Children's program celebrates 25 years
When Juanita Miscio found out she was pregnant she couldn’t have imagined what her future was going to look like three years later.
A single mom of a three-year-old son, Miscio credits her accomplishments and journey as a mom to the support she received through the Community Action Program for Children (CAPC) run by SIRCH Community Services.
The CAPC program is for families with young children (under six) and is designed to help level the playing field for parents who are facing challenges such as limited income, social isolation, post-partum depression, or single parenting.
For a couple of hours each week, participants are invited to connect with other young families, learn about local resources and enjoy nutritious food. In Haliburton County, it’s usually the moms who attend.
Miscio says she is able to ask all sorts of questions and gain knowledge about local organizations, such as the YWCA, a local financial service, and Heat Bank, which have all helped her with things like her heating bills, learning about life insurance and more.
“It opens up these things I have been curious about, or I didn’t know that were available for me,” she said. “I find out new information constantly,” she said. “I was able to meet these wonderful women. Lots of the women there I have gotten really close with; we have long lasting friendships.”
Miscio and her son Jaxon travel from Halls Lake to the weekly group meetings, which take place in Haliburton. She says living on the outskirts of the county can be isolating and difficult, especially since she doesn’t own a vehicle. But despite the distance, Miscio always tries her best to attend the weekly gatherings for the social benefits. SIRCH helps with the travel costs.
“It can be difficult when you’re stuck with a toddler,” she said. “At the very beginning I had a bit of post-partum and was feeling a lot of doubt when I first gave birth … it was super difficult … I was very isolated, I had no cell service or internet.”
Since 1994 CAPC has been delivered locally through SIRCH Community Services. The federal initiative was started to help children who face challenges that may put their health at risk, such as poverty, social and geographic isolation, substance use and family violence. Funded through the Public Health Agency of Canada, CAPC is currently serving 223,000 vulnerable children and parents in more than 3,000 communities across Canada.
Adrienne Clark has attended CAPC for more than a decade with her three daughters, who range from four to 10 years old. When Clark first heard about CAPC she was hesitant to go because of an anxiety disorder she has.
“Dealing with people was not something I prefer,” she said. “But I needed the information and I needed to get out of the house and I needed to learn more about how to have a kid and what to do, so I went.”
Clark enjoyed the intimate environment the group offered and the relaxed atmosphere. Because her youngest daughter was born with a physical disability, Clark tried her best to get her to socialize with other children, which she found beneficial.
“In a small town, where everyone is so spread out, socialization is really important,” Clark said.
The mom of three has recommended CAPC to other moms she knows. She says her daughters, especially the youngest, absolutely loved attending and playing with the other children.
Clark credits part of the program’s success to the coordinator, Margaret Shelly, whom she calls “fantastic.”
Shelly has been coordinating the program for the past four years and has said that when she was a new mom, she faced similar situations as the moms in the local CAPC group.
“A group such as this would have been such a big help for me,” said Shelly. “It provides so much support, connection and tangible resources. I’ve had moms say that they don’t know what they’d do if they didn’t have the group; and I could tell they meant it. Many have benefited greatly just by making a new circle of friends and feeling less isolated.”
Shelly says CAPC is a godsend for many families and she has seen many successes come from it. She believes the program not only connects moms with local resources, but gives them a sense of confidence they may not have had before attending.
“One mom was connected to a home daycare agency while she was with CAPC and has since opened her own licensed home daycare.”
Gena Robertson has been the executive director of SIRCH Community Services since its inception 30 years ago and knows how impactful just feeling connected is.
“Most of us have gone through vulnerable periods in our lives,” said Robertson. “And during those periods it helped to have someone to connect with, to be supportive, to give information and guidance. It helped to get concrete resources, learn new skills, and network with others who are experiencing similar things. CAPC provides those things to parents with young children who are facing challenges.”
Miscio recently applied to college to become a veterinary technician and is hoping to begin classes this fall. She is currently completing high school science classes through Contact North. It was the experience of going through a difficult breakup and becoming a single mom last year that pushed Miscio to follow her dreams and focus on going back to school.
“By the end of last year I thought I need to figure out a career for myself that can support me and my son.” she said. “Working in the resort business [her current job] it’s difficult, especially around here, it’s a seasonal job.”
Looking back at the person she was a few years ago and is now, Miscio says she is in a much better place. “It’s because of the CAPC group, it really helped me,” she said. “I was very skeptical in the beginning to go, but if you just give it that one chance just to go one day, it can change your life. It changed my life.”
For more information about CAPC visit www.sirch.on.ca or email firstname.lastname@example.org.