New Resource for School Counsellors Working with Military and Veteran Families

The Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA), in partnership with the Canadian Military and Veteran Families Leadership Circle, have released the second in the series of awareness publications, School Counsellors Working with Military and Veteran Families.

Canada’s military and Veteran families are highly diverse, and their unique perspectives enrich schools, communities and workplaces across the country. Within this diversity, however, there are a number of experiences shared by these families related to military life, such as high family mobility, recurring periods of separation and higher levels of risk for serving members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). These realities have an impact on the 462,000 children and youth growing up in military and Veteran families, most of whom attend civilian schools with peers, teachers and educational professionals, such as school counsellors, who may have little or no experience with, understanding of or training on military and Veteran life.

The Vanier Institute of the Family, CCPA, Veterans Affairs Canada, Military Family Services and other key members of the Canadian Military and Veteran Families Leadership Circle collaborated to publish School Counsellors Working with Military and Veteran Families. This bilingual resource has been designed to increase military literacy((“Military literacy” refers to one’s awareness of the experiences of military and Veteran families, including (but not limited to) frequent periods of separation from family, higher family mobility and the possibility of higher risk for serving CAF members.)) in schools to foster inclusion, provide support and optimize services for children and youth growing up in military and Veteran families.

School Counsellors Working with Military and Veteran Families answers four key questions:

  1. What is the military and Veteran lifestyle? 
     
  2. What resources are available to school counsellors to assist them in their work with children and youth of military and Veteran families?
     
  3. How can school counsellors promote mental health and advocate for students of military and Veteran families in schools?
     
  4. How can school counsellors support classroom teachers in their work with students of military and Veteran families?

“Children in military and Veteran families are diverse, resilient and strong, and they – like their families – demonstrate a high degree of adaptability,” says Vanier Institute CEO Nora Spinks. “Resources such as this can help ensure family health and well-being so that children and youth reach their full potential.”

Download School Counsellors Working with Military and Veteran Families. Print copies are available from the CCPA, MFS or local MFRCs.

About the Working with… series

School Counsellors Working with Military and Veteran Families is the second in the Working with… series, following the publication of Family Physicians Working with Military Families in November 2016.

About the Canadian Military and Veteran Families Leadership Circle

The Canadian Military and Veteran Families Leadership Circle is a component of the Military and Veteran Families in Canada Initiative, a partnership between the Vanier Institute of the Family and the Canadian Armed Forces to build awareness, capacity, competency and community regarding military and Veteran families in Canada.

About the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association

The Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA) is a national bilingual association of professionally trained counsellors engaged in the helping professions. CCPA’s members work in many diverse fields of education, employment and career development, social work, business, industry, mental health, public service agencies, government and private practice. CCPA develops and cultivates formal and informal relationships with similar health and mental health organizations in Canada and internationally.

For more information:

 

Published May 18, 2017




Vanier Institute and CHRC Host Roundtable on Workplace Diversity and Human Rights

On February 28, 2017, the Vanier Institute of the Family and the Canadian Human Rights Commission partnered to host the Canadian Work–Life Leadership Circle Roundtable on Workplace Diversity and Human Rights. This collaboration brought together Canadian leaders with an interest or involvement in work–life issues to enhance the ongoing conversation on work, life and family in Canada.

The roundtable included the following catalytic presentations and discussions:

  • Human Rights Perspectives and Workplace Impacts: The intersection of workplace policy and human rights moving forward (Marie-Claude Landry, Ad.E., Chief Commissioner, Canadian Human Rights Commission)
  • Diversity, Inclusion and Human Rights in the Workplace: The diversity of families and employees and their impact on workplace policy (Nicole Nussbaum, Staff Lawyer, Legal Aid Ontario)
  • Leading and Promising Practices: Workplace policy and practice, such as the duty to accommodate on the basis of family status, right to request flex and extending family-related leaves

“The concept of family is evolving every day, our workplaces should too,” said Marie-Claude Landry, Lawyer Emeritus (Ad.E.), member of the Bar and Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission. “Workplace accommodation is about working differently, not less. Supporting employees to meet their family obligations means that everyone wins.”

