The work of Mom2Mom is based on research in child development and neuroscience that has shown that enriching children’s environments, lowering levels of family stress and connecting mothers to their child’s school and to community social supports leads to positive changes in children’s learning and development. When these things are in place, children are happier, better adjusted and more likely to succeed in school. Mothers are better able to nurture and attach to children when they aren’t struggling every day to meet basic needs.
Children do best when they are cared for by loving parents who can nurture them, provide the necessities of life, and encourage them as they learn and grow. Some families are burdened by multi-generational poverty and live with daily stress around issues like food security, housing, and providing basic things for their children like recreational opportunities, transportation, access to health care, literacy skills, etc. Many mothers didn’t grow up in supportive, nurturing families. They may not have had healthy role models to teach them basic things like reading to children, providing healthy activities, cooking healthy food, shopping and budgeting, family organization, housekeeping, etc. Many have not had the chance to pursue a good education or acquire a skill that would be beneficial for job seeking.
What these mothers do have is tremendous resilience against adversity, tremendous love for their children and the ability to work hard for their families. Many of them have never had a hand up to get them started in their recovery from traumatic childhoods. They may not have a network of healthy friends and family who are able to provide the type of help they need. Poverty is isolating. Mom2Mom seeks to provide a cushion against the stress of poverty and a hand up so that women can do their best to raise happy, healthy children. The Mom2Mom model is based on volunteer mentors providing respectful, non-judgmental support to other moms and children. Both partners benefit from the relationship as the mentor witnesses first hand the strength of women living in poverty and their incredible ability to care for their children against very tough odds. The mentees benefit from material advantages and practical help for parenting and navigating the system. In addition, mentors link moms to other moms in their neighbourhood, to their children’s school and to existing community-based resources. For some moms, the volunteer may be the first unpaid person in her life who is just helping out of a sense of compassion and who doesn’t have any power over her – to judge her, or remove her children.
As citizens, we care about all the children and families in our community. Every child, mother and father matters equally. We also believe that it is unacceptable in a city as wealthy as Vancouver that children go without food, clothing, adequate housing, opportunities to play, books and transportation. We have a social responsibility to our neighbours. All of us benefit when children in our communities are safe, well cared for and happy!
No parent can provide the best opportunities for their child to learn, grow and succeed unless basic needs for food, safety, housing, and clothing are met. Until family stress is alleviated, it is almost impossible to interrupt the cycle of poverty that many families find themselves in. Combining material support for basic necessities on a background of a consistent and compassionate relationship can lead to huge change!
In the short time that we have been in operation, the results have been remarkable. All of the mothers we have supported are involved in their children’s schools. School professionals report fewer behaviour problems, better attendance and involvement in the school by the families we are supporting. Mentors report feeling an incredible sense of being involved in a truly hands-on endeavour; they watch as trust slowly grows with the mother they are paired with and see that one person can truly make a difference! A formal evaluation of the Mom2Mom model is currently underway in partnership with Simon Fraser University.
Doctors, Nurse Practitioners and designated Mom2Mom representatives in inner city schools identify families who are very stressed by poverty. They are trained to screen the families to see if Mom2Mom is a good fit for them and if it is likely to provide benefit to them. If the mother agrees, the family is referred to a Mentor Coordinator. The Mentor Coordinator pairs the family with two volunteer mentors and provides the information to them that the mother has agreed to share. The mentor coordinator and mentors have an initial meeting with the mother to start the relationship, to see if she has anything she would like help with and to see what the family needs in terms of basic household items, furniture and food. The list of household needs is sent to the coordinator of household donations, who then arranges to collect needed items and get them delivered to the mom’s home. The mentor then starts the slow process of developing a relationship with the mother. We suggest that she make contact weekly – by text, phone or in person, always being respectful of what the mother needs and wants. As trust builds, she helps to connect the mother to her child’s school, to community resources for her and her children and to other mothers in the community. Mentors are fully supported by the Mentor Coordinators. Mentor support meetings are held regularly to answer questions and develop skills in volunteering in this area. We ask volunteers for a minimum of a year commitment, as families who experience poverty have typically had a lot of disruption and we hope to provide a reliable presence in their lives. For the mother being supported, just knowing that a friend is at the other end of a text or phone call can make a lot of difference.
Mom2Mom is incorporated as a society in B.C. We have a multifaceted, talented, board of directors that meets regularly. We are grateful for the support of The Network of Inner City Community Services Society; they issue tax receipts for donations to Mom2Mom and provide guidance in our work in the community. We also have a close partnership with RICHER, a medical program run out of BC Children’s Hospital that provides low barrier, community-informed health care in the inner city.
Mission and Goals
Mom2Mom improves the lives of families isolated by poverty through strength-based relationships and by creating opportunities.
To create a trusting, consistent, reliable and non-judgmental relationship through mentorship.
This will support
Alleviation of the stresses of poverty for families.
Connection of parents to their child’s school and education.
Connection of parents to existing resources in their communities.
[Above Photo: Dr. Barbara Fitzgerald speaks with a child outside Seymour School.]
Mom2Mom arose from the vision of a developmental pediatrician Dr. Barbara Fitzgerald who worked in Vancouver’s inner city schools for over 15 years, helping children with learning and behavioural challenges. Dr. Fitzgerald observed that poverty, combined with isolation and often histories of past trauma put barriers in the way of mothers moving forward, and in turn, contributed to children not succeeding in school. Mom2Mom was founded as an attempt to help women to step away from the cycle of poverty they are in. Many women in the inner city have not had the advantage of growing up in healthy families that modeled the kind of parenting that they want for their children. Many don’t have healthy mothers, sisters or neighbours whom they can go to for help and guidance. Often the services that are available come with strings attached and the fear of having children removed into foster care is always present. Many women had survived huge challenges and wanted help for their families that was compassionate, non-threatening, patient and practical. There was an increasing awareness in Vancouver of the disparities between rich and poor; people were realizing that in a province as rich as British Columbia, it wasn’t right that children living minutes away weren’t having their basic needs met. Stories of children going to bed hungry and then waking and going to school hungry didn’t fit with the kind of Canada they envision. They wanted to make a difference. Mom2Mom was born out of the pairing of all these incredible women: the women who just need a hand up to raise their children in the healthiest way possible, and compassionate women who want to make a difference in a respectful way, knowing that they may end up receiving more than they give!
The long term goal of “Mom2Mom” is to provide a hand up for struggling families so that they can have the strength and support to move forward with their lives instead of being mired in the relentless stress of poverty.
Board of Directors
We have a committed and talented board of directors who bring a wide range of skills and experience to Mom2Mom.
Meet our small but mighty team of three!