Archived - National Canada Benefit: Success stories
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Louise, Single Grandmother
Read this Alberta National Child Benefit story
Throughout her life, Louise has been a taxi driver, cook, bouncer, waitress, gas jockey, dispatcher and even a grave digger. But those jobs scarcely prepared her for when, in May 1998, she was forced to take legal custody of two of her grandchildren.
“Almost a year before, I kind of inherited the kids,” said Louise, “but then I was obligated to take legal custody of six year old Cody and Andrew who turned four last September. My third grandchild, nine month old Gauge, is a frequent visitor.”
Cody, who started kindergarten last fall also came with something else - Attention Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). His condition requires daily medication.
Louise worried about affording daycare. “I was quickly getting to the point where I would have to quit my job to provide the daycare I couldn't afford. I had always worked, but with daycare costs of around $595 for each child, I was heading toward welfare.”
The children were on “child in need” status in Alberta that provided them with dental and health coverage as well as some childcare or daycare expenses. “Child in Need” help amounted to about $81 for each child. “I was finding it pretty tough to raise two children on $162 a month, and with Cody’s medical disorder, most of that money could easily go for medicine,” said Louise.
At that point, the Canada Child Tax Benefit, which includes the National Child Benefit Supplement, provided Louise with an added benefit of $352 per month.
“Basically, the National Child Benefit made the difference between me being able to work or having to go on welfare,” said Louise. “What the CCTB has done is given me freedom to hang on to dignity and work. Even though it’s a struggle, I don’t have to beg for assistance. It’s given me pride, dignity and self worth.” She continues her work as a call centre customer service representative. It’s work that allows her to be home nights and weekends.
Louise knows enough about food banks and welfare and their effects on the family. “If the parent has pride and good feelings about themselves, the children see that,” she says. “The six year old knows if something’s bothering grandma - he’s very sensitive.”
Single Mom Makes the Grade with the Help of the National Child Benefit Program
Read this British Columbia National Child Benefit story
Renee understands the importance of a good education. “The only way to a good life is a good education,” she tells her two children. Shortly after becoming a single parent, Renee enrolled in a series of night courses to gain the skills she needed to secure long-term employment. After completing her studies, Renee’s efforts were rewarded when she found a full-time job as an office administrator for a local charity.
Besides the earnings from her job, Renee is thankful for the extra income she receives through the B.C. Family Bonus, British Columbia’s income contribution program that is combined with the federal Canada Child Tax Credit and the National Child Benefit Supplement.
Renee uses the income toward bills and to pay the cost of having her children participate in sports. “I am very much in favour of encouraging my kids to be part of a sports team,” she says. ”I believe that teaching them how to be part of a team is fundamental in making them responsible kids. Learning to share wins and losses is always a challenge.”
Renee carries this value of shared responsibility through all aspects of her family’s life. Renee’s children contribute by helping with household chores and cooking meals. “My kids know how hard I work to achieve what we have,” she states. “They are great kids. Without them helping me as they do, working and running a household would be ten times tougher.”
Renee’s priority is to keep her children focused and interested in school. With regard to her own experience, she comments: “It’s never too late to go back to school. I made it back to classes.” However, she wants things to be different for her children. Renee is quick to emphasize,” Completing school sure is easier when you’re young.”
Renee hopes that her kids will take her advice to heart and will attend university or college.
O’Chiese First Nation - Alberta Early Childhood Development Program
Read this First Nations National Child Benefit story
The O’Chiese First Nation, located northwest of Rocky Mountain House in central Alberta, is a relatively small community with a total registered population of 687 people. Being small, the O’Chiese community has limited prospects for employment within the reserve community often forcing its members to seek employment off the reserve, resulting in high travel costs and a barrier to long-term employment.
In 1998, under the National Child Benefit, the O’Chiese First Nation initiated the customized Early Childhood Development Program, in conjunction with Red Deer College. It is designed to educate participants using a holistic approach to early childhood development and has led to the establishment of a day care centre at the O’Chiese First Nation.
