Wrapping support around young families

Transformative program keeps the children of vulnerable new parents out of child welfare

Valeria* was new to Canada, alone and struggling. A single mom in her early twenties with a two-year-old, she was lonely, financially strapped, and overwhelmed while trying to navigate life in a new culture. She found life-changing support through the Young Parents Wraparound Pilot program at Rosalie Hall, funded by Catholic Charities and the Catholic Children’s Aid Foundation (CCAF). 

“She was so grateful for the groceries and the parenting tips she received from our Child Development Hub,” says Reshawn Hunter, Director of Programs at Rosalie Hall, an accredited infant and early childhood mental health organization in Scarborough that supports pregnant youth and young parents. “When her child turned three, we supplied gifts and wrap so that she had the dignity of wrapping them and presenting them to her little one. The joy on her child’s face was wonderful.”

The real gift in this program? It helps keep vulnerable young parents and children out of the child welfare system. Young parents have higher rates of mental health issues, repeat pregnancies, substance use and domestic violence due to lack of income, education, social support and issues like low self-esteem.

The Wraparound project also aims to reduce the disproportionate admission of Black children into child welfare care. CCAS data shows that investigations involving infants under one year had a removal rate of 9.5 percent compared to the overall removal rate of 3 to 5 percent. A substantial proportion of these infants were visible minorities: at least one-quarter were Black.

CCAF funding helps provide two Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Toronto (CCAS) facilitators to offer individualized support to disadvantaged young parents. The facilitators help parents identify their needs, goals and strengths and access other community supports. Other objectives of the pilot include promoting successful functioning and stable relationships for young parents to benefit the health and wellbeing of themselves and their kids. The idea is to help infants and kids meet their developmental milestones and successfully transition to early learning and school. “The Young Parents Wraparound Pilot empowers these parents to take action in their lives and build up supports,” says Hunter.

“Helping young mothers and fathers find their way in the world reflects our Catholic ideals,” says Jim Gilligan, Executive Director of CCAF. 

Rosalie Hall is an ideal partner for this CCAS project, allowing young Catholics to safely keep and raise their babies. The organization offers prenatal and infant supports and supplies, childcare, play groups, counselling, parenting and life skills classes, housing assistance, a food bank and more. Young, at-risk pregnant women can also access live-In services, giving them shelter, care and the opportunity to continue their schooling up until their baby’s first birthday. 

Equally important is the warm welcome offered at Rosalie Hall. It’s a refreshing change from the stigma typically faced by teen parents, especially racialized individuals, even though 50% of all pregnancies in Canada are unplanned. “The support of all young families at Rosalie Hall centers around our founding values, including mercy, compassion and respect,” says Hunter. “Our participants are encouraged to reflect on their spiritual goals and get support in achieving them.”

Since 2022, 38 participants have benefited from the program according to Hunter. “When we wrap much needed support around a family, parents and children thrive.”

*Identity changed for privacy.

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