I equate what is happening to my agency to that of when a child is suffering or has a chronic illness, and the parents are so afraid, scared, and crazy with worry that the child will perish.
North East Family Connections has been around, as an agency, for a long time; it was the best thing since sliced bread when it opened in 1998. There were questions about who would fund the Community Resource Centres once there were more of them in the city. This responsibility eventually fell to the Ministry of Children Services as we were deemed an Early Intervention Service; we became contracted agencies to the ministry. Throughout all the years we were funded by them we were severally underfunded; no cost-of-living increases, no regular raises, and no funds for a program that would measure the outcomes of what we were doing.
Fast forward to 2019; the Ministry of Children’s Services, under the new Alberta Government, decided to change the way they did business. On November 4th, 2019, the Ministry sent out the letters that we were not going to be funded through them as of March 31, 2020, I was in shock. It felt like our lifeline had been pulled.
However, they threw out a life preserver by issuing an Expression of Interest (EOI) option that agencies could submit. I am immensely proud of the work the staff did on the EOI. They worked extremely hard on presenting the best programs based on real life experience; they worked hard on it for what seemed forever. We attended meetings, some hosted by the United Way, some hosted by the ministry; and we met with other agencies to find out if we could be a part of their proposal. Keeping in mind that my agency is 1 of 9 Community Resource Centre in the city.
In the end, we were not successful in being a part of the new Family Resource Network (FRN). The programs we had proposed to run as part their new framework were taken up by another agency. We were in essence “out of business”! All the work we did, the meetings, the zoom time with the ministry, was essentially, a waste of time. I felt, and still do feel, that the Ministry already knew what agencies they were going to choose, which agencies that wanted working together…there was no room for our little Community Resource Centre in their new network.
When the Pandemic hit us there came some funding opportunities to help in the Basic Needs Support for families experiencing setbacks in food security, job security, clothing, housing, mental health support, and similar issues due to the Pandemic. We were fortunate to receive some funding through the United Way of Calgary, and Family & Community Support Services from the City of Calgary. This lasted from September 2020 to March 2021. I have since been told by Minister Sawhney that the province cannot keep funding us; that maybe we should consider joining another agency.
This brings us to today; where we, my dedicated staff and I, are fighting to keep this agency alive. I have submitted 2 funding proposals that were not successful; one was for 2 years and one was for 8 months. There are very dedicated people here who deserve to do the work they love in the communities that desperately still need the support. There is absolutely a place for small agencies in our city; for places like ours that have served the often-marginalized communities in the north east part of Calgary for over 20 years. WE NEED TO KEEP THE SUPPORT FOR THE COMMUNITIES IN THE COMMUNITES AND WE NEED TO KEEP THIS AGENCY ALIVE