“Human rights legislation, family law, labour law, employment law and immigration law all impact families and aren’t always in alignment,” said Vanier Institute of the Family CEO Nora Spinks. “The complexity and diversity of families is being taken into consideration with informal and formal workplace accommodations in order for employees to fulfill their multiple responsibilities at work and at home.”

 

Learn about work–life and work–family issues, and diversity in Canada with the following Vanier Institute resources:

 


Published on March 2, 2017




Leaders meet to share progress on developing military literacy in Canada

(Ottawa, ON, January 24, 2017) Her Excellency Sharon Johnston, C.C., joined representatives of the Canadian Military and Veteran Families Leadership Circle yesterday, engaging with members to create resources to develop military literacy among professional associations and community organizations that will have a positive impact on the military and Veteran family experience.

Her Excellency highlighted the work being done to create a circle of support for military and Veteran families. “As we celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation, the Leadership Circle illustrates the power of collaboration and community engagement across the country for the benefit of military and Veteran families,” she said.

Canada is home to 40,000 Regular Force military families, 14,000 Reserve Force families and more than 600,000 Veterans. They access a variety of programs and services in their neighbourhoods, including child care and eldercare, health and mental health, education, employment and transition support. Community programs are more inclusive and welcoming of military and Veteran families when professionals and practitioners have a high degree of military literacy – awareness of their experiences and unique “military life stressors” (i.e. high mobility, separation and risk). The Leadership Circle facilitates innovative partnerships and collaborations based on building military literacy.

Statistics on Military and Veteran families in Canada:

  • In the mid-1990s, 80% of military families in Canada lived ON a base – today, 85% live OFF-base
  • 49% of serving CAF members and 37% of Veterans have children under 18
  • The majority (54%) of surveyed children in military families say they feel pride in their deployed parent
  • 87% of surveyed CAF partners say they are able to cope emotionally with their partner’s absence during deployment
  • 3 in 10 surveyed CAF partners spouses say their career has NOT been affected by their partner’s military service
  • 8% of Veterans report living with low income, compared with 15% of Canadians

“The military lifestyle is unique and full of adventure. The effectiveness and well-being of our military members is underpinned by their strong, resilient, and proud military families who remain that way due to the programs and services delivered by the types of organizations represented in the Leadership Circle,” said Major General Wayne Eyre, Deputy Commander Military Personnel Command.

“Canadian military and Veteran families can thrive if they have access to appropriate care and support. Since military families move so frequently, they often face special challenges like finding a family doctor or continuing educational progress for their children when they relocate to a new community, or a new province,” said Colonel Dan Harris, Director, Military Family Services and Co-Chair, Canadian Military and Veteran Families Leadership Circle. “Military Family Services, as a co-founder of the Military and Veteran Families Leadership Circle, is happy to collaborate with our many committed partners to enhance military literacy among associations and organizations in Canada.”

“The true value of the Leadership Circle is fully realized as committed members continue to work together to produce useful resources, develop innovative programs and establish strong relationships,” added Nora Spinks, CEO of the Vanier Institute of the Family and Co-Chair of the Canadian Military and Veteran Families Leadership Circle.

“When a man or woman serves in the Canadian Armed Forces, the entire family serves with them.  Sharing innovative ideas is key; and providing reliable information for professionals and community practitioners about the unique lifestyle of military and Veteran families is vital to building awareness,” said Karen McCrimmon, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence, who also attended the event.  “Veterans Affairs Canada is proud to be working with so many committed organizations to enhance understanding, access, resources and care for Veteran families.”

The Canadian Military and Veteran Families Leadership Circle is a collaboration between organizations and leaders from across the country that is building awareness, capacity, competency and community in support of military and Veteran families. This growing initiative is currently comprised of more than 60 individuals from over 50 organizations, including 38 member organizations, who are working with and for military and Veteran families in Canada.

 


Learn about the Leadership Circle Hubs.

Watch the video message to Leadership Circle members and participants from Hon. Kent Hehr, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence.

Learn about military and Veteran families in Canada with A Snapshot of Military and Veteran Families in Canada.

Watch the CFPC video about ensuring equitable access to quality health care for military families.




A Snapshot of Military and Veteran Families in Canada

Canada’s military and Veteran families are diverse, resilient and strong, and they are a great source of pride for the country. They engage with – and play important roles in – their workplaces, communities and the country at large.

