By Naomi Booth
Westwind Weekly News
Have you ever had a day when you could not cope? Are you a caregiver, a new mom, a single mom, considering divorce, a senior needing assistance, or just feeling like life is getting unmanageable?
Most of us might think that we need to soldier along on our own. In Alberta, that just isn’t the case.
In 1966, the Government of Alberta created what is now known as Family and Community Support Services. According to the provincial website, FCSS is “a legal partnership between the Province of Alberta and municipalities, and an agreement under which locally-driven preventive initiatives can be developed, to enhance the well-being of individuals, families and communities.”
This is accomplished by empowerment within the community, cultivating crisis resistance, facilitating constructive social interaction, and supporting a community with high participation and “cohesion” of the residents.
According to Cathy Needham of Barons-Eureka-Warner FCSS, actively searching for, and anticipating needs within the community has been a powerful approach.
The Province of Alberta provides 80 per cent of funding and the municipalities provide the remaining 20 per cent. Funds are earmarked for social service use only.
Life offers many challenges from birth to death. Barons-Eureka-Warner FCSS seeks to offer services for the entire spectrum. The mandate for the Barons-Eureka-Warner FCSS is a focus on preventative measures.
One example is the senior conferences held across the Barons-Eureka-Warner FCSS coverage area, with seminar luncheons with speakers talking on a variety of topics.
Speakers include peace officers educating the attendees about current scams, pharmacists speaking about medications, financial advisors, doctors addressing senior health issues, and other speakers covering a wide range of topics pertinent to the senior demographic.
FCSS is also responsible for the Between Friends program, which brings youth and seniors together to play.
“The impact is profound,” said Needham.
Since this particular demographic isn’t particularly mobile, the service is repeated in many of the communities within the service area.
The Program of Excellence Award is being given to Barons-Eureka-Warner FCSS in recognition of this particular initiative.
For the younger set, there are new mother classes teaching about the care of a new child and providing a space for mothers to come together and share experiences and solutions. The program also also alleviates rural isolation with social interaction.
First-time mothers often feel alone, until they have a chance to hear from others with the same experiences.
There are infant mother programs, such as Attachment to Baby, Messy Play (painting with pudding), pre-school Play and Stay, Bringing Baby Home, and Baby and Me.
Support is given in all aspects of child care, and if a child needs attention or care beyond the scope of services offered, Including Developmental Checkups and Developmental Disability Support Group. Roots of Empathy allows toddlers to interact with infants so they learn empathy toward a crying infant as well as how to be gentle.
The services provided by Barons-Eureka-Warner FCSS and Parent-Link are free of charge and confidential.
The benefits could include keeping a troubled teenager from committing a crime, saving a marriage through counseling, or detecting an infant condition that a new mother might not see, such as an early speech issue.
Because the focus is on prevention, the public at large doesn’t see what may have been prevented. And due to the nature of confidentiality, it is difficult “advertise” FCSS services, according to Needham.
“It is our hope to increase awareness of the Barons-Eureka-Warner FCSS through the newspaper,” she said.
FCSS recently budgeted an increase in funding for the first time in 6 years.
Needham said employees have been the primary force in the success of Barons-Eureka-Warner FCSS.
They have gone without pay raises, in addition to contributing their own funds toward training. They stay because they love what they are doing, and FCSS tenured personnel are a benefit to the community at large.
Sixteen communities have pooled their resources to support FCSS – proof of the support generated in the communities that make up the Barons-Eureka-Warner FCSS coverage area.
Funding has enabled to provision of a greater number of services to the area.
“I do not think there is anything else like it in all of Alberta,” said Needham.
The communities are Barnwell, Barons, Coaldale, Coalhurst, County of Lethbridge (excluding Lethbridge City) No. 26, Milk River, Nobleford, Picture Butte, Raymond, Stirling, Taber, M.D. of Taber No. 24., Vauxhall, Village of Warner, County of Warner No. 5 and Coutts.
There are 9 members on the board, with regular rotations. Mrs. Needham represents Stirling and Raymond.
“Every participating community has been integral to the success of Barons-Eureka-Warner FCSS,” said Needham. Because of higher-than required contributions, the communities “were ahead of the eight-ball,” in responding to the with the increased matching requirements.
For more information, please visit bewfcss.ab.ca.