Eight-year-old Amy suffered a long list of behavioural disabilities. On medication for Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, she required one-on-one supervision to attend activities. To simply sit quietly in a chair was an extreme challenge.
Enter VOICE, a therapeutic group for children run by Eastern Health’s Janeway Family Centre (JFC). Group therapy sessions transformed the Newfoundland girl into one of the most attentive and focused children in the program. VOICE gave Amy a safe environment to share a variety of horrific past experiences. This therapeutic outlet set her on a journey of healing by enabling her to share what had led to her behavioural issues.
VOICE is part of JFC’s Reaching Out Program, which is funded by the RBC Children’s Mental Health Project, a multi-year philanthropic commitment to support community-based and hospital programs that reduce stigma, provide early intervention and increase public awareness about children’s mental health issues. One in five Canadians will experience mental illness and many of these disorders begin in childhood or adolescence. Early recognition and intervention is essential, but it can be challenging for some to access the proper treatment, especially in rural areas.
Through the Reaching Out Program, RBC is helping JFC provide group therapy and parenting programs for children and families throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. Reaching Out helped fund seven regional training workshops which enabled facilitators to deliver these programs in rural communities, to develop manuals to complement these workshops and to facilitate attendance and presentations at national and international conferences.
“It’s about early intervention in the lives of children,” explains JFC facilitator Jim Oldford. “It’s about prevention for families who are starting to experience some troubles and are looking for education around parenting their kids. The programs are also helpful in addressing some specific needs such as coping with separation and divorce or witnessing violence.”
One of the seven regional programs was the Raising Families Parenting Programs. With the financial support of RBC, JFC facilitators trained health care professionals in Labrador to run the Raising Families Parenting Program in the local correctional facility. The feedback was so positive that the program was then piloted in Her Majesty’s Penitentiary (HMP) in St. John’s.
The response was overwhelming. Men talked with each other about what they were learning and shared parenting information with other inmates. One of the fathers was overheard sharing parenting tips over the phone with his partner, while another read bedtime stories over the phone to his child. The fathers named the group Parenting Inc., which stands for Parenting Incarcerated. There’s currently a waiting list for the HMP program. As a result, JFC is developing an additional training manual specific to this target population
Since 2009, the RBC Children’s Mental Health Project has been our cornerstone “health and wellness” pillar, and to date, we have donated more than $6.5 million to more than 125 organizations across Canada.