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Executive Summary


Our Place – Learning in Motion explores the relationship between specific working principles, the impact of consistently applying these principles on practice, related processes, structures and service delivery models, and ultimately, how these affect participation and inclusion in the Better Beginnings Better Futures neighbourhoods in South-East Ottawa.

The first phase of Our Place will examine the SEOCHC Better Beginnings initiative to determine the extent of community involvement in processes, services and structures. Community members, partners and staff will contribute their experiences and perceptions. This information will be collected in the first year, and then examined and used to refine and change existing processes, structures and models of service delivery to better connect and include young children and their families in community life.

Our Place will be guided by the BBBF Steering Committee made up of 10 community residents and 5 representatives of partner organizations. After reviewing the initial assessment outcomes the Committee will recommend additional and/or alternate approaches to promote a supportive community and enhance community involvement and participation in community life. This will trigger the second phase of Our Place.

The process by which the community plans and implements changes to further social inclusion will be fully documented as will be the results which follow a second year of implementation.

In the third and final phase, the project coordinator will analyse and synthesise information collected over the previous two years to provide the Steering Committee with a best practice blueprint in the development, implementation and evaluation of an engaging and inclusive community for families with young children.

Our Place has been designed to answer the following questions about the Better Beginnings initiative in South-East Ottawa:
o What are the values and principles that influence the way of working and what is the impact on processes, structures, relationships and models of service delivery?;
o What elements support the inclusion of families with young children in decision making, feedback and reflection?;
o What service delivery characteristics support communities to organize themselves, participate and enhance the well-being of children in a community?;
o Is a client based approach the best and can a client based approach build on strengths?;
o What external factors have contributed to inclusion or created barriers for families (social policies etc.);
o What new knowledge can we add to the literature about social inclusion for families with young children that moves beyond distance, transportation, child care etc.?;
o What have we learned in the process about community involvement, access, ownership and strength and how can we document this in a meaningful, clear and concise way?

While much research exists on access and inclusiveness for families living in disadvantaged neighbourhoods (distance to participate, cost, safety, child care, 50% residents on decision making bodies etc.) Our Place intends to go beyond the surface to examine value based practices, processes and structures that have been designed solely with a view to supporting inclusion in the broadest sense for communities with young children. Parents, children and community members will contribute their own knowledge of their experiences and provide information to further our understanding of what makes inclusive communities and related services.

Our Place will examine those underlying characteristics of environments for children and families that are “people centred” and strength based. Our Place will identify those strategies that build on strengths and support children and families in various circumstances by ensuring that community members have a “voice”.

Finally, the Our Place project will document lessons learned and strengthened to be shared with other like communities in a document called What Makes It Ours – Lessons Learned from the ”Our Place Learning in Motion” Initiative. It is recognized that each community - like each child and each family - is unique. The Our Place Lessons Learned will be simply a blueprint of one experience, but one that can be modified and adapted to better reflect the realities of similar communities. What Makes It Ours – Lessons Learned from the “Our Place Learning in Motion” Initiative will be available to others via Web and print publication.

 

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“We all drink the same coffee”


Discovering Our Place
Social Inclusion at
Better Beginnings Better Futures

Written by
Susan Villeneuve
Project Coordinator/Researcher
Our Place Learning in Motion Project
South-East Ottawa Centre for a Healthy Community

December 2006


This project is funded by the Government of Canada's Social Development Partnerships Program. The opinions and interpretations in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Government of Canada.

INTRODUCTION

This report provides an examination of the second phase of the Our Place – Learning in Motion (Our Place) Project funded by the Social Development Partnerships Program with the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development Canada. The project is looking at early learning and childcare and social inclusion of children and families. Specifically Our Place will be examining how the Better Beginnings Better Futures (BBBF) program in South East Ottawa has contributed to social inclusion of children and families living in the BBBF community. Our Place will explore the processes, structures, supports and value based practices that promote inclusion and examine the relationship between specific working principles, the impact of consistently applying these principles to practice and how these affect inclusion.

The first phase of the project included writing a literature review, Finding our Place – Children and Families in Their Community. The literature review looked at the concept of social inclusion, the history of the term and its political and social implications. As well, the review provided an examination of the effect of early childhood development programs on children and the relationship between those programs and social inclusion. While the literature review provided a wide variety of definitions of social inclusion, the Steering Committee overseeing the Our Place project wanted to provide a definition that would be most appropriate to the project’s and BBBF’s goals. The definition states that

For families with young children living in a Better Beginnings, Better Futures community, social inclusion includes having access to child development and parental assistance programs. Social inclusion provides the opportunity to lead productive, secure lives while developing the skills and knowledge necessary to participate fully in the community.

This second report looks at the methodology used to answer the questions raised in the initial proposal for this project. It also provides a review of the various steps necessary for developing the research questions, hiring and training interviewers, the research ethics review process, the actual interviewing process, and the data gathering and analysis of that data. Finally, this report will examine the links between the data and the values and tenants of the BBBF programs and services.

The second phase of the project provided an opportunity to look specifically at social inclusion for families with young children in the South East Ottawa BBBF neighbourhood. There are eight Better Beginnings Better Futures (BBBF) projects in economically disadvantaged communities across Ontario. Each site focuses on primary prevention programs for children 0-6 or 4-8 years of age. The Ottawa BBBF site is a program of South-East Ottawa Centre for a Healthy Community (SEOCHC a registered charitable organization) and focuses on the preschool age group 0-6. The goals of the project are to reduce the incidence of serious, long-term, emotional and behavioural problems in children, promote the optimal social, emotional, behavioural and cognitive development in those children at highest risk for problems, and strengthen the ability of communities to respond effectively to the social and economic needs of children and their families.
Guiding principles of the project include family and community involvement in program development, implementation and evaluation. Other principles include accessible, non-stigmatizing programs (available to all children in a geographical area), capability of integration into various service sectors, and relatively low cost. Programs must be sensitive to social and cultural diversity of families and communities and encourage promotion and facilitation of coordination, cooperation and collaboration of service providers across health, education, childcare, mental health, social housing and recreation sectors to ensure holistic and consistent support for children and families.
The approach to project development is holistic, supporting the child and family consistently from the prenatal through to the preschool years. The intent is to ensure that children have "Better Beginnings" in all their social environments, starting with their family and expanding to include their immediate neighbourhood and local community. The South-East Ottawa BBBF project takes place in the Albion, Heatherington, Fairlea and Ledbury neighbourhoods in South-East Ottawa. The project provides multiple components of service built on existing services and resources and on new models of service delivery unique in the area to the BBBF project. Program components recognize the stages of the family life cycle and child development and are sensitive and responsive to the concerns and realities of families. The project places an emphasis on community development, parent and service provider collaboration, and inter-agency integration and coordination. South-East Ottawa BBBF programs include Family Visiting, Parent/Child, and Community components.

Family Visiting works on a paraprofessional model. Family Visitors provide social support, information on pregnancy, birth, nutrition, child development and family issues, and linkage to other community services and physical resources. The Family Visitor is a peer who is flexible, non-judgmental and accessible. Parent/Child programs provide opportunities for parents to enhance their competencies and confidence in their role as parents, support adult social interaction, education through modelling and optimal child development. Programs include high quality playgroup spaces for children with their parents and caregivers to mingle and play. Other components include a community nurse/lactation consultant, well baby drop-ins, pre/post natal supplements, a food bank and a community clothing bank. Community programs promote cooperation and integration between the rich diversity of families in the community and promote healthy, safe neighbourhood environments. Programs include focus groups, a family park, and a number of community events and special celebrations.
The BBBF neighbourhoods are characterized by a population that has a high percentage of new immigrants to Canada (many of whom immigrated since 1995), as well as many single parent families. A large percentage of the community residents live under the Low Income Cut-Off (LICO) when compared to other populations in Ottawa. The three communities also have a larger proportion of social housing than other areas of the city. All of these factors make the BBBF programs and services that much more critical for the communities it serves. BBBF has strived to involve community residents and service providers in a holistic approach to supporting the children and their families. The program has been very successful in encouraging participation by the community residents and one of the goals of this project is to determine why participation (social inclusion) happens and if barriers to participation still exist, how to eliminate them.

VOICES

I was interviewing a staff member in one of the upstairs offices. There was a knock on the door. It was the community nurse; she needed to weigh a baby. In they came, nurse, mom, baby, a Family Visitor and a friend or two, filling up the office in the middle of the interview and we all chatted with the mom and admired the baby. This is BBBF, welcoming, adapting to the situation, no matter the time or place. It has a true open door policy, not just the front door, but the office door too. It is a place where everything happens all at once, at the same time, in the same place. And, it just felt right, everyone was relaxed, at home, and the star of the moment, the baby, smiled through it all.

 


This stage of the process focused on developing a methodology to ask the questions that would create a clear picture of how and why the BBBF programs worked, what factors encouraged social inclusion and how we can develop ideas for enhanced inclusion. As well, this stage of the project would allow us to address several of the questions raised in the initial project proposal.

These questions include:

• What are the values and principles that influence the way of working and what is the impact on processes, structures, relationships and models of service delivery?

• What service delivery characteristics support communities to organize themselves, participate and enhance the well-being of children in a community?

• Is a client-based approach the best and can a client-based approach build on strengths?

