Parent Support Services Society of BC



Historical Background of PARENT SUPPORT SERVICES SOCIETY OF BC-Formerly BC Parents in Crisis

Parents in Crisis (PIC) began in the early nineteen seventies with the Anglican Social Action Committee of the Diocese of New Westminster. The Committee was made very aware of parents in distress who wanted help with severe family problems, problems that often resulted in physical and emotional abuse of children. After obtaining literature and organizational material from many parent self-help groups including Parents Anonymous in the United States, Reverend Fred Thirkell and a member of his congregation, Chris Witaker, started the first Parents Anonymous group in North Vancouver in the Spring of 1973. William McFarland of the Vancouver Children’s Aid Society provided training for their initial staff.

In April 1974, Margaret Ellis, wife of the rector of St. Helen’s Anglican Church in Surrey and Jean Cassidy, a Surrey public health nurse, got together a group of parents and started the first Parents in Crisis group in Surrey. A group of experienced professional and lay people was organized as sponsors and as an ad hoc board. William McFarland provided training and backup. A grant of $100 seed money was donated by St. Helen’s church. Gradually, groups developed in Coquitlam, Delta, Langley, Aldergrove, Burnaby, Richmond and Chilliwack.

Mrs. Ellis continued to do the major part of the fundraising needed to keep the groups going and expanding. PIC was funded initially through donations from various Anglican Church diocesan and parish donors. The United Way then provided funds on a demonstration project basis. Initial grants from the B.C. government were coordinated through the Surrey Coordinating Centre until PIC was incorporated.

The Parents in Crisis organization incorporated as a Society on January 22, 1976, with a formal board of directors. Volunteers were trained in the principles of Parents in Crisis Groups. The approach of the organization was to encourage each parenting group to obtain local funding and obtain local grants wherever possible.

In 1980 a mandate was received from the government of British Columbia to be an umbrella organization in B.C. for self-help groups for the prevention of child abuse. The Society’s name was changed to BC Parents in Crisis Society.

The organization grew also on Vancouver Island and the Interiorof B.C. PIC set up Steering Committees of local professionals and interested individuals in each community to assist the volunteer facilitators of each group. Given the enormous geographic distance between the provincial office and the communities, the Steering Committee became the lynchpin of the Parents in Crisis organization, maintaining the groups and providing support to facilitators. The provincial office concentrated on fundraising, developing new groups and providing quality training to the facilitators.

In 1993 PIC began a review of its training and recruiting process. This involved meeting with several community agencies, staff and volunteers. The review indicated that PIC training contained outdated material and was written in language that didn’t reflect the multicultural diversity of parents and families using the service. It also established that services to families were lacking in the multicultural communities.

In the early nineteen nineties PIC began a program of revising the initial training program for new volunteers to include diversity training, met with key service providers in the multicultural, aboriginal and mainstream family service agencies, and established a Multicultural Advisory Committee. Out of this process came a Steering Committee Handbook, (produced in 1994), an updated Facilitators Handbook (1996), and a Trainers Manual that was completed in 1997. In 1996, we held series of consultations with community leaders, individuals and service providers from Aboriginal, Chinese, Filipino, South Asian, Vietnamese, Latin American, and Iranian communities. The outcome was the development of circles in different languages: Filipino, Spanish, Hindi/Punjabi and Chinese. A year later Aboriginal circles were developed.

In 1996 PIC also sponsored a successful second phase group that explored ways to address child abuse with parents who had been through the initial groups, and wanted more advanced training. In 1996 the Board also took a firm position against the use of corporal punishment.

The name of the program was changed to Parent Support Circles in 1996, and an emphasis was placed on exploring partnerships with other family serving agencies. This involved discussing the use of meeting spaces at no charge, and the promotion of the group within the “partner” agency as well as the possibility of a staff member becoming a circle facilitator as part of their regular employment functions.

In response to the regionalization of services to families both within the Ministry of Health and the Ministry for Children and Families, PIC piloted a Local Program Coordination model in the Prince Rupert and Prince George areas. The regional structure was created to support the broader development of the parenting program, respond to the increased administrative demands of funders and include an expanded community development and advocacy role for the Society. Regional offices now operate out of Burnaby, Nanoose Bay, Prince George, and Victoria.

