  • peer pressure
  • youth unemployment and blocked opportunities
  • poverty and inequality

There is a growing consensus that the following components are key to developing an effective crime prevention strategy:

Early education

Possibly the most well-known example of early childhood programs cited in the literature is the High/Scope Perry Preschool Project, developed and implemented in Ypsilanti, Michigan, by Drs. David Weikhart and Lawrence Schweinhart in 1962. This variation of the Head Start program was designed to study the long-term effects of participation versus non-participation of three- and four-year old, disadvantaged children and their families in a quality preschool program.

These children have been studied, along with their families, throughout their childhood and into their adult years, the latest review being at age 27. 

The findings consistently show that early education provided by skilled workers develops a sense of responsibility and initiative. The children involved in this program have been five times less likely than those who did not take part, to be involved in criminal behaviour. They are more likely to finish high school; and less likely to be dependent on social assistance.

In a seminar sponsored by the National Crime Prevention Council in Ottawa (September, 1996), Dr. Weikart, in speaking of the Perry Preschool Project, stressed that stimulating creativity, responsibility and a feeling of being in charge is essential in early education. Other approaches that use less skilled staff will not necessarily have this dramatic effect on a child’s future well-being. His research further shows that there is a huge increase in brain energy from ages three to ten. This is a crucial time for learning and it is the time when children and families most need the help and support of a quality early intervention program.

Preparing and supporting parents

The need to prepare and support parents throughout every developmental phase of their child’s life is well established. 

The prenatal period 
In the prenatal phase, the health and well-being of the unborn child is affected by the experiences of the expectant parent(s), the ability of the parent(s) to meet the needs of the developing baby, and the social and economic situation of the parent(s).

Optimal development in the prenatal period is greatly promoted when expectant mothers receive adequate nutrition; abstain from alcohol, drugs and smoking; and live free from abuse. Healthier babies ensure healthier children who in turn have increased opportunities for success in school. School success is a significant protective factor in pro-social development.

What do parents need during this pre-natal period? 
They need opportunities to increase their awareness and understanding of the importance of pre-natal care; they need to enhance their ability to meet the needs of their baby; they need to be encouraged to be equal partners in parenting. This can be done through community-based support programs for parents; for example, home visiting, fathers’ groups, pre-natal classes, cooking classes for expectant parents; by establishing outreach to high risk parents, such as mentoring with an experienced parent.

At birth

The birth of a child presents challenges to all parents. Bonding between parent and child is affected by the maturity levels of the parents; their understanding of child development and the needs of babies; the parents’ degree of isolation from social support; and their socio-economic environment. Often referred to as the “invisible years”, the first three years of a child’s life may involve little or no contact with individuals and systems outside of the family.

What is needed during these early years following the birth of a child?
According to the National Crime Prevention Council, the most effective programs take services to the family. Initiatives that include a home visiting component have proven to be successful in decreasing isolation and improving conditions and outcomes for children. According to the needs of the family, support is intensified and continued.

Home visiting programs are proving to be successful in decreasing isolation; providing education regarding child development and understanding the needs of babies; providing practical supports as needed and in contributing to the early identification of problems. Home visiting programs have shown significant reductions in child abuse and parent/child attachment failures (Fuddy, 1992; Landy et al., 1993).

As well, community-based supports are needed to complement home visiting programs. Some examples of successful community-based programs are family drop-in centres; peer support initiatives and mentoring.

The toddler/preschool years

Anger and frustration are experiences common to all children and adults. These emotions are not “good” or “bad”, Learning to have their feelings acknowledged while at the same time learning non-aggressive ways to express them is one of the challenges of this period of development. Children who witness violence in their homes and communities learn that threats and intimidation seem to be the way to resolve conflicts. They learn about abuse of power and control within relationships. Add to this violence in the media and children can become further desensitized to violence.

What is needed during these years?
Quality child care and education benefits the cognitive and social development of all children. For children experiencing accumulated risks, early child care and education which involves both the child and the parents can serve as a strong protective factor. 

Programs should also be available that provide more intensive interventions for children and parents. To help children “unlearn”aggressive behaviours and develop respectful and caring ways of relating, child care providers must be provided with adequate resources.

Reducing inequality, and in particular, child poverty

There is general agreement that reducing inequality is a factor in reducing crime. Reducing child poverty stands out as a significant factor in reducing crime internationally. The harmful effects of poverty in childhood often linger long into adulthood. It cannot be concluded, however, that “poverty causes crime”.