• What new knowledge can we add to the literature about social inclusion for families with young children that moves beyond distance, transportation, and childcare?

To answer these questions it was necessary to set up an inquiry that went below the surface and examine the unseen elements that affect inclusion and exclusion. The methodology had to provide a deeper, more comprehensive understanding of why people participated or did not participate in BBBF programs. The research also had to look at how participation or inclusion moved from the individual to the family to the community and what factors created a sense of community involvement in the BBBF programs and services.

Another issue addressed is the link between the concrete structure of BBBF programs, (how a program is developed and delivered) and the more ethereal practice of how values are tied to the development and delivery of the programs. The South East Ottawa BBBF program was initially set up based on a set of values and tenants. These included:

• individual and environmental enhancement
• accessibility
• non-stigmatization
• involvement of the family and the whole community
• integration with current service agencies
• high community involvement
• comprehensive
• high quality
• generalizability
• collaboration with other service providers
• holistic

In addition to these values, at this point the South East Ottawa BBBF programs works with a “management from beside” approach to relationships between managers, staff, volunteers and community members. This management style focuses on

• process orientation
• people centeredness
• hiring from within
• democratic leadership
• boundary fusion
• modelling

Part of the focus of this report, and of the Our Place project was to discover the underlying values that represented the best practices of BBBF and those that perhaps, created barriers to inclusion. The BBBF programs and services are clearly people centered and are run by dedicated people whose styles and approaches have had a strong hand in creating BBBF. It is also clear though, that a common thread of values runs through the programs. The people involved with the programs support, nurture and encourage those ideals. If we can define and understand those values, it will allow us to determine best practices, identify those areas that need modification and provide a blueprint of BBBF programs that would both reflect the values and be replicable for other community groups.

Methodology Development

A Steering Committee oversees both BBBF and the Our Place project. The Committee consists of 15 people, ten of whom live in the BBBF community and five service providers selected by community residents. The first task for the Steering Committee and the Project Coordinator was to determine what approach would get the answers needed to encourage inclusion, identify the barriers and create strategies to eliminate those barriers that were within the mandate of the BBBF program. There were several meetings held with the Steering Committee, the BBBF Project Manager, and the Family Visitor Coordinator, the Playgroup Coordinator, staff, volunteers and service providers. These meetings provided an opportunity to discuss the various methodological approaches to this project and determine which approach would work the best and provide the most comprehensive information.

The Project Coordinator and the Community Liaison Worker held several test interviews with a staff member, manager, volunteer, participant and service provider. As well, the two met with a focus group of staff members. Once these interviews and focus group data was collated and analysed, the Project Coordinator and Community Liaison Worker provided a presentation to the Steering Committee members who were responsible for a final decision on methodology.

Although there were several ideas discussed, it quickly became clear that the open-ended interview approach seemed the most viable. This particular method allows for a more free flowing discussion with participants, allows the interviewer to ask deeper, probing questions, and allows for additional discussion beyond the initial questions. The Project Coordinator prepared several draft questionnaires. There were separate questionnaires for present participants, past participants, staff, volunteers, service providers and Board or Steering Committee members.

In addition to the questionnaires, there were letters of information and consent forms for participating in the interviews developed. These included a letter of information about the research project for community participants and one for staff and volunteers, as well as a consent form. An important consideration about consent was the issue of requiring people to sign a consent form. Given the unique situation of the BBBF community and a general reluctance for many potential participants to sign any formal document, as well as the importance of confidentiality, it was decided that oral consent was acceptable. Copies of the letters of information and the oral consent script are attached to this report as Appendixes A to C.

It was at this point that discussions began about the need for a research ethics board to review the research methodology. The research ethics board that had in the past reviewed projects for SEOCHC and BBBF was unable to do that. There were several alternatives researched and the decision was made to set up a research ethics board at SEOCHC. A call for volunteers for this committee resulted in several SEOCHC and BBBF staff being named to the committee. The SEOCHC Research Ethics Board (SEOCHC REB) met on several occasions and reviewed the Our Place research proposal. The final proposal was approved with minor changes.

The Community Liaison Worker had spent considerable time finding suitable, interviewers who would be able to interview various participants in English, French, Arabic, Somali and Spanish. Each interviewer had to be able to speak English as well as his or her mother tongue. A training session provided the interviewers with a background of the project, the focus of the questions, various interviewing skills, how to ask open-ended questions, develop probes to go below the surface, as well as learning the practical things, for example, how to work the tape recorders. Discussions also addressed particular cultural requirements, the need for flexibility by the interviewers, as well as the need for the interviewers to provide a comfortable setting for the interviews, work on listening skills and provide a sympathetic, responsive environment for the interview participants. To address the issue of confidentiality all interviewers, as well as the Community Liaison Worker and the Project Coordinator signed a Declaration of Non-Disclosure. A copy of the Declaration is attached to this report as Appendix D.

The Project Coordinator was responsible for interviewing all staff, volunteers, service providers and Board and Steering Committee members as well as past participants of BBBF programs, people who had declined BBBF programs and any participants that other interviewers could not do. From the beginning, it was crucial that the interviews be set up for the convenience of the interviewees. The location of the interviews was either at the BBBF Community House or at the participant’s home. The length of the interviews ranged between one to two hours depending on the participant and the amount of information they were able to provide. In addition to the interviews, the Project Coordinator did on site observation at the BBBF Community House and at Playgroup and attended BBBF celebrations, parties, cultural events and any other organized community happenings.

Results of Observation

The Project Coordinator spent several days, at different times of the day and for different lengths of time at both the Playgroup program and at the BBBF Community House. This allowed an opportunity to see how the various programs worked, the flow of participants, and how staff and volunteers dealt with participants and issues that arose on a daily basis.

Community House

The BBBF Community House is located in a town house in the Heatherington neighbourhood. The house is open from 8:30 to 4:30 and staffed by paid employees and volunteers. The Community House has an open door policy; any community resident can come in and use the various services available whether they have children or not. The house is set up so that the more public areas are downstairs and the more private offices are upstairs. One office houses all the family visitors who work in shifts, as there are only four desks in the office. The Project Manager and Family Visitor Coordinator have their own offices, although the Project Manager shares her office with other staff members and the community nurse who weighs babies in that office. The administrator sits in a corner of the kitchen with other staff or volunteers. The kitchen is a community kitchen with access for all community residents to coffee and tea and toast. One of the things that stand out about the house is that while there are information pamphlets and a bulletin board with all types of postings, the house is not set up with an office environment. When a participant comes in, they do not feel that they have to wait “behind the desk,” or sit in “the waiting room.” The kitchen is open to all, and as one person said, “we all drink the same coffee.”

VOICES

“There was always someone to talk to and I felt like I was in my own house.”
“It is really a big extended family house.” (Translated to English)


During the observation periods, the house was quite busy. Each day is different with specific days set aside for the food bank, the clothing bank, for picking up bread, milk and eggs, and Friday afternoons are a “visiting day.” One of the most common reasons for coming to the house is to see the community nurse, either mothers and their babies or just people needing some sort of medical information. Another service provided in the house is the Community Connections program that provides services to newcomers to Canada. Other people come in to use the phone, send a fax or make photocopies, and the administrator is constantly busy dealing with these requests and answering the phone. An important function of the house is to provide a place of safety and refuge for some. Many come just to sit and have a coffee and talk to someone. The kitchen is the centre of activity and is often quite full of people. The living room is usually a little quieter; people sitting having their coffee and maybe chatting with a staff member, a Family Visitor or each other. In general, there seems to be a good flow in the house. People come in and move to the kitchen to talk to a specific person or ask a question. Usually there is a staff person or volunteer there to greet them and direct them to where they need or want to be. In the Project Coordinator’s opinion the long hallway as you enter the house can be somewhat intimidating and if staff are busy with people already in the house and not welcoming the person standing in the hallway it is somewhat isolating. A participant who felt that they were “not wanted” confirms this. For people who know the staff and volunteers, and how the house works there is a high level of comfort and relaxation. However, for a new person, this level of comfort displayed between community residents and staff at the house may come across as cliquish. It is important that consistent efforts are made to quickly welcome new people to the house and to provide a staff or volunteer to sit with the person and find out what they need, whether it is a family visitor or just a cup of coffee.

Playgroup

The Playgroup program takes place in the Community Centre. The program is set up and taken down every day and that is a time consuming process. Once the set-up is complete, there is a separate area for babies, eating, the hands on play, a reading area, an active area where children can ride trikes, and an area where parents can sit and chat with other parents or caregivers. There is a sign in sheet to keep track of people coming and going. There is no limit on the number of children that are at playgroup at any one time.

At the times that the Project Coordinator visited the program there were many children, it was extremely noisy and active and surprisingly there were little or no crying or upset children. While on the surface it may seem like a chaotic program, there is actually a lot of structure and organization underlying the activities. The focus is on the children. No child is expected or forced to do any one activity at a time, they are free to experience the program at their pace, doing what they want when they want. A parent or a caregiver accompanies all children and must be there while their child or children in their care are at the Playgroup.