Like all families, military and Veteran families access a variety of programs and services in their communities, including (but not limited to) child care and eldercare, health and mental health, community recreation and leisure, and education and employment. However, these programs and services are often delivered by professionals and practitioners who have little or no understanding of, or experience with, military and Veteran families.

This lack of military literacy – awareness of the unique experiences of military and Veteran families and the “military life stressors” (mobility, separation and risk) that affect them – can result in negative experiences for both service providers and the families they seek to support.

To enhance the understanding of military and Veteran families, the Vanier Institute has published A Snapshot of Military and Veteran Families in Canada – the third in our new series of publications providing statistical analyses of diverse family experiences and the social, economic, cultural and environmental contexts that shape family life.

Highlights include:

  • Canada is home to 108,000 members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and more than 600,000 CAF Veterans.
  • In the mid-1990s, 80% of military families in Canada lived on a base, whereas 85% live off-base today.
  • There are more than 64,000 children growing up in military families in Canada.
  • Four in 10 military families with children rely on or need non-parental child care; 30% of these families report experiencing difficulties finding adequate care.
  • More than half of surveyed CAF spouses agree that “military children are at a disadvantage because civilian public schools do not understand military life.”
  • Between 21% and 27% of military families in Canada report that they do not have a primary care physician for themselves or their children, compared with 15% of the general population.
  • CAF personnel report spending a quarter of their time away from home on military-related duties.
  • More than one-quarter (27%) of surveyed CAF spouses report that they have relocated at least 4 times due to military postings.
  • More than half (51%) of surveyed CAF spouses say they’ve made some career sacrifices as a result of their partner’s military service.

 

Download A Snapshot of Military and Veteran Families in Canada from the Vanier Institute of the Family.

 


Suggested reading:

Military and Veteran Families in Canada: Collaborations and Partnerships Compendium 1.0

Building Inclusive Communities for Canada’s Military and Veteran Families

The Current State of Military Family Research

 




Happy 25th Anniversary to the Military Family Services Program!

Canada has a long history of supporting military families. In fact, 2016 will mark a pivotal milestone for dedicated programs and services intended to support military families across Canada.

Established formally in 1991, the Military Family Services Program honours, acknowledges and supports families’ contributions to the Canadian Armed Forces as the strength behind the uniform.

The Vanier Institute of the Family has been proud to collaborate with Military Family Services in the Canadian Military and Veteran Families Leadership Circle – an initiative that strengthens community support for military and Veteran families through knowledge mobilization, relationship-building and the coordination of existing and emerging projects and services.

To learn more about Military Family Services and their anniversary celebrations, visit their website.

Published on October 24, 2016




A Snapshot of Workplace Mental Health in Canada

At some point in our lives, we are all affected by mental illness, whether through personal experience or that of a family member, friend, neighbour or colleague. Mental health conditions can have a significant impact on individuals, but they can also “trickle up” to have a detrimental effect on workplaces, communities, the economy and society at large – no one remains untouched. It is therefore vital that support for mental health be multi-faceted and every bit as prevalent as the conditions it seeks to address.

Stigma remains a major barrier to care for those living with a mental illness, many of whom are receiving, and benefiting from, care and support from their families.

This edition of the Vanier Institute of the Family Statistical Snapshots series explores mental health, families and work – three key parts of our lives that intersect and interact in complex ways that affect our well-being.
 
Highlights include:

  • 4 in 10 Canadians have a family member with a mental health problem.
  • At least 500,000 employed Canadians are unable to work due to mental health problems in any given week.
  • Mental illness accounts for an estimated 30% of all disability claims and 70% of disability costs.
  • Stigma remains an issue, with 1 in 5 surveyed Canadian employees saying they believe that whether or not someone becomes mentally ill is “fully within their control.”
  • 4 in 10 surveyed Canadian employees say they would not tell their manager if they were experiencing a mental health problem.
  • More than 7 in 10 Canadians who are affected by a family member’s mental health problem provided care to them, and 68% say they are not embarrassed about their family member’s mental health condition.

 

Download A Snapshot of Workplace Mental Health from the Vanier Institute of the Family.