The evolution of a connection between actual criminal behaviour and an individual’s life experiences and social and economic circumstances is far too complex and unpredictable to be attributed to cause and effect. Poverty [for example] does not cause crime–if it did, then it would be women, not men, making up 98% of the prison population in Canada. If poverty caused crime, white collar crime such as embezzlement or computer fraud and environmental crimes by industry would be non-existent (John Howard Society of Alberta, 1995a, p. 36).

The three components that I have highlighted–early education, parent education and support, and reducing inequality and in particular, child poverty–are especially focused on the early years and emphasize the social imperative to “begin well at the beginning”. The same emphasis needs to be there for the transitions that youth face in their lives.

What I have tried to emphasize is that there is a solid body of knowledge and evidence about what works well. What remains is to do the things that will make a difference.

Carol is the former executive director of the BC Council for
Families and past president of the BC Coalition for Safer Communities.
This article first appeared as “Preventing Crime by Investing in Families” in Family Connections (Winter, 1998), published by the BC Council for Families

PURPLE Program

PURPLE Program and Its Research

The Period of PURPLE Crying® provides educational information about the properties of normal infant crying that are uniformly frustrating to caregivers, and appropriate action steps that caregivers need to know. Inconsolable infant crying is the number one trigger that precedes a shaking event.

The program is presented in two components that reinforce each other: (1) an 11-page booklet (“Did you know your infant would cry like this?”) and (2) a 10-minute DVD.

The letters in the word PURPLE describe the properties of normal infant crying that are frustrating:

P for Peak of Crying — Crying peaks at around 2 months, then decreases at around 3 to 5 months;
U for Unexpected — Crying comes and goes unexpectedly, for no apparent reason;
R for Resists Soothing — Crying continues despite all soothing efforts by caregivers;
P for Pain-like Face — Infants look like they are in pain, even when they are not;
L for Long Lasting — Crying can last as much as 5 hours a day, or more;
E for Evening — Crying occurs more in the late afternoon and evening.

The behavioural component — three action steps — guides caregivers on how to respond to crying in order to reduce crying as much as possible and to prevent shaking and abuse. These action steps are:

1. Carry, comfort, walk and talk with the infant. This encourages caregivers to increase contact with their infant, reduce some of the fussing and attend to their infant’s needs.

2. If the crying is too frustrating, it is okay to walk away. The infant may be put in a safe place so that the caregiver can take a few minutes to calm down and then go back and check on the infant again.

3. Never shake or hurt an infant.

The educational information and action steps are brief, memorable and easy to transmit.

Research Completed. From 2003-2007, research was conducted to test the Period of PURPLE Crying program through randomized controlled trials in Vancouver, British Columbia and Seattle, Washington. The hypothesis of the research was that the intervention materials could change parents’ knowledge, attitudes and behaviours about early infant crying, especially inconsolable crying and shaken baby syndrome. In Vancouver, BC the materials were delivered via public health nurse home visits and in Seattle, WA the materials were delivered via maternity wards, pediatricians’ offices and prenatal classes. The participants were randomly assigned to either an intervention arm where they received the Period of PURPLE Crying materials (a 10-minute DVD and 11-page booklet) or to a control arm where they received comparable information about general infant safety. Over 4,400 parents participated in the studies. Additionally, 25 parent focus groups were conducted to develop the materials.

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada Trial in the Canadian Medical Association Journal

The following article describing the randomized controlled trial of the Period of PURPLE Crying materials in Vancouver, B.C., Canada has been published in the March 2009 edition of the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Article Title: Do educational materials change knowledge and behaviors regarding crying and shaken baby syndrome in mothers of newborns when delivered by public health home visitor nurses? A randomized controlled trial.

Authors and Investigators: Ronald G. Barr, MDCM, FRCPC, Marilyn Barr, BIS, SSW, Takeo Fujiwara, MD, PhD, MPH, Jocelyn Conway, BA, Nicole Catherine, M. Sc., Rollin Brant, PhD.

Click here to read the full article on the CMAJ website.

Seattle, Washington, USA Trial in Pediatrics

The following article describing the randomized controlled trial of the Period of PURPLE Crying materials in Seattle, WA has been published in the March 2009 issue of Pediatrics.

Article Title: Effectiveness of educational materials designed to change knowledge and behaviors regarding crying and shaken baby syndrome in mothers of newborn infants: a randomized controlled trial.

Authors and Investigators: Barr RG, Rivara FP, Barr M, Cummings P, Taylor J, Lengua LJ, Meredith-Benitz E.