VOICES

“I feel so happy when I go to the playgroup. The worker says hello and she asks me about my child and me.” (Translated to English)

“My child feels so happy when we go to the playgroup. I notice him when we go out of the place; he’s so happy and comfortable as he spent a nice time there.” (Translated to English)


The Playgroup Coordinator oversees the Playgroup program and her philosophy on child development guides the programs and the structure of the Playgroup room. Her extensive experience and dedication to children shows through everything she does. Her focus has been to create a place of respect, inclusion and valuing everyone. In addition to valuing the needs of the children, the Playgroup Coordinator treats the parents and caregivers with respect. She does not “tell” a parent how to deal with a child; instead, she models consistent behaviour and provides a visible example of how to handle a child in distress, how to provide opportunities for a child to make choices, or respond to a child’s request. As, with the Community House, it is impossible to determine who is “staff” and who is a volunteer or a parent or caregiver. Everyone is involved in the Playgroup program; parents and caregivers are consistently encouraged to be involved with their child or children. Everything the Project Coordinator observed at the Playgroup Program supported the ongoing enthusiasm from participants and staff about the program.

The success of the program does raise some issues. The number of children attending the program on a regular basis means that the room is usually very full, very noisy and can be quite overwhelming for new parents with their babies or children. During one observation period, the Project Coordinator noted a mother come in and wait by the front door. After a period of time, she left without talking to anyone. The Playgroup Coordinator was quite aware that this was happening but was unable to make it across the room to the mother. While this may seem like a small problem, it does raise concerns. At some point, it may be necessary to limit the number of children attending the program. While no one wants to turn children away there comes a point where there could be so many children that none of the children receive the attention they need. As well, it is important to find a way to make sure that new participants are welcomed quickly and that staff or volunteers have the time to spend a few moments with a new mother or caregiver to ease them in to what can be a very intense environment.

Data Analysis

In total, 73 people were interviewed for the project. Of these, 48 were present and past participants, and 25 were staff, volunteers, service providers and committee members. The majority of participants were presently involved in at least one program. We were able to interview a select few past participants who had dropped out of the program for various reasons. Even though we were only able to interview a small number of past participants, the information they provided is interesting and helpful in understanding why people withdraw from the program. We were also able to interview a select few community residents who had been offered the BBBF program services but had declined any of the services. Again even with the small number interviewed, their comments provide an insight into why people decline BBBF programs and perhaps other ways to introduce BBBF programs to new community residents. As well, we interviewed service providers, as their input would provide a perspective of BBBF that is unique and helpful.

A strong value of BBBF is the blurring of boundaries between staff and volunteers, and the blurring of roles between those groups. In addition to this, there is a good deal of blurring of roles between people who volunteer by serving on the Steering Committee of BBBF but who are also service providers, Board Members or staff members or participants. Many people interviewed for this project play multiple roles with BBBF. As much as possible we used the questionnaire that asked questions related to the role that the person served the majority of the time. In the case of service providers, although they also served on the Steering Committee, we counted them as service providers. Volunteers who volunteered at the Community House and served on the Steering Committee answered the volunteer questionnaire and not the committee member questions and so on. If someone volunteered for BBBF and was a participant, we interviewed them as a participant. When there was any question about which interview to use, the participant chose which questionnaire they would answer.

Participant Interviews

The majority of the participants that were presently involved in a BBBF program had been involved for between 0-5 years. This is indicative of the type of people that BBBF serves and the neighbourhood they live in as well as the mandate of BBBF to serve children from 0-5 in the Family Visitor Program or 0-6 with the Playgroup Program. There is a great deal of movement in and out of the community so it is unlikely that you would have too many long-term participants. The second largest group was the 5-10 year category with the lowest number in the 10+ years involvement. The Participant Questionnaire is attached to this report as Appendix E.

For those interviewed, the Family Visitor program had the highest numbers of participants, with Playgroup and the Community Nurse with the second and third highest use. Several other programs were mentioned but were not as highly used. These included Play for Life, Books for Babes, Newcomer Services, Kids in the Hood and Nutrition. Participants who did use the Community House usually used it for more than one reason. The number one reason for going to the Community House was to see the Community Nurse. The following uses are listed in descending order of numbers: food bank, services (photocopying, phone, faxing), clothing, just to visit, to get information, milk and eggs, and bread.

The participants that did not or would not use the Community House cited such reasons as it was not open early or late enough for their schedule or that they did not speak English. Language turned up in several different areas as a barrier to inclusion for many of the participants. Other reasons included that they did not have any problems so they did not need to use it, that they were worried about privacy of information, and that there were other community residents who went they did not want to see. There were also additional comments that the Community House was too small, too noisy and too busy all the time and that was why people would stay away.

When asked to describe BBBF programs participants said that the programs were helpful, educational, supportive, accessible, provided a refuge, full of life, provided a foundation, a place to learn what is expected socially and morally, offered an opportunity to interact and allowed for an unexpected place of learning. In describing BBBF staff people said that staff was knowledgeable, respectful, polite, compassionate, interested, and community spirited. Respondents described the Community House as a place of cultural sensitivity, child oriented, bright, open, colourful, the centre of everything, a place that felt like extended family. On the less positive side, people saw the Community House as too small, crowded, a place that provided no privacy, noisy and a place that needed more space and private space for the administrator/receptionist.

In response to the questions about what BBBF had done for them personally, for their families and for their community participants had a wide range of answers. On a personal level, participants felt that BBBF had provided help with being a good parent, learning about how to be a community resident, how to live in this society, providing information or knowledge on many topics. The programs gave many participants a new level of self-confidence, a sense of empowerment while at the same time providing someone to turn to, the knowledge that there was someone else available to help gave some participants the freedom to grow and gain power over their own lives.

The BBBF programs affect on participants’ families included the increased motivation to learn about how to be a better parent, motivating parents to learn about preventing risk to their children, and teaching parents about the importance of reading to their children. As well, the programs provided information about resources, giving moral support, making parents feel involved, feeling that they were a part of the community. Effects that are more practical included providing food, clothing, and information. The Family Visitor program is a crucial lifeline for many parents easing the difficulties of being a parent, “making it easier to be a mother.” Many of the participants noted that they could not imagine surviving anything without their family visitor.

The influence of BBBF programs on the community seemed to be a more difficult, perhaps more abstract question for many participants and the responses were not as plentiful. In general, though some participants thought that the food bank and clothing resources were something that brought people together, “when you know that everyone has needs, that you are not the only one, it makes you feel more like a community person, not just a person on your own.” The BBBF programs and services have an effect because they are visible, supportive, and non-judgmental. The strongest affect of the BBBF programs is the fact that they provide a central location, a place to go, that everyone knows about, that everyone can go to if they need a refuge, or a safe place.

The BBBF programs make participants feel involved by responding to needs immediately, “not making you fill out forms and answering a million questions,” and by being welcoming and accepting. One of the participants noted that BBBF programs give you unconditional assistance; others mentioned that there are no strings, no catches, and it is free. Participants said that they felt that being involved in BBBF programs made them feel more confident, worthy and raised their self-esteem. Other people felt that their involvement with BBBF put them in a more learning mood, made them want to gain knowledge. As one participant put it, “the staff shows you how important knowledge is, what knowledge can do for you.”

Many of the respondents felt that community residents participated in various ways with BBBF because they wanted to make the community better, that they wanted to give back for what they had received, that they knew the only way to keep the programs going was to get involved. Involvement in the programs also provided chances to meet people, practice English, and end isolation. As well involving yourself in BBBF was “allowable,” it was ok to be involved with BBBF because it was seen as acceptable. Several of the participants mentioned that their husbands accepted them going to BBBF, “allowed” them to participate in the programs, because BBBF did not try to interfere the way other organizations tried to.


The responses to question about why people did not want to get involved with BBBF programs included that people had no time, that they did not know about the programs, language barriers, suspicions, fears of being looked down on, thinking they have to have an issue to be involved, concerns about privacy and personal issues with other community residents. Other reasons raised were that some people are not comfortable about receiving help, cultural barriers to accepting help, and other participants felt there were some people that took up all the time and space at the Community House.

When participants looked at the similarities and differences between the BBBF program and others that they had been involved in there were not a large number of responses as many participants had not been involved in any other programs before this one, so they had little or nothing to compare between. Those that did respond noted that previous programs dealt with financial needs only, that other organizations were huge bureaucracies with no time or desire for the personal touches. Those participants saw BBBF as a program that provided immediate resources and assistance, it was not a bureaucracy, it was a non-structured, smaller community resource program. Several people also noted that BBBF did not make them feel ashamed (as other programs had), that they had a sense that BBBF staff really cared about the person, not the economic status.

When asked how BBBF could be made more accessible to people, people responded with the need to increase community information, the need to advertise more often, longer hours, have Playgroup expand their hours with morning and afternoon sessions, and adding on more staff. Although it is certainly not within the mandate of BBBF, there was a consistent request to expand the programs to families with older children and people without children. These answers tie in well to the last question about what can be done to make more people want to get more involved with BBBF. Responses included longer hours, more promotion, and more recreation programs for children, creating “welcoming committees” for new residents and new immigrants, extending a coordinated outreach to Ledbury-Banff area and improving information dissemination in general. Several participants referred to the need to get more information out, knocking on doors again, “you need to go back to what worked before.”

Past Participants

As noted above, the Project Coordinator/researcher was able to contact a few past participants. These people had participated in BBBF programs and had left the program for a variety of reasons. In the BBBF programs, participants “graduate” from the Family Visitor Program when their children turn five and from Playgroup when the children turn six and are no longer within BBBF mandate. These past participants, however, had left the programs for other reasons. Staff provided a list to the researcher of 31 names of past participants. Of those, eight did not have phone numbers. Of the remaining 23, the researcher was able to reach only 14 and of those, only eight were willing to participate in the interview.

