Noticing a lack of support programs for dads, the North Okanagan Friendship Centre Society wanted to change that.
Society dietitian and prenatal outreach coordinator Caroline Meijer was well aware there were many programs and services available for mothers, but not fathers. She approached society executive director Ida Scott about the discrepancy, and the pair set about starting a support program for fathers.
When they received grant funding, Henry Ly, social worker, was brought in to oversee the society’s Fathers Support Program, which began in June.
“My role is advocacy,” said Ly, in his society office in the 29th Avenue complex in downtown Vernon. He was a social worker for 20 years in Alberta, including 15 with Alberta Health Services working in mental health and addictions. Ly moved to Vernon in 2017.
“My role is to provide education around parenting, emotional one-on-one support, and advocate for fathers with regards to the ministry (Children and Family Services), and advocate for them in family court when dealing with conflict issues with their ex-partners and with family court lawyers.”
Ly also happens to be a single father himself. He works primarily with Indigenous fathers that are involved in raising or parenting their children, and he also works with non-Indigenous dads that either have sole or shared custody of their kids.
He runs weekly fathers’ groups which involves inviting different guest speakers from the community, such as from Legal Aid, to talk about how to support dads and to access Legal Aid services. He’ll also bring in speakers to provide resources and referrals around such topics as housing, finances or helping with applications for various subsidies on such things as childcare.
“Some dads are working full-time and they don’t have childcare for when their children are finished school which is now back in session,” he said. “Now that the kids are back in school, the fathers need that extra help.”
The goal of the Fathers Support Program, which is a pilot project, is to have the program running and funded continually, year after year, like other programs.
Since its inception in June, Ly has been stockpiling data and statistics to show there is a need for such a program. The numbers, he said, are there.
“On a weekly basis, the numbers do fluctuate but I can have around eight fathers showing up for a support group,” said Ly. “Sometimes there’s less than eight. Sometimes, there’s more, which is becoming consistent. For a support group, eight is a decent number.”
Individually, Ly said he has regular fathers coming in on a daily basis along with drop-ins and fixed appointments.
“I can have anywhere from five-to-10 fathers show up daily,” he said. Appointments will usually last an hour.
“The numbers I collect will be crucial for the funders to look at; to show them the significance of the programs and that there is a need. This needs to continue going forward.”
To be eligible for the society’s Fathers Support Program, a man does not have to be Indigenous. A person can call Ly who will invite them down for an intake interview.
“We’ll talk about what their needs are, what they identify as challenges, what their goals are, what their resources are, all sorts of different things,” said Ly. “We’ll talk about pressing issues they’re dealing with, how the program can help, how I can help and, moreover, how the friendship centre can help.”
Indeed, Ly’s office may offer one-stop shopping for father support, but by no means is he a one-man team.
Ly’s society mates include mental health and addictions specialists, a dietitian, and various professionals that work with housing.
To reach Ly for an appointment or more information, call