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  • Writer's pictureMagy Aguiluz

Supporting Parenthood: Insights from Parent Support Services Society of BC

Updated: 6 days ago


Famly support in BC

In today's world, family well-being is fundamental to building healthy and DISCOVER THE HEART OF FAMILY SUPPORT: INSIGHTS FROM PSSSBC resilient communities. With this purpose in mind, the Parent Support Services Society of BC (PSSSBC) is dedicated to providing essential support and resources to parents, caregivers, and families across the province of British Columbia, Canada. This non-profit organization has been a pillar of assistance and education since its founding, focusing on promoting positive family relationships and effective parenting through a variety of programs and services.


PSSSBC works tirelessly to empower families by providing support groups, educational workshops, and informational resources that address a wide range of topics related to parenting and childcare. Additionally, the organization strives to offer a safe and welcoming space where parents and caregivers can share experiences, gain valuable insights, and receive the support needed to face the everyday challenges of parenting.


To provide a deeper perspective on the impact and activities of PSSSBC, we had the privilege of interviewing two key individuals within the organization: Azucena Martinez, a dedicated volunteer, and Bella Salazar Cenezero, who works as the Education, Support & Volunteer Programs Manager. Their experiences and insights offer a valuable view of how PSSSBC is making a difference in the lives of many parents and caregivers.


In this article, we will delve further into the mission and vision of the Parent Support Services Society of BC, as well as the various programs and services it offers to strengthen families and communities in British Columbia. Join us on this journey to discover how this organization is transforming lives and building a brighter future for families in the region.



Interview with Azucena Martinez and Bella Salazar Cenezero at The Parent Support Services of BC.


1. To begin with, could you introduce yourself and share your name and position at Parent Support Services Society of BC?
  • My name is Bella Salazar Cenezero, I work at PSS as the Education, Support & Volunteer Programs Manager. I’ve been with PSS nearly 30 years and will be retiring soon.


  • My name is Azucena Martinez, and I have been a volunteer at PSS for 3 years. I currently facilitate a Spanish-speaking support group for mothers that meets weekly in New Westminster. Previously, I facilitated online groups in English, one for fathers and another open to anyone in a caregiving role.


2. Additionally, could you tell us a bit about your motivation for working at this organization?

  • I am a Social Worker by profession and also a Registered Social Worker in BC. What motivated me to work at PSS was the opportunity to transfer my skills and application of my knowledge and experience I gained and acquired through remarkable years of working from back home – Philippines. The integration of community development model in program development with Anti-Oppressive Practice (AOP) lens is very exciting and rewarding where it allows you to be innovative and creative with your work that strengthens relationship-building, empowerment that can lead to positive change. 


  • Azucena: I decided to facilitate groups at PSS after seeing the tremendous impact these types of initiatives had on me. I survived gender-based violence and had my second baby during the pandemic, far from my family and without much support network. The groups I participated in saved me, and I felt it would be wonderful to support other people in similar situations. I believe we all need to feel that we are not alone, and these types of groups are key to finding strength and moving forward, especially in migrant parenting (or motherhood). These three years have motivated me to study Community Development at SFU, and today, I feel privileged to be able to share parenting moments with other moms and learn so much from them.

3.What specific services does Parents Support Services BC offer for parents and families in Vancouver and British Columbia?

We have 2 major programs called Education & Support; and Advocacy & Mobilization. 


The Education & Support Program provides services called:

The Advocacy & Mobilization Program through The Kinship Care Help Line provides support, advocacy and resource information to grandparents and other relatives raising a family member’s child as well as to service providers and allies. The Help Line serves callers from across the province and is staffed by two part-time advocates trained in advocacy, social work, family law, and government services related to child welfare and kinship caregiving. Our services to kinship caregivers are confidential and ongoing.


4. Is there any particular program or service you'd like to highlight for parents living in Vancouver?

As PSS is a provincial organization, all of the above are being accessed by kinship caregivers & parents in the Lower Mainland and across BC. Professionals  and service providers refer their families to PSS as well.


What is the main mission of the organization and how do you carry it out in the community?

Our mission is to support the well-being of all families and children by empowering those in a parenting role through community connections, research, education, and advocacy.


As a non-profit organización, we are governed by the Board (all volunteers) to ensure all necessary resources (funding, staffing, infrastructure, constitution, policies procedures, strategic plans, sustainable programs/services, community partners, volunteers, and among others) are in place.