The Project Coordinator completed a few of the interviews over the phone and the others in the person’s home. Even with the low number of respondents, the information provided by these people it is essential knowledge, and the low numbers should not negate its importance. A copy of the Questionnaire for Past Participants is attached to this report as Appendix F.

The majority of the respondents were involved with BBBF programs for 0 to five years. The Family Visitor program had the highest numbers of participants with the Playgroup, and the Community Nurse second and third. Those participants that had gone to the Community House went to see the Community Nurse, visit with their Family Visitor, sit and have a coffee and use the services (photocopies phone and fax). Those who did not go to the Community House referred to the lack of privacy and issues of confidentiality. Referring to their experience with the programs, the past participants responses were divided into two parts, early experiences and later experiences.

It seems that initially the participants felt that the programs were very helpful, educational, gave them support and the assistance they wanted. As time went by however, the respondents perceived that there was a change on the program’s part, not them. The respondents referred to a lack of privacy, lack of communication, unreasonable demands by Family Visitors and feeling pressured when talking about their experience with the programs. One example of unreasonable demands was that the Family Visitor program required too many visits. The past participants talked about the BBBF staff in very positive terms. Staff was helpful, supportive, easy to talk to, and interested in their problems. A few respondents felt that the staff was not to blame for their decision to leave, but that the staff was simply doing what they were told to do.

The past participants answered the same three questions about how the programs assisted them, their families and their community as the present participants did. Again the answers seemed to split into a before and after scenario. In the early days of their involvement with the program, the staff and the community, participants felt that the program had provided assistance, resources and support that they needed. The participant’s family had also benefited from the support, becoming a better “unit,” a stronger family because of the programs. The programs also had a positive affect on the community by strengthening ties between people and encouraging involvement of all community residents in the programs and with other participants. Later though, the participants saw the programs as providing less assistance and creating more difficulties for themselves and their family. There was not as negative an impact on the community for these participants. Overall, their negative experiences seemed limited to issues that are more personal.

Some of the respondents felt that the programs were or were becoming too rigid and demanding. What had maybe been initially helpful was no longer helpful and in fact, it was disruptive. Some respondents felt they spent too much time in the programs, some worked or had other family obligations and they could not participate in the program. Other respondents referred to the issues of confidentiality and privacy, saying that they felt that BBBF had not maintained a high enough level of either. There were no definitive examples of breaches in confidentiality or privacy, simply a perception that somehow it had been. BBBF has strong guidelines as well as ongoing training for staff for maintaining confidentiality and privacy of the participants. Yet, it is sometimes difficult to maintain absolute confidentiality and privacy in the Community House. The house is very busy and people are in and out at all times of the day. If someone sees another resident in the house visiting with a Family Visitor, using a phone, or using the Food Bank, that person may make certain assumptions about the other community member, assumptions that may or may not be true. There is strict confidentiality when BBBF staff talks in private with a program participant, or any community resident, and when working on files and there are no breaches in either of these areas.

The respondents said that the BBBF programs did make them feel involved or included by providing support without judgment, immediately responding to needs, and including the whole family in the program. The answers about making BBBF program more accessible ranged from longer hours, better levels of confidentiality, allowing older children, to providing transportation and more “practical services.” Services that are more practical included a more accessible food bank, more control in the Community House (again referring to the point that a few people seem to take up the most space and time in the house) and dealing with the no scent policy.


Most of the respondents interviewed had left the BBBF program relatively soon after starting (the mean was within a year of starting). They left the program for a variety of reasons including that the programs demanded too much time (“they should let the family decide how often to meet with the family visitor”), there was a lack of confidentiality (“I heard people talking about my problem.”). In addition was the fact that only one of their children could be involved in the program (“It’s no good to me if only one kid can be in the program, what do I say to the others?”). Again, it should be stressed that the lack of confidentiality was a perceived by the respondents and there were no concrete examples of the problem.

All of the participants responded to the last question, what would have made them stay involved with a general request for flexibility. This flexibility referred to their desire to determine how much time they would dedicate to the program, and the need for the Community House and programs to have longer hours that would be more adaptable to their schedules and requirements.

People who Declined BBBF Programs

There were also a smaller number of people who declined the opportunity to participate in BBBF programs. Staff provided the researcher a list of six names of these people. Of those, only two agreed to participate. A copy of the Questionnaire for People who Declined BBBF Programs is attached to this report as Appendix G. We must accept and use the information received from these participants carefully because there are so few respondents. BBBF staff contacted both respondents personally to give them information about the BBBF programs. Even with the personal touch, the respondents did not seem to have a very clear perception about the BBBF programs and there was a great deal of misinformation about what the programs were.

The two people did feel the programs were accessible and were inclusive, that everyone was welcome to participate. The two respondents had very similar reactions to the offer of BBBF programs. They viewed the offer as an accusation of being a bad parent(s) and saw the BBBF programs as an invasion of their privacy. When asked what would make them more willing to get involved with BBBF Programs, one respondent said that s/he would have been more open to the program if s/he had the opportunity to talk to other participants first. The other respondent stated that s/he did not need the service so willingness was not an issue.


Staff/Volunteer Interviews

The staff and volunteer data will be analysed together because BBBF makes a strong point of blurring the boundaries between who is a staff member and who is a volunteer at BBBF. The Project Coordinator was not able to determine who was who when she first started observing the work of people at the BBBF community house. As well, BBBF does not recruit volunteers in the manner often seen in other voluntary organizations. Instead, when a community resident comes to the BBBF community house for a coffee, a visit, to speak to the nurse or family visitor, staff will just ask them to pitch in and help with something or they will simply offer to help with something themselves. Once they start helping out they often continue helping out and become a volunteer by action not by request. Volunteers work at the BBBF Community House, help with a program (Playgroup), or serve on the Steering Committee, SEOCHC Board or other committees. The questionnaires for staff and volunteers are attached to this report as Appendix H and I.

Almost without exception, staff had all been part of the BBBF organization since its inception and some had started as a volunteer before becoming staff. Close to all of the staff and volunteers responded to the first two questions (how and why they had become involved with BBBF) by referring to how the managers had emphasized what they could bring to BBBF, not what BBBF could do for them. Several of the staff said that they felt valued almost immediately at BBBF, whether they were a participant, a volunteer or a staff member. The majority of staff and volunteers used terms related to values when they described working at BBBF and their position and duties. Ideals such as respect, sharing power, sharing decision-making, working with not for, and always maintaining two way, open lines, of communication were part of the job for BBBF staff. As well, many of the staff referred to their ties to the community as being essential to make the program work. Hiring from within the community does have its problems, but the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages.

When describing their position and duties none of the staff actually provided the same description of their responsibilities. All of the terms and definitions of what they did fell within broad guidelines, but the nuances were different, based perhaps on the backgrounds of particular people, how they had come to the position and personal approaches. Family Visitors play a crucial and difficult role in BBBF and in the community. They are assigned to a family and can work with that family for quite a long time. It is inevitable that the relationship with the family can become a very personal one, and this report would argue strongly that is a good thing. There seems to be a clear understanding that the role of the family visitor is to focus on early childhood development with a holistic approach, working with the whole family instead of just the child or just the parent.


Again, there was an emphasis on a value-based approach to the job, rather than a rules and regulations approach. Staff and volunteers, including family visitors, people working at the Community House and at Playgroup, all talked about listening, respecting, providing support, allowing for a two way communication between staff and volunteers and the participants. BBBF staff and volunteers never use the word client to describe the people they work with. Instead, they talk about mothers, fathers, children, families. They also speak of working with, not for, the community participants, and refer to a bottom up (“community inspired”) approach to their jobs.

When they compare their past positions with their present work or volunteer experience again the responses emphasize value based qualities, rather than salary, hours or vacation time. When talking about past jobs or experiences, staff and volunteers noted that BBBF does not impose rigid standards, rules or regulations on them. Since the challenges and needs of the community are constantly changing, the staff and volunteers are constantly growing with and into the job. As well, BBBF allows for direct, even intimate, contact with the people they work with, which many other organizations, even similar organizations, do not allow. Staff and volunteers also talked about their ability to respond to immediate needs. Everyone saw his or her position as a “jack-of-all-trades.” The most important ability was flexibility; the most important word seemed to be compromise (not in a negative connotation but a positive one).

Defining inclusion opened the floodgates of personal opinion, professional ideals and a healthy dose of skepticism that inclusion was possible. For the most part, the definitions of inclusion fell within several themes related to including people, including staff, and including the community. Staff and volunteers defined inclusion as allowing people to be involved in everything related to their life; everyone’s ideas are taken into account. Others defined inclusion as: being accepted, respected and having a voice; is a two way process; being non-judgmental; welcoming everyone; not having a one up one down relationship with staff, with participants or with managers; you are included in all aspects of BBBF; being part of the “system.”

When asked what factors in BBBF programs encouraged inclusions, staff and volunteers responded with a variety of reasons. For staff BBBF encouraged inclusion by being non-judgmental, responding to everyone’s needs, accepting all people (non-stigmatizing), everyone has the same access to all services, by creating a safe, accessible environment and trying to make sure everyone can be served in their own language and even with someone from their own culture.

