Breaking the Cycle: Ontario’s Poverty Reduction Strategy

Available at http://www.children.gov.on.ca/htdocs/English/breakingthecycle/report/index.aspx

The Child Poverty Task Force invites you to read this report and offer comments below. How might this relate to responses from parishes and ministries of the Diocese of Ottawa? In particular, it would be good to know if anyone is aware of a similar strategy in the province of Quebec.

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Book: Persistent Poverty

Available at
http://www.btlbooks.com/bookinfo.php?index=214

Persistent Poverty: voices from the margins
Jamie Swift, Brice Balmer and Mira Dineen

“It’s a very short trip from the limousine seat to the curb.” Jim Mann never missed a payroll for the dozen men who worked for his flourishing landscaping business he built from the ground up. Now he lives hand-to-mouth. His pockets are empty long before his next social assistance cheque arrives.

In early 2010 over two hundred civic and faith leaders fanned out into thirty Ontario communities. Their goal? To explore how the least fortunate people in one of the world’s richest places are faring.

The Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition’s latest social audit exposed a tattered social assistance system run by volunteers desperately struggling to fill the gaps. There can be no papering over the savage inequalities and suffering exposed in this compelling look at life from the margins.

We’d appreciate your comments and thoughts. Please add them below.

Sesame Street: Growing Hope Against Hunger Highlight Reel

Child Poverty Report

Recommended first step
Let us teach Gatineau children to make their own nutritious lunches
(September 2011)

Above: Following a summer of research, the Diocese’s Community Development Assistant Matthew Brown makes two key recommendations to the Bishop’s Child Poverty Initiative in a new report called Labour for Learning. 

There is no magic bullet to deal with child poverty. Childcare is an important piece of infrastructure in a developed society where 70% of mothers or more are working. But there are many other ways to enrich the opportunities for children to develop and learn, and other ways to support parents in the important work they do as parents. Matthew’s report suggests two ways the Diocese can start providing that support right now.

In response to the report, the Diocese plans to launch the Initiative’s first pilot project, The Daily Bread Project, at the beginning of October 2011. This is to be the first of a series of community-specific responses to child poverty led by our Diocese.

Labour for Learning report (14.4 MB) (pdf)
Executive summary (pdf)

A Public Policy Perspective: An Open Letter from Judith Maxwell

Judith Maxwell is a well-respected social policy expert who was a key advisor to the federal government during the Chrétien-Martin era, and offers these reflections for us all to consider.

I am a member of St. Matthew’s – the Anglican Church in the Glebe, and before I retired I was involved in social policy research, including issues with respect to child poverty and early childhood development.

As I am sure you realize, the issue of child poverty can be addressed through many channels. We cannot reduce the poverty of children without reducing the poverty of their parents. However, we can mitigate the negative effects of child poverty on early childhood development by supporting those families with well-designed and well-targeted services and supports. We must also recognize that there are more vulnerable children in middle income and well to do families than there are in poor families. So in an ideal world, most programs and policies should be universally available.

Work done by the Canadian Policy Research Networks in the late 1990s summarized a large body of research by identifying three enabling conditions for healthy child development: adequate income, effective parenting and supportive communities. Children in families with low income can thrive if there is effective parenting and the family has access to good community services. However, we know that poverty in urban areas is highly concentrated in specific neighbourhoods. (This means that poverty is well-hidden from the average Ottawa citizen.) This is demonstrated by the maps in Ottawa’s Vital Signs for 2009 and 2010, published by the Community Foundation of Ottawa.

More recent work led by Clyde Hertzman at UBC has shown that the most vulnerable children are living in neighbourhoods where incomes are low and community services are weak. Community services include safe places to play, parent resource centres, quality child care, accessible health clinics etc. To measure the needs and successes of children, Success by Six Ottawa publishes Early Development Index Scores for pre-school students in Ottawa. These scores should be available by neighbourhood so that you can help parishes to identify where needs are highest.

Recent immigrants to Canada constitute a large share of the population of many of these poor neighbourhoods. This dramatically increases the complexity of the challenges faced by the families and by the neighbourhoods – social services and schools are overstretched, and parents need extra help in learning how to navigate on behalf of their children. Many come from cultures where there is a strong tradition of mothers staying home to provide care. Here in Canada, those mothers need help in becoming the advocate for their children and in gaining confidence in their own role as the child’s first teacher. The HIPPY program is designed specifically to meet those needs (Home Instruction for Parents of Pre-school Youngsters). It is located at the Vanier Community Service Centre and the leader is Kathleen Saso.