The goals are to enhance parental skills and to qualify participants for college programs or for employment at the O’Chiese Day Care Centre. The program involves an early childhood development course offered at a daycare facility where 10 participants are presented with practical situations for an integrated and sustainable learning experience. They also learn and are able to practise day care licensing policies and procedures. An instructor from Red Deer College was hired for the first year to provide the training. She is also administrator for the O’Chiese day care and provides hands-on training within the day care.
The program also aims to establish community networks where other potential work placements may occur and to implement an evaluative system to identify needs and to measure the program’s effectiveness in addressing these needs. As the training progresses, the long-term goal is to implement a home-based Aboriginal Head Start- type program as well as other parental programs.
The Early Childhood Development Program is available to low-income parents who have experienced difficulties in sustaining long-term employment. At the end of the first year of the program, 90 percent of the participants were employed while the other 10 percent were attending college full time. Other achievements included overwhelming community support and heightened self-esteem for the participants and their families.
This program is about the community’s future. It is part of a cycle of empowerment that is on-going and exists throughout other programs offered in the community. All the community’s programs are interconnected and interdependent of each other. For example, the success rate of the Early Child Development Program opens doors for people within the community and will lead to the establishment of other projects.
The Early Child Development Program has become a catalyst for community development and program planning.
Read this Manitoba National Child Benefit story
"There are two ways of spreading light," wrote author Edith Wharton. "To be the candle or the mirror that reflects it."
Twenty-five-year-old Nadera has experienced both as a participant in the Victor Mager Job Re-Entry Program sponsored by Manitoba Education, Training and Youth, Manitoba Labour and Immigration and Human Resources Development Canada.
Through an effective support system, quality job re-entry programming and her own tenacity, Nadera is getting herself onto a successful career path and helping light the way for other single moms.
As a young single mother of four-year-old Ayana, Nadera struggled to find her place in the world. Social assistance provided the support she needed at the time, but she firmly believed it would be a temporary solution.
"I grew up on social assistance and I didn’t want to have that same kind of life for my daughter," she says, adding that some people suggested she continue receiving social assistance until her daughter was school age. "I thought 'Well, that’s not going to do anything for our future. I’ve got to make it on my own and I've got to find the best way to do it."
The answer came in 1999, when she discovered the Victor Mager Job Re-Entry Program, a community-based program offering guidance, support and training for people to start making changes in their lives to prepare them to find and maintain paid work. Through individual programming, students are provided with long-term help in handling the issues that often make it hard to find and keep a job.
“The Victor Mager Program is somewhat unique in that the responsibility for the training, and for translating that training into jobs, remains within the program,” says program co-ordinator, Joan Embleton. “We believe these two factors strengthen our program and contribute to the overall success of our participants."
It was at the Victor Mager Program that Nadera found the emotional support and practical skills training she needed to move her closer to her goal of becoming a teacher.
Along with training in computer use, resume writing and interview skills, Nadera was provided with career counselling, labour market research assistance and advice about personal and parenting issues. She also received funding to attend community college to learn skills in child and youth care.
Nadera supplied the goodwill and hard work and the program provided the training funds and practical help in getting her employed as an instructional aide with the St. Vital School Division. She says working half-time and attending school at night was tough but worthwhile, both career-wise and as a good example for her young daughter.
Working in a school setting made her sure she wanted to be a teacher, so her next goal was a university degree. Nadera was heartbroken when her marks fell short of university requirements at the same time that her common-law relationship ended.
"I was just broken," she says. "I called Joan who was very supportive. She told me about a program that would enable me to access tutoring, university registration and bursary opportunities."
The Access program proved to be the springboard Nadera needed. With the continuing support of job re-entry staff, Nadera recently completed her first year in the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Arts, on the way to her education degree.
Remembering the hard lessons she’d learned along the way, Nadera shares her experience by contributing to the community that helped her on her way.
She co-chairs a youth advisory committee for a local organization helping teen mothers and talks to students about the challenges of single parenthood. As part of a committee, she helped lobby for St. Vital’s first teen health clinic which opened in January 2002.
"I tell other young moms to believe in themselves and do whatever it takes to make their lives positive for themselves and their children," says Nadera. "There are a lot of opportunities out there for single moms. Find them and turn your situation into something positive."