When responding to the question about the barriers to inclusion, staff and volunteers referred to such things as the lack of time, lack of a real cultural understanding, the no scent policy, and the fact that many of the staff and volunteers are overworked. A general theme was that the very success of BBBF and the programs has created barriers. Playgroup’s success, and the extremely high participation rate, has in many ways created barriers to inclusion because some people are not comfortable with that many children and parents, the room is so noisy and it can be overwhelming for some people.

Service Provider Interviews

There were also four interviews with service providers. While four interviews are not enough to make general conclusions, the perspectives are helpful to this research project. All of the service providers used the same words to describe BBBF and its programs, accessible, open, having a real understanding of the concept of welcoming people. In addition, the respondents saw BBBF staff as non-judgmental, open to new ideas and having a holistic approach to child development. The service providers felt that BBBF made consistent efforts to include service organizations in their discussions and decisions and although there may have been an initial reluctance in accepting service providers involvement with BBBF, that had changed with time and an “open door” policy. One of the service providers felt working with BBBF made it easier for the service organization to work with its clients. Another service provider felt that BBBF and its programs always welcomed the service organization to meetings, cultural events, professional workshops and celebrations and that attitude made it easier for the service organization to be recognized, understood and welcomed into the community.

There were still barriers seen by the service providers and these included language, understanding cultural differences, the issue of maintaining privacy and confidentiality and the, sometimes, conflicting objectives of the service organization and BBBF. Service providers also noted that since there is a great deal of turnover in participants, and in staff at the service organizations, ongoing education and information workshops would be helpful to everyone.

Conclusion

All the respondents, participants, past participants, staff and volunteers talked about inclusion or accessibility to programs, as well as about what best practices at BBBF were, what barriers still existed and some possible solutions to removing those barriers. Their responses were different but the same. Repeatedly, unique people used similar words, referred to the same ideas, and mentioned identical problems. The lists below provide a quick overview of these common themes. Presenting them as a whole rather than differentiating between who (participant, staff or volunteer) said what is guided again by the principle of blurred boundaries, a tenant of BBBF and its programs. While every staff member, volunteer or participant, did not necessarily put every single idea forward there was enough commonality to warrant presenting all the definitions and suggestions in this manner.

A 1998 report titled Management and Organization Report: South East Ottawa Better Beginnings Better Futures refers to the values and philosophy that guided the inception and development of BBBF. These values and principles still guide BBBF today as the foundation of the organization, its structure and for its programs. Part of the focus of this project is to discover what values and principles influence how BBBF programs and staff function, and what affect those values have on the processes, structures, relationships and models of service delivery. Therefore, it makes sense to show the links between the definitions of social inclusion, best practices and barriers and the underlying values that drive BBBF. For the purposes of this report, we are using the following values referred to in the 1998 report, as they are as valid today as they were at the conception of the organization. The values (and a definition of each) are as follows:

• Process orientation – an emphasis on process and developing social relations among people, rather than focusing on infrastructure, hierarchy and outcome
• People Centeredness – has three main features – a focus on all people, not exclusively clients; a respect and acceptance of where all people are currently at, not where it would be most useful to the organization; and the creation of an environment for all people to develop and grow
• Democratic Leadership – an approach to management that requires that staff share equally in the decision-making and power sharing
• Boundary Diffusion (Blurring) – involves the integration and overlap of personal and professional boundaries among staff in terms of roles, work and space
• Modelling – refers to patterning and reinforcing particular kinds of behaviour in order to emphasize and support the values and skills inherent to that behaviour
• Holistic – refers to treating the whole rather than separate parts – working with the whole family not just the parents or just the children


In addition to the values that inspired the beginning of BBBF, over time, there have been other principles added to the process, enhancing the BBBF environment, programs and structure. One of these is the strength-based approach to people and building relationships. This approach looks at participants not as “needy” clients but as people who come to the program with their own set of strengths that the BBBF programs will build on. This is the focus of the people centered – not client centered – ideal that BBBF works with. This approach focuses on people not clients, and supports showing, not telling, as a means of communicating and influencing change. As well staff are analyzing from without instead of from within. This means that there are no hard to reach clients, instead there are unsafe or inaccessible programs. In addition, the people centered approach seeks to apply all principles to all situations, with all people, not just when it is convenient, there is no context shift.

Another highlight of this process is the continual building and nurturing of relationships. Relationships build between staff, between staff and volunteers, between staff and participants and between participants. Working relationally, as opposed to working independently, ensures that responsibility, decision making and power is shared and all people and all ideas are valued. All of these principles focus on discovering what participant’s strengths are, building on them and providing a way to increase existing strengths and building new ones.

VOICES

“BBBF gave me the self-confidence for me to integrate into the community and to get connected with many services I did not know existed in the community.”

“Helped me to empower myself and be able to express me ideas about my culture and the way we used to education children.” (Translated to English)

“Before as a participant in BBBF, I was to shy and it was too hard for me to communicate with people, especially who want to harm me. After a while I became a strong personality person, not hesitant, and I could say NO and STOP to people who wanted to bother me.” (Translated to English)

 


Please note: all of the definitions, ideas, suggestions and solutions in the following pages come from the interview participants, are their ideas, and are in their words.

Defining Inclusion/Accessibility
Process Orientation
• No hierarchy
• No one up, one down relationship between staff and clients
• Inclusion is about understanding who we serve and not giving them advice on suggestions or advice that they cannot actually do because of financial, physical or cultural restraints
• Inclusion does not exist – (If you belong to one group you are excluded from another group so universal inclusion cannot exist)

People Centeredness
• We all drink the same coffee
• The community kitchen is a perfect example of inclusion
• Feeling you are part of a community
• Inclusion is like having a family connection
• Inclusion means everyone’s ideas are taken into account – even if they are not used
• Involved and sharing with other people
• Participation and communication

Democratic Leadership
• You are part of the system
• Those elements that best ensure everyone has an opportunity to participate in whatever they want to

Boundary Diffusion (Blurring)
• You are included in whatever is going on
• Having the right to participate in everything
• Treating everyone the same
• Inclusion is like having a family connection

VOICES

“The present research is a clear example of how BBBF makes people to feel included, because they are considering the participation of the people who live here.” (Translated to English)

 

Holistic
• Helping everyone
• Inclusion works both ways – I need to be included to allow participants to be included
• Inclusion is a two way openness
• Inclusion is a circle

Strength Based
• Allow people to be involved in everything related to their life
• Being accepted, respected and having a voice
• Providing an opportunity so people have choice
• We can voice an opinion and be heard

Defining Best Practices

Process Orientation
• Doing “reality” stuff – “They work with stuff that is important, getting food and clothes to people who need it - “BBBF looks at what your real needs are, do you need help or food or do you just need a shoulder to cry on and then they give it to you, they don’t make you fill out a million forms before they hold your hand.”
• Community driven
• No distinct boundaries between staff and volunteers
• Consecutive care – Start with the pregnant mother – then work with the newborn – then work with the whole family
• Continuity
• Open door policy
• Flexibility
• Options for programs (I can choose)
• Information flow

 

VOICES

“When I came to the Community House I thought everyone was paid. I was surprised when I saw that some people volunteer. It made me want to be a part of a place where I was not different if I did not get paid.”

People Centeredness
• Community kitchen
• Like home – like family
• Open door policy
• Drop in
• Non-judgmental

Democratic Leadership
• Accessible staff - no distinct boundaries between staff and volunteers

Boundary Diffusion (Blurring)
• Open door policy
• Everyone asked to help out

Modelling
• Safe place – oasis

Holistic
• No one turned away even if they don’t have an issue

Strength-Based
• Walking in a person’s shoes - Really understanding our population
• Supports emotional/personal growth
• People are taken seriously

Defining Barriers

• Lack of time – need longer hours – need more flexible hours
• Not open on weekends
• Need to be open sometimes in the evenings for people who work
• Lack of space - the administrator should have a private space
• Trying to be everything to everybody
• Community residents do not have a good understanding of what a non-profit organization is – people do not know it is free
• Languages spoken
• Still stigma about Heatherington
• Lack of information about programs
• You need to “have an issue” to participate
• BBBF has moved from “allowing families to grow” to becoming too “goal focused”
• Lack of privacy
• Lack of confidentiality
• Ledbury community not part of inclusion – need more outreach – also difficult for people in Ledbury to get to BBBF Community house – transportation issues
• No Scent policy - “Why is there a no scent policy? Sometimes it seems a personal thing, as if I am asked to leave and someone else is not.”
• Food bank needed more than once a week
• No men are involved in programs or with BBBF
• People feel unwanted – It seems that there is a group of people that are in the Community House all the time and they take up much of the staff and volunteers’ time and energy so when you come into the house you feel left out as if you are not part of the "in" group.
• There are no plans to train people to replace the existing managers (succession planning)
• The success of Playgroup is its barrier – too many kids allowed – too busy – too loud

