Brightly coloured papers adorn the wall whiteboard at the Midwest Family Connections boardroom. Written on the papers are suggestions on how to improve child services in Lloydminster.
“A safe place where families experiencing grief and loss can access a variety of supports in a timely and age-appropriate manner …”
“A staff trained appropriately to build relations and trust with youth and families …”
“Immediate and accessible response to children experiencing grief and loss …”
“Ongoing funding from private and corporate sectors to support children and youth programs …”
A variety of fun, engaging therapeutic activities to support children and youth attending programs who are experiencing grief and loss…
This exercise was part of a forum on child services lead by Walking Through Grief Society (WTG) facilitator Shirley Scott with the help of an Alberta community development officer. The event drew a crowd of 22 individuals, representing Lloydminster area youth groups, crisis centres, schools and people effected by grief and loss. The group gathered to identify areas in which child services are lacking and to propose solutions.
“A lot of things were revealed; what we have in Lloyd and what we don’t have in Lloyd and a wish list of what we need in Lloyd,” Scott said. “At the end it was decided that they need a steering committee that would start talking these ideas and ground them and start working with those ideas to become something really concrete.”
Also in attendance was Lloydminster cultural and social services general manager Patrick Lancaster, who helps fund WTG through Family and Community Support Services grants. He says there was a lot of positive energy in the room and he looks forward to watching the plans move forward.
“I thought there was some really good discussion,” he said. “The model that (WTG) has put out there is something that they’ve been talking about in the community for a while now and I think that the discussion that happed today with the different community partners is a good way to start getting some forward traction on that.”
One of those community partners was Lily Belland, president of the Snowflake House Respite Foundation, an organization that provides childcare services for families with special needs.
“It was really great to hear other points of view,” she said. “We had a great group of people who could give different perspectives that you can’t have unless you lived that life, so that was really helpful. You walk out of here and you feel it can be done.”
Belland says it was reassuring having Lancaster, as a representative of the city, participate in the forum.
“It’s actually really encouraging to have him right here seeing this is what our program is going to do,” she said. “He’s not just seeing it on paper. He’s here with people who are passionate about it”
Belland says children dealing with grief often don’t realize there are other young people in similar situations.
“They think they’re all alone in their grief,” she said. “They don’t get connected to each other so they struggle alone. I think that this is something that can bring them together and make them feel more supportive of each other.”
The forum had a similar effect on Shirley Scott.
“I was really impressed how many people share the same dream I’ve had about childcare for the last 10 years,” Scott said.
“It was overwhelming. Sometimes you get the feeling you’re the only one.”