Day Care Assistance Program and Alternative Child Care Program
Read this New Brunswick National Child Benefit story
Emily is a 34-year-old mother of three. When Emily and her spouse were together, things were much easier. They both worked, and organized their schedules so that one of them was always at home with their children. Even when that was not possible, finding an affordable babysitter was no problem in the rural area surrounding Moncton where they resided. Difficult times began for Emily when she and her husband separated about three years ago. She was struggling to make enough money to support herself and her three children.
After separating from her husband, Emily and her three youngsters Thomas, age 11, Christopher, 9, and Tabatha, 7, moved to Riverview. Now living on her own, she was faced with the challenge of finding a babysitter. “I had to plead with people to baby sit, and the costs were much greater in the city than in rural areas.” Emily could not afford a babysitter to go to work, and she needed to work to support her children. Their situation seemed hopeless, and Emily became quite depressed.
One of Emily’s co-workers, who was aware of her situation, informed her about some of the child care programs available in New Brunswick. The Day Care Assistance Program offers parents or guardians financial assistance to help them access quality, affordable care at an approved day-care facility. And the Alternative Child Care Assistance Program is available to parents or guardians who work or attend school and require child care during evenings, weekends, or do not have access to a licensed day care in their community.
Thanks to these child care programs, Emily has been able to retain her job at a nursing home in the Moncton area. Emily’s children attend day care after school on weekdays, and use alternative child care arrangements when Emily’s shifts are scheduled during evenings and weekends. “I could not live without it. My children would never see me because I’d be working all the time and they would be with a sitter.”
The Alternative Child Care Assistance Program was developed in 1998 by the New Brunswick Department of Family and Community Services through the National Child Benefit (NCB). Federal, provincial and territorial governments work together through the NCB to invest in children growing up in low-income families.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Early Intervention Services
Read this Newfoundland and Labrador National Child Benefit story
Angela’s family lives in a small community in Newfoundland. She was like any other healthy baby until her tenth month.
Angela’s mother, Evelyn says it best: “My daughter was doing fine and suddenly at ten months, she lost her language.”
Angela was taken to the community public health nurse and finally for medical observation where Evelyn learned of Angela’s Autism Spectrum Disorder, a pervasive developmental disorder that, in this case, was fortunately mild.
Through Newfoundland and Labrador’s Autism Pilot Project - a National Child Benefit initiative - she was referred for home-based early intervention. Once a month, Evelyn and Angela travel to St John’s to the Health Sciences Centre to videoconference with Dr. Zelazo at McGill University.
During the session, Dr. Zelazo talks with Evelyn about Angela’s activities and progress and sets out a home-based program for Evelyn to follow. About once a year, Evelyn and Angela travel to Montreal for face-to-face visits with Dr. Zelazo.
“At the time of the first videoconference,” recalls Evelyn, “Angela could speak only about 20 words. We had to move her from nouns to verbs and then to full sentences. At each session, Dr. Zelazo reviews what I’ve been teaching Angela with language and behavior, determines what progress we’ve made, and then lays out the next activities and goals.”
National Child Benefit provincial funding has brought the best in medical advice from Montreal to St. John’s where a mother can take that teaching back to the small community on Newfoundland’s Southern Shore.
The benefit to Angela is clear. Early in her development, she showed signs of language delay and autistic behavior. Now, at four years old, she has her language back. She speaks in sentences, she is playing and advancing in her reading skills.
Her mom couldn’t be happier. “I have my child back,” says Evelyn. “You can’t imagine when all of a sudden your baby won’t give you a kiss or look at you. I didn’t think she’d have a future.”
Sherri and Danny Clouston of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories / Healthy Child Initiative
Read this Northwest Territories National Child Benefit story
Sherri and Danny Clouston of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, have two young daughters. Like all parents, they have found that raising children is both challenging and unpredictable. This has been especially true in Sherri and Danny’s case, as both of their girls are affected by Cerebral Palsy. Sasha, the elder daughter, turned six in January. Her sister Jamiee-Lynne is three. Both girls have received preschool and home-based intervention, consisting of individualized programs and adapted activities through the Early Childhood Intervention Program offered by the NWT Council of Persons with Disabilities.
Sasha is an independent little girl who hates to be treated as if she is different. She was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy when she was just nine months old after her mother noticed that Sasha was developing more slowly than other children her age. For example, Sasha was unable to hold herself in a sitting position, while other children her age could.