Defining Solutions

• There needs to be more, in-depth training on cultural sensitivity and more training for staff on cultural knowledge
• There should be a review of Playgroup – maybe open longer with more focused programs – mornings for infants to 2 year olds and afternoons for age 3 and up – maybe a program for kids on the weekend
• The scent policy should be revised – there needs to be a serious education blitz about the scent policy – why it is there – and there needs to be consistent application of scent policy
• There has to be ongoing publicity about BBBF since there are always new people moving in- BBBF should start knocking on doors again – go back to what worked before
• There needs to be a serious outreach to Ledbury Banff – one person who comes out to the community on a regular basis – someone who will “become a familiar face” who would be the representative of BBBF in Ledbury
• BBBF needs more flexible hours – perhaps open until 6:00 p.m. – open earlier in the morning - open sometime during the weekend
• There should be a program developed for men with their children
• We should focus some time on encouraging male participants and male volunteers – either an education or advertising program or working through the women to encourage men to participate
• It is important that we find a way to plan for leadership changes – training employees today to replace managers and critical leaders who will move on, retire or go to other positions

VOICES

“Maybe have multi-cultural workers, especially at the reception area.” (Translated to English)

“Have more advertisements and flyers in different languages. Post a big sign with BBBF name.” (Translated to English)

“Have a web-site about all the programs in different languages.” (Translated to English)



Defining Inclusion

It is interesting to note that when this project began, there was a great deal of discussion and confusion about the concept of “social inclusion.” However, when people started talking about their own definition of inclusion, almost all of the definitions spoke to some aspect of BBBF’s management approach and value system and in fact, there was a comprehensive understanding of exactly what inclusion represented. Inclusion addresses the goals of process orientation by eliminating a hierarchy, not allowing a strict supervisor/employee relationship, providing a clear understanding of who staff is and who the people they serve are and always providing and allowing choice, by the staff and by the participants.

“We all drink the same coffee” speaks to the constant striving by BBBF to maintain a people centered not a client-centered approach to their model of service. There is no staff kitchen, no separate coffee pot for staff and community residents, all are welcome to drink the same coffee. In addition to drinking the same coffee, BBBF supports inclusion by putting everyone’s ideas into the same hat and drawing on all of them. This does not mean every idea is used or is useful, but none is discarded simply because they come from a community resident or a volunteer. Everyone talks about the word “family” when referring to BBBF and inclusion. Obviously, the word “family” can have several different definitions, and there are that many more definitions here too. Still, upon further discussion and probing what comes out is that inclusion, at least by BBBF, provides the same level, or depth, of comfort that a family does. Family does not require explanation or introduction; they know you and accept you with all your flaws. The feeling that BBBF is like family refers to the idea that you can simply walk in the door, you need no introduction, and you are accepted and known.

Management at BBBF has always been an act of collaboration, not coercion. No one person decides or determines how BBBF functions. While the process may not always be visible, staff, volunteers and community residents understand the value of democratic leadership. While not everyone can define management from beside or democratic leadership, most see its’ results. BBBF, its’ services and programs, its’ method of service delivery involve everyone that wants to be involved in its’ process. The “system” is not forced on you from above; rather it is a “community inspired” process where there is not only acceptance but also your opinion is sought out and utilized. The value of boundary diffusion supports this approach to management by a blurring or overlapping of roles between staff and volunteers, and in fact between community residents and staff and volunteers. As well, the idea of modelling provides constant reminders of BBBF’s value system. Respondents saw the behaviour, the guidance, the ways of “dealing with this new place, this new society” in the actions of the people at BBBF.

Defining Best Practices

For participants the best of what Better Beginnings Better Futures does is related to the concept of openness. This includes openness to cultures, flexibility in programs, giving the participants options about what programs they are involved in, and an open door policy at the Community House. The Community House provides a refuge, a safe haven that allows participants to “shed the burdens of shame and judgment”. When they walk into the Community House, residents have a sense of safety, of being part of the family, their needs taken seriously and the staff and volunteers are there to respond to them, not at them. There is also a feeling that the programs, the staff and volunteers, BBBF in general, provide support for emotional and personal growth. For participants what this means is that they are given the time and support to become better parents, better people, because they are walked through many difficult steps in the process. For many new Canadians, the support that BBBF provides allows them to learn about their new society, the new “morals and rules” that come with a new country. No one makes him or her feel stupid or less than anyone else does, and they are not rushed. All of this leads to a feeling that they are growing in knowledge and understanding, and this growth makes them feel stronger emotionally and personally.

One of the best practices often mentioned was that the BBBF staff showed participants what to do without judging or looking down on them. Many participants felt that the Family Visitors and other staff really had “walked in their shoes,” so they could understand what participants were going through. There is a sense that BBBF truly “gets” the population they are working with. Since staff were often hired from within the community, and many still live in the community, they are accessible, non-judgmental and accepting. Another highly rated best practice is how well BBBF provides information and education. A large number of participants talked about how important information is to them. Some of the types of information mentioned include information on parenting, living in Canada, shopping guides, and budget information. This shows again that BBBF provides the “reality stuff,” the food bank, milk, eggs and bread, and working with the participants to teach them useable parenting skills.

Defining Barriers

When participants, staff and volunteers talked about barriers, all of them related to, in one way or another, people centered values, and openness. Several of the barriers referred to the lack of a “true” understanding of cultural norms and practices, as well as a lack of sensitivity to what different cultural groups need or expect from an organization like BBBF. It is true that many people feel that there is a certain level of cultural sensitivity, but it may well be that because there is a growing diversity of the number and variety of cultural groups, what cultural sensitivity has existed in the past, is limited to a certain “known” group of people. Another barrier that relates to the cultural issue is the language barrier. BBBF is unable to serve everyone in his or her own language but there has been a consistent effort to hire staff who speak more than one language to increase the possibility that participants can speak to someone in their own language.

There is a sense, and it is a limited perception, that there is an “us versus them” attitude sometimes. This is not white versus non-white, but a “this group and that group” attitude. When an organization is dealing with such a diverse population, it is hard to eliminate that feeling. Several participants also mentioned the problem of a clique of “special people” in the Community House. It is a challenge to deal with this problem, as a group of people that use the Community House more than others may be seen as “special” by less frequent users. Some respondents did refer to some people who “spend too much time in the house and use the staff’s time so that other people are ignored.”

Another barrier that relates to openness is the issue of confidentiality. Several participants had a perception that there was a lack of confidentiality and that their community residents were discussing their personal information. Clearly, BBBF has strict guidelines for maintaining confidentiality and staff and volunteers are expected to adhere to those guidelines. As mentioned earlier in this report given the open door policy and the constant flow of people in and out of the Community House, what people are using the house for and the services they receive may be evident to others in the community. It is important to develop strategies to deal with the perceptions that BBBF staff or volunteers are not maintaining confidentiality.

One large and difficult issue is the no scent policy at the Community House and Playgroup. As part of South East Ottawa Centre for a Healthy Community, BBBF must have and implement a no scent policy. It is difficult to have a no scent policy at the Community House since it is an open door community house and many people drop in to use the phone, the fax, to see the nurse, or just to have a coffee. If someone is wearing a scent, the policy is for a staff member or volunteers to speak to them gently about the policy and to suggest that they do not wear scent the next time they come to the house. If they are wearing a strong scent that may affect the health of anyone in the house, they are asked if they could leave and come back when they are no longer wearing any scent.

One of the problems with the no scent policy is that many people do not understand the reasoning behind such a policy. Some take it as a personal or a cultural slight and do not understand that there are serious medical consequences for those people who are sensitive or allergic to scents. As well, some people do not realize that a no scent policy does not just cover perfume sprays or oils but includes hair products, soaps, detergents, deodorants and other medical or beauty aids or supplies. As well, it seems that there is not a consistent application of the no scent policy. Some people feel that a decision to speak to someone about a scent they are wearing is arbitrary and personal; others say they are not wearing a scent and are insulted when they are informed of the policy or asked to leave. Participants, staff, and volunteers mentioned the no scent policy as a barrier.

One other barrier mentioned by many participants was the need for longer hours for the Community House. Several people suggested that the Community House be open for later hours at least a couple of evenings, and at least some time on the weekend. For people who work or go to college or university or other types of training it is not likely that they can get to the house before it closes. As well, many people would like to have access to the house on the weekends. The Family Visitor Program does accommodate participants’ schedules and provides evening appointments as necessary.

One Family Visitor related barrier that came out of the research was that some participants felt that the Family Visitor program had become too “goal oriented” rather than allowing the families to grow at their own pace. As well some BBBF staff felt that the program had shifted its’ focus and that there were greater pressures to achieve goals then when the program had initially been created. Past participants who had left the Family Visitor program had all mentioned this barrier as a primary reason they had left the program.


Another time issue mentioned referred to the limited hours for Playgroup. Some participants asked that the hours be extended, perhaps by adding an afternoon session, or even a weekend session. This would allow more people to use the Playgroup and perhaps cut down on the number of children who are at each session. Presently Playgroup has four morning sessions and one afternoon session a week. One of the barriers to Playgroup was the large number of children who do attend the morning sessions. For some people, it is just too noisy and overwhelming and they would prefer more sessions with less children.

There is a clear need for ongoing education and outreach, within the Heatherington community, and most especially in the Ledbury Banff community. The BBBF program has been working for over 14 years and there may be an, understandable, assumption that people know what the program represents. However, the community has a somewhat transitory population with people moving in and out of the neighbourhood. Due to this, it would be helpful to maintain an ongoing information and education program to provide the new people with information and not assume that everyone will know what BBBF does and offers. It is also clear, that the Ledbury Banff community could benefit from some consistent, ongoing outreach. Suggestions included having one person from Heatherington as an information or education officer, or having information pamphlets mailed out or handed out with a door knocking campaign. More than one person said that BBBF should go back to knocking on doors, back to “what worked before.”


