Brian Guteplan and his wife and step-son needed help. His step-son was behaving badly at home and at school. So they signed up for the SNAP program at the Family Resource Centre in Pierrefonds. SNAP — which stands for Stop Now And Plan — teaches children and their parents how to make better decisions.
But the program is in jeopardy. Its five-year federal operating grant from the National Crime Prevention Centre runs out in December with no replacement funding in sight.
“After five years, SNAP has hit its stride,” Guteplan said. “It’s an amazing, free service. If bad decision making isn’t addressed, it can land a child in front of the police or a judge.”
Family Resource Centre executive director Ron Swan said a high volume in funding requests at the NCPC resulted in eight SNAP programs losing their grants. They can only reapply in December and by that point, the centre’s money will have run out.
So Swan is looking for private sector financing, to bridge the time it will take to seek funding from other government sources as well as reapplying to the NCPC.
“We’re hoping for a miracle,” Swan said. “One foundation has voiced interest, but is waiting to see if others are interested in pitching in. It costs $400,000 a year to run the program. That’s too much for one foundation to handle.”
Dealing with behavioural issues can make a family feel isolated. Swan said other facilities that offer specialized programs have waiting lists and some families need immediate help to find ways to change their “living dynamic.”
“As much as the child learns, the parent learns more,” Swan said. “We give them a bag of tools. How significant the change will be depends on how motivated they are.”
Through discussions, role-playing and interactive games, children learn how to better navigate feelings of anger, how to maintain self-control and how to hone problem-solving skills. Parents and children attend sessions together, but are coached in separate rooms.
“You learn so much about how to deal with different situations,” Guteplan said. “We would instantly be on the defensive when were being called to the school so often. Now we’ve learned to ask other questions, such as ‘did someone see my son do something?’ or ‘did something happen that would cause him to do what he did?’”
And the little boy is doing his part by working with his new behaviour tools.
Every family dynamic is unique. Guteplan, for example, has children from a previous marriage as does his wife. A blended family with an ex-spouse in the mix presents its own set challenges. Everybody has to be on the same page for things to advance. Even the school Guteplan’s stepson attends must be kept in the loop.
“I have to remember that I’m not my stepson’s dad and that I shouldn’t overstep,” Guteplan said. “But most of the time, now, we’re all on the same page.”
To augment the family training, the centre offers a program just for the dads, which Guteplan attends. The men meet to discuss whatever comes to mind, be it what’s going wrong or what’s going right. It helps to talk it out.
The SNAP course lasts 13 weeks, not counting the assessment done before the course and the followup which occurs after the course has ended. Weekly sessions last 90 minutes.
Guteplan said SNAP helped his stepson tremendously. He was so impressed by the progress they all made that he put his name forward to become a member of the centre’s board of directors and was invited to join.
For more information about SNAP, visit www.centrefamille.com.