5. What kind of emotional and practical support can parents expect when they come to you for help?

The common feedback we hear from parents/kinship caregivers who attend our programs are: the safe, welcoming and non-judgemental space make them feel not alone and comforted in handling their parenting issues (stress, frustrations, mental health concerns, different parenting techniques, etc.). They are feeling liberated to be vulnerable and with the knowledge that they will not be judged and blamed for their parenting and would get support, understanding and opporutnities to learn from each other. The sharing of stories that could lead to new learnings and complemented with resources/services that are available in their communities empower the parents to help them make positive changes that ultimatey benefit the children and the entire family.


6. What are the biggest challenges facing parents in Vancouver and British Columbia today, and how does your organization help address these challenges?

I believe many contributing factors that affect parenting in BC such as: poverty and the continuing decline of Canada’s economy – lack of affordable housing, unemployment or de-skilling of credentials (underemployment) especially of those with international credentials, mental health, lack of extended family support, there are still barriers and gaps to accessing services, lack of services/supports to those needing specialized services eg children with neurodiverse needs, gender-based volence, limited parenting resources to 2SLGBTQIA+, etc. 


7. Can you share specific examples of how you have positively impacted families' lives through your programs and services?

I can share a shorter version of this story that impacted family’s lives: a mother who was facing abusive relationship, feeling so alone and helpless and not knowing where to go for help. She planned to end her life by finding the right skytrain station, what day of the week and time of the day to do it by jumping into the railroad tracks. But before executing her plan, she decided to give her life one more chance by calling PSS phone number on the brochure that she’s been keeping for a year. She felt so welcomed by the facilitator (the first person she talked to on the phone before joining the parenting group) and the group members/participants were so accepting and trusting by sharing their stories. She then realized she’s not the only one experiencing difficulties. Theirs are even more challenging and difficult to handle from her perspectives. She regularly attended the parenting group meetings. She and her family went for counselling services while she continued to attend our program. She became our speaker in volunteer trainings and various communities to talk about our programs to encourage professionals to refer their families and parents to access our program/services. The rest is beautiful history..   


8. What advice or resources do you offer to help parents cope with the stresses and pressures of everyday life?

Create your network of support. Access resources/services on parenting ie.,  child & youth programs; family programs; newcomers/immigrant services programs; if your children are in school, ask for support from school counselors & SWIS program; call crisis lines as they are availbale 24/7; call kids helpline (24/7); neighbourhood houses provide locally-based resources; friends/relatives are sources of support, too. As well as faith-based organizations if you are a member. Health care resources in your community provide also an array of health & mental health support. Check BC211 as it provides directory of resources across BC with various categories.


Join Parent Support Services’ Programs. 



Parent Support Services


9. How can parents interested in receiving support get in touch with your organization and access your services? Is there any associated cost?

It’s free to join our Parenting Support Groups Program. Anyone in a parenting role including extended family (grandparents, aunts, uncles, older siblings), nannies, etc. are welcome to attend our programs/services. We don’t ask for immigration status. They can stay for as long as they want in the program.


Here’s the link to register: Parenting Support Referral Form (office.com)


10. Are there any specific requirements to be eligible for support from Parents Support Services BC?
  • The Kinship Care Help Line provides support, advocacy and resource information to grandparents and other relatives raising a family member’s child as well as to service providers and allies. The Help Line serves callers from across the province and is staffed by two part-time advocates trained in advocacy, social work, family law, and government services related to child welfare and kinship caregiving. Our services to kinship caregivers are confidential and ongoing.


WHAT IS KINSHIP CARE? 

Kinship care occurs when extended family is caring for children on a full-time basis. A kinship caregiver is someone with a familial, cultural or otherwise strong relationship with a child and who cares for that child full-time on

either a temporary or a permanent basis.


11. Do you work in collaboration with other organizations or agencies to provide comprehensive support to families?

Yes, we do. Since we use a community development approach in our programming, the local communities and families’ participation is integral in our program development and evaluation. The sustainability of our programming is strengthened through the forging of collaborations with local organizations and volunteers. 


12. What are the future plans or exciting projects the association is working on to continue supporting parents and families in the community?

PSS continues to make our programming sustainable and be responsive to the emerging trends/issues on parenting in diverse communities. PSS endorses & adopts the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples & the Truth & Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action. 