Strategies

The Project Coordinator met with the Steering Committee to present a draft of this report and discuss possible strategies for eliminating barriers. One strategy that could address several of the barriers was to hold a series of focus groups with smaller groups of participants to discuss issues such as the no scent policy, processes for confidentiality, how to get information and education about BBBF programs out to the different groups and any other barriers that BBBF can address at this time. These focus groups could work with specific cultural groups, with interpretation and translation of documents, so that BBBF could deal with different cultural issues, as well as providing a better understanding of cultural needs and traditions. Since the no scent policy is non-negotiable, the focus will be on explaining the reasons for the policy and getting input from community residents on how best to implement the policy in the Community House and Playgroup. Another topic of discussion for the focus groups is the confidentiality issue. The Steering Committee felt that it would be helpful to provide community participants with a clear outline of the steps that BBBF takes to maintain confidentiality, the training the staff receives and the non-disclosure statements all staff and volunteers must sign.

The Steering Committee made a proposal that there be a program for men, with a focus on a “dads and kids day” emphasizing gross motor skills through play. After general discussion, committee members agreed that BBBF staff would have an internal discussion to lay out ideas and strategies for this idea. Staff will discuss issues including the need for space, financial support and the structure of the program.

The Steering Committee supported the idea that Playgroup extends its hours, perhaps one day a week. This will be discussed with the Playgroup Coordinator, other staff and perhaps participants in a focus group. The Project Manager noted that it would be very difficult and complicated, and most likely a barrier to inclusion, to try to separate children by age. Many families who participate in Playgroup have children in different age groups and it would be unlikely that they could attend one session for say 2 year olds because of problems with getting child care for the other children who would not be part of the particular program. It is far more inclusive to allow children from zero to six to attend Playgroup and focus instead on extending hours of the program or encouraging people to attend on the quieter day, Friday afternoon.

Another one of the issues discussed by the Steering Committee was the comment that BBBF had moved from “allowing families to grow” to becoming too “goal focused.” This also tied in to a reference to changing demands by Family Visitors. The BBBF Project Manager noted that during the initial development of the Family Visitor program South East Ottawa BBFF staff made a real effort to create a more flexible program that would allow the Family Visitors to work with the parents as well as the children. This was in contrast to other home visiting programs that tended to focus exclusively on the children. While the Family Visitor program was successful dealing with the whole family, Family Visitors found that working with the parents’ issues was consuming a great deal of their time. Early research showed that there were some positive short-term outcomes for the children participating in the Family Visitor program, but there were still concerns with language development and extending the duration of the outcomes. As a response to the short-term research, BBBF reviewed the Family Visitor program and implemented a modification that increased the focus on child development while still maintaining the work with the parents. Perhaps this shift has made participants feel there was a change in the Family Visitor program. While there is a limited amount of flexibility in the Family Visitor program, BBBF should be careful when considering changing the number and amount of visits each family gets. The issue will go back to the Family Visitor team.

Many of the strategies outlined in this section need to be addressed internally with staff, managers and volunteers before any concrete action is taken to implement them. Once those discussions take place and decisions made about the steps to take, the BBBF Project Manager, and the Our Place Project Coordinator, in collaboration with the Steering Committee, will design and implement the appropriate strategies to address the barriers. Implementation of the strategies will take place over a six to eight month period. At the end of this period, new surveys, questionnaires or focus groups will provide the data for assessment and analysis of the success of the new strategies at eliminating barriers and enhancing inclusion at Better Beginnings Better Futures.


APPENDIX A


Information Letter for Community Participants

Dear Participant:

My name is Susan Villeneuve, I am the Project Coordinator, and Mohamoud Hagi-Aden is the Community Liaison Worker for the Our Place – Learning in Motion Project. We are asking you to participate in this research project to try to find out why people do or do not participate in Better Beginnings, Better Futures (BBBF) programs and what we can do to improve access to the programs. This research will be looking at who takes part in the BBBF programs, why they participate and why some people do not join in as well as what things support involvement and what barriers there are to taking part in the BBBF programs.

Your participation in this study will be an interview. The questions in this interview will be about how you are involved in BBBF programs, why you are involved, what you think is good, and what could be improved about involvement with the programs. The interview will be with one of the trained interviewers, and, if you agree, will be recorded on a tape recorder. The interview should last for about one hour and will take place at the community house, or if you require, at another location convenient to you. Your participation in the interview is voluntary, you are under no obligation to participate and appropriate reimbursement for childcare will be provided. You may refuse to answer any question and you can decide to end the interview at any time. If you decide to end the interview before it is over, if you request it, all the answers you have given, as well as the tape recording will be destroyed in your presence.

The interview is not expected to cause distress. If you are upset at any time during the interview we will make sure someone with professional counseling skills is available if you would like to talk about your concerns.

People may know you are participating because the community is very small but they will not know what you have said in the interview. Everything you say during the interview will be confidential. After your taped interview is typed, the tape with your recorded responses will be destroyed. Your name will not be used in any written report and everyone working on the project will keep all information confidential.

All the information collected will be stored in secure, locked filing cabinets and only the trained interviewers, the Project Coordinator, the Community Liaison Worker and the interpreters and translators will have access to the information. All of those involved will be required to sign a confidentiality agreement.

The findings of this research will be made available on the BBBF website, possibly on the Social Development Canada website, as well as in written form. Executive summaries of the reports will be made available and once it has been translated, will be provided in the following languages: Arabic, French, Portuguese, Somali, Farsi, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese and Vietnamese. As well, the report will be sent to the Department of Social Development, the federal government department that is sponsoring this project. There may be some recommendations from the findings of this research that could benefit future BBBF programs and participants.

If you have any questions or concerns at any time about the research or about the project, you may contact either me, Susan Villeneuve at (613) 789-1513 or Mohamoud Hagi-Aden at (613) 737-7195 extension 2417. The Research Ethics Board of SEOCHC has approved this project. If you feel your rights as a participant have been violated you can contact Ms. Sheena Waterson the chair of the REB at 737-5115 extension 2327 on Monday, 613-523-2223 on Tuesday and Wednesday or at 613-739-7773 on Thursday and Friday.

Sincerely,

Susan Villeneuve Mohamoud Hagi-Aden
Project Coordinator Community Liaison Worker



APPENDIX B


Information Letter for Staff and Volunteers

Dear Staff Member:

As you know the Our Place – Learning in Motion Project is trying to find out why people do or do not participate in Better Beginnings, Better Futures (BBBF) programs and what we can do to improve access to programs. This research will be looking at who takes part in the BBBF programs, why they participate and why some people do not join in as well as what things support involvement and what barriers there are to taking part in the BBBF programs. We would like you to participate in this project because of your professional experience with BBBF program participants.

Your participation in this study would be an interview with me, the Project Coordinator, Susan Villeneuve. The questions in this interview will be about your involvement with BBBF, as a volunteer and/or staff member, what you think is good and what could be improved about the programs and access to them. The interview will last approximately one hour, will be tape-recorded with your permission and will take place in a location convenient to you. Your participation in this interview is voluntary and you are under no obligation to participate. You may refuse to answer any question and you can decide to end the interview at any time. If you decide to end the interview before it is over, all the answers you provided as well the tape recording will be destroyed in your presence.

You may have some concerns about speaking openly about your experiences on the job but I will be maintaining strict confidentiality of the information. Your name will not appear in any report, quoted material will not be attributed to any one person, and any identifying information will be eliminated. All of the data will be stored in secure locked filing cabinets and only I will have access to the information.

The interview is not expected to cause distress. If you are upset at any time during the interview, we will make sure someone located off-site with professional counseling skills is available if you would like to talk about your concerns. There may be some recommendations from the findings of this research that could benefit future BBBF programs and participants.

The findings of this research will be made available on the BBBF website, possibly on the Social Development Canada website, as well as in written form. Executive summaries of the reports will be made available and once it has been translated, will be provided in the following languages: Arabic, French, Portuguese, Somali, Farsi, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese and Vietnamese. As well, the report will be sent to the Department of Social Development, the federal government department that is sponsoring this project.

If you have any questions or concerns at any time about the research or about the project, you may contact me, Susan Villeneuve at (613) 789-1513. The Research Ethics Board of SEOCHC has approved this project. If you feel your rights as a participant have been violated you can contact Ms. Sheena Waterson the chair of the REB at 737-5115 extension 2327 on Monday, 613-523-2223 on Tuesday and Wednesday or at 613-739-7773 on Thursday and Friday.

Sincerely,

Susan Villeneuve
Project Coordinator/Researcher
Our Place – Learning in Motion

Oral Consent Form APPENDIX C

Thank you for meeting me today. I would like to review some of the key points about this project and your role in it. You are participating in an interview with me (insert name) for the South East Ottawa Community Health Centre. We are conducting a project called Our Place – Learning in Motion

We are asking you to participate in this research project to try to find out why people do or do not participate in Better Beginnings, Better Futures (BBBF) programs and what we can do to improve access to the programs.

We want to know who takes part in the BBBF programs, why they participate and why some people do not join. We are also interested in what things support involvement and what barriers there are to taking part in the BBBF programs.