In rural areas, the problem is more difficult to pin down. On the Quebec side, families are served by the comprehensive approach to child well-being and by the Centres de Petites Enfances. In Ontario, there is a commitment to community resource centres for children and families, but I am not sure how well they serve the rural areas.

As you probably know, Canada, outside Quebec, falls way behind other developed country in its support for children and families. This has been documented by the OECD (Starting Strong II: Early Childhood Education and Care, 2006) and by Unicef (The Child Care Transition, 2008). While Ontario has begun to strengthen its supports for ECE through full time kindergarten, this is causing short-term dislocation for many child care centres, families and schools. Ideally, child care centres will be able to provide more spaces for younger children as they lose 4 and 5 year olds.

One of the challenges in planning supports for children in poor families is that we do not have strong information on the availability of or the cost of child care. Gordon Cleveland did a study with several co-authors in 2008 New Evidence about Child Care in Canada published by IRPP. He found that 38% of families with preschool children and mothers employed incurred no child care costs (by parents off-shifting or relying on a relative). But 27% paid $4000 or more in 2005. (Table 4) Costs began to rise steeply in 2005, but I do not know whether the trend continued. What is notable is that low income families pay far less than families with higher income. The concern is that the quality of the care is also lower for the children from poor families, when we know that higher quality care can do much to mitigate negative effects of low income or weaker parenting and services.

So let me summarize some implications for the ADO initiative.

• In Ontario, children in poor families are not well supported by broad public policies, relative to other developed countries. This means that the well-being of poor families depends to a great extent on access to local services and supports. It also raises the importance of advocacy for better national and provincial policies although that is a longer-term initiative where it is better to join with other advocates in the area like Campaign 2000.

• The needs of families vary from one neighbourhood to another, depending on the existing network of community supports and services and especially the access to high quality child care.

• Families who have recently immigrated to Canada and Aboriginal families who have migrated to Ottawa have particular needs for support in their parenting roles.

• Given the Diocese’ growing interest in the Council of the North, there may be opportunities for ministry with Aboriginal families and the social service agencies that serve them.

• Every neighbourhood needs some kind of inventory of local services that touch the lives of families from pre-natal care until the child is well established in school, as well as grassroots knowledge of the needs of families. In Ottawa, there are Community Health Centres and Community Resource Centres that can speak to these issues. I don’t know what community hubs exist in rural areas.

• Poor families tend to use sources of non-parental care that are unregulated and in some cases unpaid. So it is important to consider programming initiatives that strengthen the quality of local services, that create networks within the community which give parents a sense of belonging and a place to go for advice and opportunities to learn. These places should be open to all, and thus avoid any stigma.

• By nurturing mothers and engaging fathers, programs can empower the parents to be the best they can be for their children, as we can see in the HIPPY program.

• There is no magic bullet to deal with child poverty. Child care is an important piece of infrastructure in a developed society where 70% of mothers or more are working. But there are many other ways to enrich the opportunities for children to develop and learn, and other ways to support parents in the important work they do as parents.

Update from the Community Development Assistant

Hi, my name is Matthew Brown, and I was  hired just over a month ago by the Diocese to serve for the summer as the Community Development Assistant for the Bishop’s Child Poverty Initiative. It’s  my job over the next few months to do research and strategic planning in  preparation for a formal launch of the Bishop’s new initiative this fall. When  I’m not wearing my “CDA” hat, I’m a master’s candidate at Queen’s University in  Kingston. I’m also a churchwarden in the Parish of Eastern Outaouais on the  West Quebec side of our Diocese.

Child poverty is one of those things that  often goes un-noticed in our community. But, while it may not always be easy to see the signs of poverty among our kids, unfortunately in the era of the “Great Recession” child poverty has quickly become a pressing social problem. Far too many children in our region go to school hungry, don’t have proper clothing, or don’t have access to the school supplies and toys that are supposed to make being a kid fun. Some kids may have young parents, single parents, be in foster care, be living in an isolated rural community, or simply be part of a family where their caregiver – despite their very best efforts – just can’t find a job.  Whatever the situation may be, in the end it’s the children who suffer, as they are the ones who are ultimately robbed of a time in their lives that should be filled with joy, curiosity & wonder – not the hardships of poverty.