At age three Sasha was referred to the Early Childhood Intervention Program. “The Healthy Children Initiative is a NWT reinvestment program made possible by increased National Child Benefit funding,” explains Early Childhood Intervention Program Coordinator Diane Cook. “The Healthy Children Initiative is available to every community in the NWT for children up to six years of age. It assists communities in developing and implementing early childhood intervention services and programs.” Sasha was assigned to Hillary, one of three Early Childhood Intervention Workers funded by the Healthy Children Initiative. Hillary worked closely with Sasha for two years. Hillary provided a level of personal care and continuous involvement that has proven to be extremely beneficial for Sasha’s development.
Sasha’s younger sister Jamiee-Lynne was born two months premature, in 1999. She started with the Early Childhood Intervention Program when she was just a year old. Jamiee-Lynne has a medical condition known as Dandy Walker syndrome as well as a milder form of Cerebral Palsy. Combined with the early intervention provided by the Healthy Children Initiative she has shown great improvement over the last two years. An additional benefit to the Clouston family has been that Hillary has worked as the Early Childhood Intervention Worker for both girls. She has been able to anticipate Jamiee-Lynne’s needs based on her previous experiences with Sasha.
With Hillary’s accompaniment, Sasha and Jamiee-Lynne have both taken advantage of the Toy Lending Library, a facility that provides educational resources and an age appropriate learning environment to Yellowknife families with preschool children. Sasha attended Four Plus, an early intervention program also funded by the Healthy Children Initiative, accompanied by an Early Childhood Intervention Worker, and after four months showed so much improvement that she was able to attend the program independently. Jamiee-Lynne will be attending the Yellowknife Playschool with Hillary this fall.
Through all the challenges they have faced, their Early Childhood Intervention Worker has been there to assist Sasha, Jamiee-Lynne, Sherri and Danny. Hillary can view their situation with a fresh perspective, and she can pick up on behaviours a parent may not notice. On occasion, Hillary also accompanies the girls and their parents to therapy appointments, providing a valuable communication link between the girls’ health care and their daily life.
Sasha and Jamiee-Lynne will both have to work hard for the rest of their lives to fully realize their potential. In the opinion of their care team, consisting of family (including grandparents), therapists, medical specialists, and their Early Childhood Intervention Worker, the girls have made tremendous gains in the past few years. Everyone involved agrees that it is worth the effort, and they are already seeing the results of their work. As Sherri says, “A lot of people don’t realize there’s anything different about them.”
Read this Nova Scotia National Child Benefit story
If there was ever a case where the availability of daycare is making the difference between tough circumstances and a better life, it’s this one. Laura (not her real name) and her young daughter had left a very troubled marriage and had moved back home.
“Between living at home and working, the $300 I paid each month for child care was manageable,” she said. “But then I got a new job outside Halifax and my child care cost went up to $400 each month."
Laura had completed a paralegal course and had sent out over 100 cover letters to prospective employers in a tough job market. She got some letters back and a few calls and landed a job in a legal firm. But she was forced to move.
Her new job further away meant that she had to move out on her own and her child care costs were now unaffordable. Her salary was barely covering shelter and other basic costs. “I called everybody about a daycare subsidy. I knew there had to be something. I didn’t want to waste my training and lose my job because I couldn’t afford the cost of daycare.”
Finally, last summer, Laura got a portable subsidized child care space under Nova Scotia’s Healthy Child Development Initiative - an NCB reinvestment program.
“A program person came out to my office which I really appreciated and arranged the subsidy,” said Laura. “I got one of four available seats and my daycare costs went down to $25 each week. It’s a really good daycare," she added, “with no stigma or prejudice about the parents’ financial situation. I could now afford swimming lessons for my daughter which were also taken care of by the daycare.”
“The subsidy moving with the child has made a big difference for many families,” said Virginia O’Connell, provincial Director of Early Childhood Development. “Parents feel they can move to take courses or a job because the child care subsidy moves with them. It also means money they once spent on child care can go toward swimming lessons or other activities for the children.
