Vancouver, B.C. The economic turmoil has taken a toll on Family Services of Greater Vancouver, the city’s largest non-profit organization, particularly the “Children Affected by Family Violence” program (CABFV), according to an agency program counselor.
“Our programs are time-limited and rely on funding, so we do what we can with the resources we’ve got,” said Frances Soon, the program’s only full-time counselor.
CABFV is a free program available to children and youth between the ages of 3 to 18, who have been exposed to violence in their homes. So far this year, the program has served 192 clients with various backgrounds. One hundred and twenty seven of them are single mothers. While Caucasians stand for the majority, clients are also Aboriginal, Asian, Latin, and Indonesian.
“I have sat in a group with a young mother recovering from drugs, prostitution and homelessness alongside another mom who owns two waterfront properties,” said Rebecca (not her real name), a client whose child is currently in the program. “We realized our stories were the same no matter what side of town.”
Some of the women have encountered multiple incidents of abuse. Rebecca, for example, said she first experienced domestic violence when she was in her early 20’s. Even when she reached her 40’s, she continued to suffer from violence with different partners.
Despite the demand, “Children Affected by Family Violence” is always looking out for additional funding as the wait list is at least three to four months, according to Soon. “By the time these mothers reach us, they may have experienced months or even years of abuse. The whole experience of being turned away from a service is disheartening. Some people may not return. For children, it will likely prolong their struggles.”
Rebecca identifies with Soon’s concern. “One day when the three of us were at a beach, my son’s dad smacked me as if he was getting rid of mosquitoes. He started laughing at me and then made my son laugh about it too.” She added, “Later, my son started to bully other kids. He was rude to me when his dad was around. He started to become his dad.”
Soon says that, aside from the therapy sessions, the program is also trying to address the additional needs of clients, particularly child-minding and transportation. “Child-minding is essential for adult groups. For many of these families, they don’t have the access to child care,” says Soon. “Without child care, they’re unable to attend the group.”
Rebecca calls “Children Affected by Family Violence” a lifesaver. “For some of us, the only hope we have is this program. It’s all we’ve got.”