In 1998-99, PIC created a community child abuse prevention program called All Our Children, and added a part-time coordinator for a separate Aboriginal Support Circle Program to support the unique needs and concerns of Aboriginal parents throughout BC. In honour of William McFarland, the first Annual Bill McFarland Award was presented in 1998 to social worker Fran Grunberg, for her efforts to prevent child abuse. Since then the BC Association of Family Resource Programs; Dolores Romano; and Joyce Preston have received the award. The 2009 award goes to Child And Youth Representative Mary Ellen Turpell-Lafond.

Between 1998 and 2001 we received additional project funding to expand Aboriginal Parenting Circles and programs in Vancouver, Burnaby, Surrey and Victoria. Each community developed its own steering committee and excellent partnerships were formed with Aboriginal organizations. Our programs as a whole were greatly enriched by what we learned and the connections we made.

In 1999 (clearly a busy year) we also developed a Step Parent Circle supported by a steering committee and including peer support, educational events and social gatherings.

There has been a long history of creative fundraising activities by the Society including everything from coin boxes in liquor stores, theatre nights, on line auctions to an Oak Bay Soiree. In December 1999, the Filipino Steering Committee began a fund raising campaign through Christmas Caroling which now has become an annual tradition that helps generate funds for the Circle.

Between 2000 and 2002 the first Grandparents Raising Grandchildren (GRG) Circles started in Victoria and then Powell River. By 2009 there were GRG support circles in communities across Vancouver Island, Prince George and the Lower Mainland.

In May 2001, the Society officially changed its name to Parent Support Services Society of BC (PSS) and developed its first website. Though the name of the organization changed the mandate and goals remained the same.

In 2001, parenting education programs provided in Victoria resulted in a partnership with Dr. Allison Rees of Life Seminars. The “Effective Parenting” series was very successful and expanded to providing educational evenings until the winter of 2004.

In 2003, Prince George incorporated the STEP educational program into their circle program and a series of parenting education workshops were successfully delivered in the Aboriginal community.

A Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Project on Vancouver Island started on Vancouver Island in 2003 and the first “Grand Gathering” was held in Victoria Nov 2005. The second GRG project on VI started in 2006. Much of the GRG work was carried out in partnership with Professor Barbara Whittington of the University of Victoria School of Social Work and one early product was the excellent “Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Resource Booklet” still available on our website.

In the early 2000’s we saw the further development of parenting education workshops and support circles in the Lower Mainland in Filipino, Spanish, Mandarin and Cantonese languages. Support circles to this day continue in those languages and also in English and Farsi.

By 2007 we worked on updating the Facilitator’s Handbook, publishing the 2nd edition of the GRG Resource Booklet and initiating our now famous Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Legal Research Project, again in partnership with Barbara Whittington. The final product of the legal research project was the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren: A Legal Guide, launched April 2009.

Between 2007 and 2009 we visited the legislature twice with the grandparents as guests of then MLA Katherine Whittred; developed new GRG groups in Victoria and the Lower Mainland, held a 2nd Grand Gathering (in Parksville), revised our Volunteer Training and added modules on Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, and updated the Anti-Oppressive Practice module. We held our first annual GRG picnic in Surrey (2009). We moved our provincial office from downtown Vancouver to Imperial Street Burnaby and our Victoria office to a lovely new space on Empire Street. In 2009 we were honoured to be the recipients of the agency award for Distinguished Service to Families by the B.C. Council for Families.

Over the years our support groups have grown from one to 40 with some groups running continuously with the same facilitator for many years: Paula Hutton18 years in Nelson and Aprille Everett 16 years in Richmond. Our longest continuous circle is in Mount Pleasant Vancouver and has been running for 30 years. Throughout the entire history of Parents in Crisis and Parent Support Services Society of BC, families and whole communities across the province have benefited from the generosity of our volunteer facilitators, parenting educators, funders, donors and community partners in our collective work to create “a world where all children and their families are nurtured, valued and safe”.

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40th Anniversary

Audio from our 40th Anniversary Breakfast Fundraiser  - May 26, 2014