Do you have any questions?

Your participation in this study will be a single interview taking about 1-2 hours. The questions are about how you are involved in BBBF programs, why you are involved, what you think is good, and what could be improved about the programs.

Do you have any questions?

This interview will be recorded. Do I have your permission to record the interview?

___ Yes ___ No

If no, I will just take notes. This part of the script depends on your decision about the taping.

Your participation in the interview is voluntary and you are under no obligation to participate. You may refuse to answer any question and you can decide to end the interview at any time. If you decide to end the interview before it is over, all the answers you have given, as well as the tape recording will be destroyed.

Do you understand your rights? Do you have any questions?

There could be some questions that may upset you because of your personal experiences. If you become upset at any time during the interview, you may stop the interview. You do not have to answer questions that are upsetting.

We will make sure someone with professional counselling skills is available if you would like to talk about your concerns.

Do you understand this? Do you have any questions?

With the information, you provide it is our goal to help make improvements to the BBBF programs.

Some people may know you are participating because the community is very small. They will not know what you have said in the interview. Everything you say during the interview will be confidential. When your taped interview is typed, the tape or notes with your recorded responses will be destroyed.

Your name will not be used in any written report and everyone working on the project will keep all information confidential. If we want to quote you in the report, we would ask your permission first, however, you would not be identified or associated with the quote.

Do you understand? Do you have any questions?

All the tapes and typed interviews will be stored at the home office of the Project Coordinator and kept locked up. Only the research staff will have access to the material.

The results will appear in an executive summary that everyone who uses the centre can read. It will also be put on our website. All the material collected for this project will be kept for one year, and then destroyed.

Do you have any questions?

If you have any questions or concerns at any time about the research or about the project, you may contact either Susan Villeneuve at (613) 789-1513 or Mohamoud Hagi-Aden at (613) 737-7195 extension 2417. The Research Ethics Board of SEOCHC has approved this project. If you feel your rights as a participant have been violated you can contact Ms. Sheena Waterson the chair of the REB at 737-5115 extension 2327 Monday, Thursday and Friday, or 613-523-2223 on Tuesday and Wednesday.
.

Do you wish to be interviewed? ___ Yes ___ No

Time and date of interview: _______________________


Interviewer’s signature: ___________________________

APPENDIX D

DECLARATION OF NON-DISCLOSURE

I acknowledge that, in my capacity as an interviewer, interpreter, translator, transcriber or research assistant (circle one) for a study (Our Place – Learning in Motion) being conducted by South East Ottawa Community Health Centre and Better Beginnings, Better Futures under the supervision of Susan Villeneuve, the Project Coordinator, and Mohamoud Hagi-Aden, the Community Liaison Worker, I will have access to certain confidential information. This information includes, but is not limited to the following: files, data books, diagrams, records, studies, protocols, reports, draft publications, interviews, surveys, samples, schedules, appraisals, computer programs, and statistical information. Confidential information may be oral, written, or electronic.
I understand that all those involved with this project must sign a Declaration of Non-Disclosure when they commence their association with the project. This includes anyone involved with conducting research, interviewing, transcribing, interpreting or translating any documents. Under this declaration, members consent to keep all matters to which they are privy confidential.
I shall not disclose any confidential information relating to the project to anyone not associated with the research project.


Signed: ______________________________

Name (printed): ______________________________


Witness: ______________________________

Date: ______________________________

APPENDIX E

Interview Questions – Participants


1. Can you tell me how long you have been involved with BBBF?


2. Can you tell me what program(s) you participate in?

a)

b)

c)


3. Do you go to the BBBF Community House?

If yes, why do you go?

a)

b)

c)

If no, why don't you go?

a)

b)

c)

4. Can you give me some words that would best describe BBBF (programs)?

a)


b)


c)


When participant uses a word, ask them what they mean by that word. You could say, “When you use the word “welcoming” what do you mean? Could you give me an example of what you mean?”


5. Can you give me some words that would best describe BBBF staff and volunteers?

a)


b)


c)


When participant uses a word, ask them what they mean by that word. You could say, “When you use the word “welcoming” what do you mean? Could you give me an example of what you mean?”

6. Can you give me some words that would best describe the BBBF Community House?

a)


b)


c)


When participant uses a word, ask them what they mean by that word. You could say, “When you use the word “welcoming” what do you mean? Could you give me an example of what you mean?”

7. Can you tell me what you think is the most important thing(s) that BBBF has done or does for you?

a)


b)


c)


This is another point where you might have to ask the participant to describe what they mean and provide an example.

8. Can you tell me what you think is the most important thing(s) that BBBF has done or does for your family?

a)


b)


c)


This is another point where you might have to ask the participant to describe what they mean and provide an example.

9. Can you tell me what you think is the most important thing(s) that BBBF has done or does for your community?

a)


b)


c)


This is another point where you might have to ask the participant to describe what they mean and provide an example.


10. What are some ways that BBBF makes people feel included, involved or welcome?

a)


b)


c)


This is another point where you might have to ask the participant to describe what they mean and provide an example.

11. Can you tell me how being involved in BBBF and its programs makes you feel?

a)


b)


c)

12. Can you tell me why you think residents of the community participate by volunteering for committees, at the Community House, or in other ways for BBBF?

a)

b)

c)


13. If you were comparing BBBF programs with other programs, where you have used the services or volunteered how was or is it similar or different?

Similar

a)


b)


c)

This is another point where you might have to ask the participant to describe what they mean and provide an example.

Different

a)


b)


c)


This is another point where you might have to ask the participant to describe what they mean and provide an example.

14. How do you think BBBF can be more accessible to community residents?


15. Can you think of some reasons why some community residents do not want to be involved with BBBF (programs)?

a)


b)


c)


d)


e)


16. What do you think we can do to make more people want to or be able to get involved with BBBF?


Do you have anything else you would like to add? Do you have any questions?


Thank you very much for taking the time to answer all my questions.
APPENDIX F

Interview Questions – Past Participants

1. Can you tell me how long you were involved with BBBF?


2. Can you tell me what program(s) you participated in?

a)

b)

c)

3. Did you go to the BBBF Community House?

If yes why did you go?

a)

b)

c)

If no why didn’t you go?

a)

b)

c)


4. Can you give me some words that would describe your experience with BBBF programs?

a)

b)

c)

5. Can you give me some words that would describe your experience with BBBF Staff?

a)

b)

c)


6. Even though you are no longer participating with BBBF, do you think that the programs assisted you?

If so, how?

a)

b)

c)

If not, why not?

a)

b)

c)

7. Even though you are no longer participating with BBBF, do you think that the programs assisted your family?

If so, how?
a)

b)

c)

If not, why not?
a)

b)

c)


8. Even though you are no longer participating with BBBF, do you think that the programs assisted your community?

If so how?

a)

b)

c)

If not, why not?

a)

b)

c)

9. Can you tell me what you think inclusion (being included – being involved) means to you?

a)

b)

c)

10. Do you think that BBBF (programs) made people feel involved?

If so how?

a)

b)

c)

If not, why not?

a)

b)

c)

11. How do you think the BBBF programs can be more accessible to community members?

a)

b)

c)


12. If you compared BBBF programs with other programs, where you used the services how was it similar or different?

Similar

a)

b)

c)

Different

a)

b)

c)


13. When did you stop participating with BBBF (programs)?


14. Can you tell me why you stopped participating with BBBF (programs)?

15. Is there anything that would have made you stay involved in BBBF programs?

a)

b)

c)


Do you have anything else you would like to add? Do you have any questions?

Thank you very much for taking the time to answer all my questions.
APPENDIX G

Interview Questions – People Who Declined BBBF Programs

1. How did you hear about BBBF (programs)?


2. What do you know about BBBF (programs)?


3. What do you think about the programs and services that BBBF provides and offers?

4. Do you feel that BBBF and the programs are accessible to all community residents? Do you feel that BBBF programs include everyone?

If so why?

a)

b)

c)

If not, why not?

a)

b)

c)


5. Why did you decide not to get involved with the BBBF Programs?

6. Is there anything that would make you more willing to be involved with BBBF Programs?


Do you have anything else you would like to add? Do you have any questions?

Thank you for taking the time to answer all of my questions.

APPENDIX H

INTERVIEW QUESTIONS – STAFF


1. Did you start as a staff member, a volunteer or as a participant with Better Beginnings, Better Futures (BBBF)?

2. When did you start working as paid staff for BBBF?

3. What was your first position with BBBF?

4. Could you describe your present position and your duties?

5. When we talk about inclusion, what does that term mean to you?

6. In your experience, what factors in the BBBF programs provides or encourages inclusion?

7. In your experience, what barriers are there in the BBBF programs to inclusion?

8. Can you think of any possible solutions?


Do you have any other comments or suggestions to add?

Thank you very much for participating in this interview.
APPENDIX I

INTERVIEW QUESTIONS – VOLUNTEERS


1. When did you start volunteering for BBBF?


2. Can you describe your present position and duties?


3. When we talk about inclusion, what does that term mean to you?


4. In your experience, what factors in the BBBF programs provides or encourages inclusion?


5. In your experience, what barriers are there in the BBBF programs to inclusion?


6. Can you think of any possible solutions?


Do you have any other comments or suggestions to add?

Thank you very much for participating in this interview.