“Laura is now aiming at a law career. “With five years as a paralegal, I qualify as a mature student and don’t require a degree to apply to law school,” she said. “The subsidized portable child care seat was a big help toward the future of my daughter and myself.”
Read this Ontario National Child Benefit story
As a teenage mother, Michelle has faced many challenges trying to raise her son. Through the support she receives through Ontario’s Learning, Earning and Parenting program (LEAP) – a National Child Benefit reinvestment program - she has been able to take care of her son and go back to school.
LEAP provides teenage parents who have not completed high school, with practical supports to ensure they, along with their children, have every opportunity for a healthy, well-adjusted life. Whether it’s school supplies, child care, transportation, tutoring, on the job training or parenting advice, LEAP helps remove the obstacles that young Ontario Works parents face on the road to self-sufficiency.
“After the birth of my son came unexpected surprises,” Michelle says. “He was diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome and had to undergo open heart surgery when he was 5 months old – none of which I was prepared for. The LEAP program helped me find resources to educate myself about Down’s Syndrome. LEAP also provided me with the transportation and accommodation I needed to take my son to the out-of-town hospitals he needed to go to.”
After her son’s surgery, Michelle felt hesitant returning back to school full-time and putting her son into child care. “My LEAP counsellor suggested that I try summer school and place my son in licensed private home care so that I could get back into the school routine and see how my son would be able to handle day care. Through paying for my transportation costs, LEAP made it possible for me to attend summer school at the scheduled times."
After Michelle successfully completed her summer school course and realized how much her son was benefiting from the interaction he was receiving, she felt confident enough to return back to school as a full-time student. “My LEAP counsellor helped me co-ordinate my school schedule and my child care,which made it easier for me to go back to school.”
After going back to school full-time, Michelle was on the honour roll the first semester. These achievements gave her the motivation to participate in extra- curricular activities such as a “Leader in Training” program which allows her to do a voluntary summer placement assisting camp counsellors at recreational parks.
Michelle is looking forward to her graduation and intends to continue her education at the post-secondary level. “I would like to study psychology and eventually work with special needs children. LEAP has made it possible for me to overcome certain obstacles in my life. It really is a beneficial program for those who choose to better themselves.”
Read this Saskatchewan National Child Benefit story
Everyone agrees that poverty, especially child poverty, is a serious issue in Saskatchewan. The government of Saskatchewan believes that employment is the best solution to poverty. When people work they gain valuable skills and experience that lead to more lucrative jobs until, ultimately, they no longer require any form of government assistance. Too often, however, individuals and families face barriers that make it difficult to enter or stay in the work force, such as lack of education and training, lack of affordable child care, the loss of health benefits for children when leaving welfare and the impacts of disabilities.
Building Independence consists of four programs - the Saskatchewan Employment Supplement (SES), the Saskatchewan Child Benefit (SCB), Family Health Benefits (FHB) and the Provincial Training Allowance (PTA). These programs help families enter and stay in the work force by directly addressing barriers to employment.
To date, the results have been remarkable. In the four years since Building Independence was introduced, 4,658 families, including 10,500 children, are no longer living on welfare. Overall, the number of families on welfare has declined by 28.4 percent and the number of children living in families on welfare dropped by 30 percent over the same period. Mere statistics, however, tell only part of the story.
Cecilia is a single mother of two young girls living in Saskatoon. Although employed, Cecilia’s modest income meant money was tight.
"I had two young children and a mortgage and other bills to pay." Cecilia says. "I was at the crossroads, thinking ’What am I going to do?’ I was worried about losing my house and my savings. I didn’t think I had any choice but to apply for social assistance."
Instead of welfare, however, Cecilia found out about the Saskatchewan Employment Supplement.
SES provides a monthly benefit to low-income families with earnings from either employment, self-employment, or maintenance income. SES works to remove barriers to the workforce by helping families with the child-related costs of going to work, such as child care and transportation.
"The Saskatchewan Employment Supplement and the Saskatchewan Child Benefit have made a real difference," Cecilia says. "These programs help me pay for baby sitting and getting my daughters around town. They also help me give my daughters little extras that I might not be able to afford on my own, like Christmas presents and swimming lessons."