 


Suggested reading:

Putting the “F” in EFAP: The Evolution of Workplace Mental Health Supports

A Little Support Can Go a Long Way: Reflections on Depression and Anxiety

Disability and Employment in Canada

 

Published on Tuesday, October 4, 2016




Building Resilience at Home with Distance Coaching

While we all strive to ensure positive mental health and well-being for ourselves and our families, mental health conditions affect most households at some point, directly or indirectly. Children are no exception, with an estimated one in five schoolchildren living with mental health, behavioural or neurodevelopmental disorders.((Ann Douglas, Parenting Through the Storm (Toronto: HarperCollins, 2015).))

Both early intervention and quality, evidence-based care are essential to supporting children with these conditions and building their resilience. For some families, however, it isn’t always possible to access face-to-face intervention services. Lengthy clinic wait times, fear and/or experience of stigma and long travel distances can make it challenging to access appropriate services.

This can be particularly true for military families, in which a parent may have unpredictable schedules that often involve a greater amount of travel, separation, routine disruptions, transitions and overall stress than their civilian counterparts. Due to their high mobility and frequent moves, military families also commonly experience difficulties maintaining continuity of care for their children.((Heidi Cramm et al., “The Current State of Military Family Research,” Transition (January 19, 2016), http://bit.ly/23cpyut.))

Flexibility can facilitate mental health care for families

Clinic-based mental health services offer a variety of programs and supports to youth, but many lack the flexibility that families require to support these children while managing other family and work responsibilities. Children’s school schedules often don’t align with available mental health services, and repeated absences due to the need to attend regular appointments at a clinic can have an impact on children’s academic performance and their social relationships with friends and peers.

It may also be difficult or impossible for many parents to take the necessary time off work to bring a child to face-to-face appointments, either because they lack the necessary flexibility at work or because doing so would incur financial hardship. Nearly 7 in 10 couple families with at least one child under 16 have two employed parents, and in three-quarters of these couples, both parents work full-time.((Sharanjit Uppal, “Employment Patterns of Families with Children,” Insights on Canadian Society (June 24, 2015), Statistics Canada catalogue no. 75-006-X, http://bit.ly/1Nen7gR.)) For single-parent families, the impact of missing work to accommodate appointments can be particularly difficult. Flexibility can be all the more important when seeking support for their children in military families, which often experience high mobility and deployments.

The Strongest Families Institute provides family-centred mental health care

Founded in 2011, the Strongest Families Institute (SFI) is a not-for-profit corporation designed to provide flexible, evidence-based and stigma-free mental health support to children customized to their needs and family realities. Based on six years of research at the Centre for Research in Family Health at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia, SFI programs and modules are now accessible across the country. SFI has been nationally recognized for social benefits by the Mental Health Commission of Canada (2012) and was the recipient of the Ernest C. Manning Encana Principal Award (2013).

SFI programs use a family-centred approach, directly engaging and involving family members throughout the process. Families can play a powerful role in facilitating quality mental health care because of their familiarity with the child’s circumstances. They also have a unique ability to provide valuable feedback to service providers throughout the engagement process.

Developing skills to build resilience… from a distance

SFI programs are focused on skill-based learning that fosters mental health and resilience skills through the use of psychologically informed educational modules that help families manage behavioural conditions or difficulties (e.g. not listening, temper or anger outbursts, aggression, attention deficits or hyperactivity) and anxiety (e.g. separation, generalized, social, specific fears).

SFI employs a unique distance coaching approach, utilizing technology to directly support families over the phone and the Internet in the comfort, privacy and convenience of their own home.((Patricia Lingley-Pottie and Patrick J. McGrath, “Telehealth: A Child-Friendly Approach to Mental Health Care Reform,” Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare 14 (2008): 225–26, doi:10.1258/jtt.2008.008001.)) Research has shown that distance coaching can result in significant diagnosis decreases among children with disruptive behaviour or anxiety conditions.((Patrick J. McGrath et al., “Telephone-Based Mental Health Interventions for Child Disruptive Behavior or Anxiety Disorders: Randomized Trials and Overall Analysis,” Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 50, no. 11 (2011): 1162–72, doi:10.1016/j.jaac.2011.07.013.))

[My coach] has taught me a lot of skills that I was not aware of – especially in the conditions of the ever-changing military family life situation – and helped us deal with a lot of challenges. [My child] is more patient and approachable now. He knows how to deal with stress when his father is away [deployed]. His grades and behaviour at school have improved as well, he has fewer outbursts and the teachers have noticed the difference as well.”