13. Do you offer support services in languages other than English to meet the needs of the diverse population of parents and families in Vancouver and British Columbia? If so, what languages are available and how can parents access these services in their preferred language?

Yes, we do. Currently, we have Parenting Groups in various languages: Cantonese, Mandarin, Filipino, Spanish, Korean, Arabic, & Portuguese. The Punjabi Group is in development.

The parents/caregivers can refer themselves by registering online Parenting Support Referral Form (office.com) or professionals/service-providers can refer their parents/caregivers to PSS.


The development of Groups in various languages is our response to the community’s need for parenting support and resources. 


14. Does the association offer any kind of support to parents in difficult situations, such as raising children with special needs or families facing economic hardships?

We have been developing parenting programs that provide specialized support to parents raising neurodivergent children.

We don’t provide financial assistance but make referrals to government and non-government organizations that provide financial assistance and resources to help address poverty issues/economic hardships ie., foodbanks, housing, temporary shelter, clothing exchange, etc.


Conclusion:

15. Is there any final message you would like to convey to parents living in Vancouver?

Parenting is a challenging and rewarding experience that requires ongoing learning. There are resources available to parents to support them to be the best parents they can be. Don’t hesitate to reach out for help & support. Asking for help is a sign of strength. Parents deserve the best support that they can get in order to raise children in a heatlhy & loving environment to help the children thrive.


16. How can parents stay informed about the services and events of Parents Support Services BC?

Subscribe to our newsletter, “like” our Facebook and follow us on social media to get updated info of our programming, or call our office at 604-669-1616 or visit our website at www.parentsupportbc.ca.


17. How does the association address cultural or linguistic challenges that some parents in Vancouver may face?

Utilizing a community development approach, we work collaboratively with geographic and cultural communities who express their needs for parenting support. Parenting Groups in specific languages will be developed. Volunteer recruitment and trainings will provided and partnerships with local community agencies will be forged to mutually allocate resources for the sustainability of the Parenting Groups 


18. Is there an opportunity to make donations to support the work of Parents Support Services BC? Additionally, do you offer opportunities for people to get involved as volunteers in the organization, and how might they be interested in actively contributing to your mission?

Yes, we always welcome donations. PSS will give tax receipts for donations that we receive. Here’s the link to donate: Donate - Parent Support Services Society of BC (parentsupportbc.ca).


Yes, there’s always opportunities for volunteering with us for various positions: group facilitator, childminder, steering committee member, board of director, event/office volunteer. Here’s the link for volunteering: Volunteer - Parent Support Services Society of BC (parentsupportbc.ca)


Interview Conclusion and Gratitude

Our conversation with Azucena Martinez and Bella Salazar Cenezero underscores the profound impact that PSSSBC has on the lives of parents and caregivers in British Columbia. Both shared heartfelt stories and perspectives on the organization's mission, its programs, and the tangible support it provides to families.


Azucena eloquently expressed, "I decided to facilitate groups at PSS after seeing the tremendous impact these initiatives had on me. I survived gender-based violence and had my second baby during the pandemic, far from my family and without much support network. The groups I participated in saved me, and I felt it would be wonderful to support other people in similar situations. I believe we all need to feel that we are not alone, and these groups are key to finding strength and moving forward, especially in migrant parenting. These three years have motivated me to study Community Development at SFU, and today, I feel privileged to share parenting moments with other moms and learn so much from them."


Bella, with nearly three decades of experience at PSSSBC, added, "Our mission is to support the well-being of all families and children by empowering those in a parenting role through community connections, research, education, and advocacy. We strive to provide a safe, welcoming, and non-judgmental space where parents and caregivers can find the support and resources they need to thrive."


Gratitude

We extend our sincere gratitude to Azucena Martinez and Bella Salazar Cenezero for sharing their experiences and insights with us. Their dedication and commitment to PSSSBC are inspiring and reflect the real positive impact this organization has on the community.


Congratulations on 50 Years!

On behalf of This Maple Life, we would also like to congratulate PSSSBC on their 50th anniversary. Half a century of dedication to supporting families and caregivers in British Columbia is a remarkable achievement. Here's to many more years of making a difference and building stronger communities.

Final Message

On behalf of This Maple Life, we sincerely hope that Azucena, Bella, and the entire team at PSSSBC continue to make a significant difference in the lives of many families in British Columbia. Your work is invaluable and essential in strengthening families and building more resilient and healthy communities.




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