There are also larger social costs to think about. High dropout rates among poor kids lead to a subsequently higher unemployment rate in our increasingly knowledge based economy. Malnutrition, brought on by readily available junk food and high sodium products, which are sadly far cheaper for many low-income families to buy in comparison to good fruits and veggies, contributes dramatically to the ongoing childhood obesity pandemic. Broken families, strains to social services and limited recreation space for young people often lead to increased rates of teenage pregnancy…children having children…and all the consequences that ensue.

Whether we like it or not, poverty is a vicious cycle that often begins at childhood, and it’s in our collective interest as a society to do something about it.

Moreover, as followers of Christ, we are continually called to heed the example of He who instructed his disciples to Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:4, KJV)

To that end, the biggest part of my job this summer will be determining how our Diocese should collectively respond to poverty among children in our midst. The most important question I’ll be continually asking myself is “How are we, the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa, given our faith, history, geography and gifts, best able to do our part to help alleviate child poverty in our egion?”  If you have an answer, thought or idea, complete or incomplete, I want to hear from you! You can call me or email me using the information below, or follow the regular updates on Facebook & Twitter. Over the next two months I’ll be visiting our parishes, consulting with clergy and lay-leaders, talking to outside groups like school-boards, and working closely with the Community Ministry Development Committee’s Child Poverty Task Force as we all try to collectively discern what God is calling us to do in this area of our mission.

Our work won’t eliminate child-poverty, but I’m confident that by the end of this journey we will have made a significant difference in the lives of many children who deserve nothing less than to be the beneficiaries of Christian love. In the end, that’s what matters most.

~Matthew

Matthew Brown
Community Development Assistant
Bishop’s Child Poverty Initiative
Anglican Diocese of Ottawa
71 Bronson Ave.,
Ottawa, ON K1R 6G6
Telephone: 613-232-9791
Email: matthew-brown@ottawa.anglican.ca
child-poverty@ottawa.anglican.ca
Skype: matthewjbrown1985
Like the Initiative on Facebook: www.facebook.com/adoPoverty
Follow the Initiative on Twitter: @adoPoverty

The Bishop’s Charge

THE BISHOP’S CHARGE
128TH SESSION OF THE SYNOD OF
THE DIOCESE OF OTTAWA

Anglican Church of Canada
October 22 – 24, 2009 AD

“Let Justice Roll down Like Waters, and Righteousness Like an Ever-flowing Stream”
(Amos 5:24)

(The following is an excerpt; Bishop John Chapman’s Charge in its  entirety can be found at http://www.ottawa.anglican.ca/Charge_to_Synod_2009.html)
 

Regarding Child Poverty

In the Diocese of Ottawa, we are immensely proud of our
community ministries. The work that we do through them is an invaluable  expression of the gospel, and is the envy of many. I am grateful to those who  serve, and I am thankful for those we serve, each embodying the fullness of  Christ in their brokenness.

As I become increasingly aware of all the work that is done  locally, through the congregations in neighbourhood or ecumenical coalitions, I  am always filled with pride when I hear stories of outreach through homework clubs, food banks, seniors work, youth centers, or the many and varied ways,  and there are too many to mention, by which we serve God’s world. We have been  challenged to find new ways of serving God’s world and God’s people by our  strategic plan. We are asked to identify and develop new ministries, on both  the parochial and diocesan level. Many parishes are already doing this, and I  want to both congratulate and encourage them. Many more parishes have projects  in development and from what I have seen; our communities will be better and  stronger as a result.

Through the ongoing ministry of a dedicated group of our  retired clergy, it has come to my attention that child poverty in our community has reached critical proportions. One of our local agencies, which provide childcare programmes and meals, has 800 children currently on the waiting list. This is a matter that must be addressed by our Diocese. Nurture and care for our children is clearly demanded of us by Jesus. Our community ministries now address men and women living on the streets with food, accommodation, counseling and a variety of support activities. It is time for this Synod to take the matter of child poverty in hand. I will ask our new Community Ministries Development Committee to take this challenge in hand and make a recommendation to Synod 2010 as to how we as a Diocese can respond to this deep need. I believe that this matter deserves our very best attention.

On a related matter, Citizens for Public Justice and Canada Without Poverty has launched a campaign for a Poverty-Free Canada. One hundred and fifty-five organizations have endorsed the project including the Anglican Church of Canada. I would welcome a motion from this Synod authorizing the Diocese of Ottawa to endorse and participate in this campaign.

Our attention to both of these projects will further our ongoing attention to the United Nation’s Millennium Development goals; specifically, numbers one and four – Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, and Reduce child mortality.