Building Independence helps families with their children's medical expenses as well. Families who receive either SCB, SES or PTA also qualify for Family Health Benefits (FHB). FHB provides drug, dental, optometry and other coverage for children, as well as partial coverage for parents.
"Fortunately, my kids have been healthy, but the health benefits help when they do get sick. I can also make sure they get to see the dentist for checkups," Cecilia says. "The health benefits have been a big help to me, too. I was able to get chiropractic treatment. Without it, I would have had to cut back the number of hours I work."
A unique feature of Building Independence is the ease with which families apply for the programs. Eligibility for SCB is automatically determined by the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (formerly Revenue Canada) when you file your income tax. Families can apply for SES by phoning a toll-free number - there are no forms to fill out or mail in.
"I like the flexibility," Cecilia says. "You can phone in early in the morning or in the evening, not just during regular business hours, so it’s a real benefit for people who work shifts. Another thing I like is the timing. Being paid at the end of the month means I don’t have to worry as much about stretching my pay cheque."
Cecilia’s family is just one of the many thousands of families across Saskatchewan who have benefited from Building Independence. The programs are helping parents not only to become independent, but also to provide a better future for their children.
"If I didn’t have this help, I would have had to go on social assistance,’ Cecilia says. "These programs have meant a lot to me."
Read this Yukon National Child Benefit story
A unique community partnership is making kids pretty happy in the Yukon. The Kids’ Recreation Fund, an NCB reinvestment program established in 1999, provides funding of up to $300 per year for eligible children to take part in a wide range of activities from sports to summer camps to bicycling.
Pat Living, the program manager for the Yukon’s Health and Social Services explains that the idea for the Kids’ Recreation Fund (KRF) came out of the Yukon Government’s general anti-poverty strategy. “Originally, KRF operated under the structure of the Youth Investment Fund,” said Pat. “Then we approached Sport Yukon, a local non-profit that overseas and administers sport organizations in the Yukon Territory. Rather than KRF being another government-run children’s anti poverty program, we had our first community partner.”
Pat explained that the partnership with Sport Yukon showed that the KRF was not just a responsibility of government, but a shared, community program.
Moira Lassen, the KRF program administrator for Sport Yukon, talked about the program’s success.
“Over the past two years alone we’ve had over 900 children take part in various sports and life skills activities that they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford. Families can apply anytime for the program. Our application form and process are very simple and families like the idea of applying to Sport Yukon rather than a government assistance program.”
Her daughter gets to go to a summer adventure camp where she learns rock climbing, kayaking, and safety practices. And her son took gymnastics last winter and got a certificate of achievement. “He still talks about it,” says Gail (not her real name). “They both get to try new things I wouldn’t be able to do for them. They meet friends and peers and have a healthy lifestyle."
As a single parent, Gail’s first priorities are food and rent. Although she might not have money for all these activities, she feels good about the simple application process and dealing with Sport Yukon rather than a government department.
As Program Manager, Pat Living says, “The money goes straight for kid’s stuff, it’s not used in any other way.”
“We’ve made this program into a real community effort,” adds Jan Downing, who helps run the program through her work at the Territory’s Sport and Recreation Branch. “ We now augment the KRF program funding with community fundraisers. We’ve instituted a “Cookie Dough Challenge” and on National Child Day, we sell cookie dough - complete with samples - to local businesses, the Medical Association, the Law Society, the RCMP, other government agencies, even the NHL Oldtimers’ game. Not only do we raise money, but we build community awareness for KRF.”
Believe it or not, they sold enough cookie dough throughout the Yukon for over 110,000 cookies and, in the process, increased the KRF pot by around 15%.
And who does all this work benefit?
Therese’s daughter Mary, for one. Therese, who is originally from South Africa, heard about the KRF through Mary House, a women’s transition shelter in Whitehorse. “I have four children and limited resources so Mary House approached us,” said Therese. “We applied to the KRF for money to pay for an electric keyboard that now enables Mary, who’s 13, to take piano lessons.”
Mary had listened to a classical music CD of her mother’s and also had friends who played the piano.
“My daughter has always loved music,” says Therese. “One thing I can see is joy when she plays the piano. It’s always ’Mama, come and hear this, Mama come and hear this!‘ It’s given her the chance to really master something.”
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