A non-profit organization in Saskatoon has new a new name, but its goal remains the same.
Haven Family Connections, formerly the Saskatoon Society for the Protection of Children, is striving to keep parents and children together in times of difficulty, hardship and emergency.
“When a family’s going through some trouble or they’re having trouble coping, sometimes postpartum, or there’s been a situation of violence and some families experiencing a situation of homelessness and the family needs a place for the kids to be while they’re working through those issues,” executive director Dionne Miazdyck-Shield said.
“Families bring their kids to us … that is something that I think is a huge honour to be on the receiving end of keeping that family safe and providing that support.”
The organization believes in actively supporting families to stay together by reducing the need for child protective services and crisis intervention.
Immediate childcare is offered for kids aged zero to 12 years old so parents and caregivers can get through a crisis, struggle or emergency situations.
“At Haven Kids’ House, we have a 10-bed home and we run it 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” Miazdyck-Shield said.
“We provide crafts and games and good food and lots of care. And we just try and make sure that the kids experience it as a home away from home. And we’re actually in an actual house. And so it is very homey and very fun for the kids while we offer safety for their family.
“Sometimes (parents) call because they want to bring their kids and have us support them that way by taking their kids for one night, two nights, three nights, sometimes longer, to give them a break or to allow them to deal with whatever situation is that they’re dealing with.”
The organization’s family support workers can also provide in-home parenting mentorship through the Haven Family Support program.
“We go actually into their homes and provide parenting skills and try to train and help parents when there’s gaps in their knowledge of positive discipline or budgeting or homemaking and those sorts of things and mentor them in areas that they’re struggling in,” Miazdyck-Shield said.
“Sometimes families have not been, they didn’t grow up with good modelling of parenting or they don’t know how to discipline in a way that’s positive. And so sometimes people will revert back to negative discipline pattern, yelling or sometimes using physical violence.
“We come in and we support the families to learn new ways of doing relating to their kids, creating a strong family bond, helping kids communicate and parents communicate in ways that are effective.”
Haven Family Connections supports families dealing with a wide variety of challenges such as chronic mental or physical health conditions, domestic or sexual violence, lost children and support for parents when getting treatment for addictions.
“Anybody qualifies for our help. Many of our families face systemic disadvantage, they are in situations of poverty and they haven’t had a lot of opportunities,” Miazdyck-Shield said.
“But that being said, we’ve also had middle-class families and other folks use our services from time to time when they’re going through, sometimes, a divorce or a difficult situation. And our services are free.”
Miazdyck-Shield said the organization served 102 children at the Haven Kids’ House and over 300 families through its support program in 2019.
“It’s been a little different with COVID … we stayed opened and we’ve served the families with the highest need. We had to reduce the amount of admissions coming through to keep everybody safe but we’ve continued to serve the public throughout COVID,” she said.
The organization recently branded with new names to focus more on its mission of keeping families together.
“The board had wanted a fresh look and a fresh perspective,” Miazdyck-Shield said
“Under our former name, Saskatoon Society for the Protection of Children, we started in 1976 and we started with just working on children’s rights, doing education programs about trying to reduce the amount of corporal punishment in homes.
“And then we recognized the need for prevention programs and started, what is now Haven Family Support, in 1982 and started what had been the Saskatoon Crisis Nursery and is now Haven Kids’ House in 1983, so we’ve been around a really long time.”
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