– Parent of a 9-year-old participant in the Active Child program (Behaviour)

SFI’s Parenting the Active Child Program focuses on child behaviour for ages 3 to 12. In this program, parents and their children work together to create structured plans to help manage specific challenges a child may experience during particular times or activities. For example, parents and children can work together to develop a plan to make outings such as a trip to the grocery store or long trip in the car more enjoyable by using program skills. Through this simple but structured and guided approach, parents together with their children and the coach can work toward and reward good behaviour. By using the family home as a base for learning rather than a clinic setting, many of the issues of stigma are avoided. Families receive a series of written materials and skill demonstration videos, delivered either through handbooks or by smart-website technology, which teach one new skill per week to implement as part of their daily living activities.

The SFI anxiety program for 6- to 17-year-olds, Chase Worries Away, helps family learn life skills to defeat worries such as separation anxiety, performance issues, social anxiety and specific fears that are commonly related to the challenges of military life. SFI also runs a program for children ages 5 to 12 called Dry Nights Ahead, which helps with nighttime bedwetting.

Coaches ensure stability and guidance throughout the program

Children and families are supported and guided throughout the SFI programs by highly trained and monitored coaches. These coaches engage in structured weekly telephone calls that follow protocolized scripts, complementing the material families receive. During each session, the family’s coach reviews the skill that has been developed throughout the week and uses evidence-based strategies, such as role-playing and verbal modelling, to practise the skills and assess progress.

Schedules are flexible and customizable to accommodate families regardless of where they are located or where they move. This flexibility and focus on distance coaching can be particularly valuable for military families, bridging the geographical divide during separations resulting from postings so that the continuum of care is maintained. Moreover, during a posting, coaches help the families plan for the transition and they remain available during and after to encourage the maintenance of skills. This focus on planning supports families during potentially disruptive transitions, such as during a change of school or daycare.

The coach can be a familiar, centralized contact/support for the family, regardless of the move location. Coaches have high military literacy – understanding of the unique experiences of military families and the “military life stressors” that can have an impact on military families, such as high mobility, extended and/or unexpected separation and risk. Care and support is customized to the realities and needs of each family.

“[The program] helped me quite a bit, especially in everything anxiety, I still have other issues, but in terms of anxiety it has become less of a problem for me, socially, being independent, things I wouldn’t have done before, school stress has reduced quite a bit. They were the main things I was focused toward, and this has decreased stress for me.”

– 16-year-old participant in the Chase Worries Away program (Anxiety)

 

Transferable learning: Flexible support for diverse and unique families

SFI programs have demonstrated success, with families reporting high satisfaction. Rigorous testing and randomized trials show positive outcomes, with lasting effects one year later, targeting mild and moderate conditions. Programs have been found to have an 85% or better success rate in overcoming the child’s presenting problems, with an attrition rate of less than 10%. Data shows a strong impact on strengthening family relationships, parental mood/stress scores and child academic performance.

Families and their children are unique, and there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution to manage mental health or behavioural or neurodevelopmental disorders. Flexibility in SFI program design and availability can enhance the use and effectiveness of mental health supports, since families can receive support outside of traditional clinic settings and schedules. By using distance coaching and continued family support through structured calls with coaches, families engaged with SFI can receive care that is flexible, effective and respectful of their experiences and realities.


About the Strongest Families Institute

The Strongest Families Institute (SFI) is a national, not-for-profit organization that delivers distance, evidence-based programs to children and families who face issues impacting mental health and well-being. Founded in 2011, SFI seeks to provide timely delivery of services to families when and where they are needed by using technology, research and highly skilled staff.

Over the years, SFI has formed many partnerships to improve its services. Some of these partnerships have helped them deliver services to military and Veteran families, including Military Family Services – Ottawa, Bell True Patriot Love Foundation (Bell Let’s Talk) and a project collaboration with CIMVHR.

To learn more about the Strongest Families Institute, visit their website or see their page in the Vanier Institute’s Military and Veteran Families in Canada: Collaborations and Partnerships Compendium.

The Strongest Families Institute can be contacted by phone at 1-866-470-7111 or email at info@strongestfamilies.com. They can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.


Published on Tuesday, September 27, 2016