When WSFP opened, the goal was to have a place for parents and children to come together in a safe environment, but the founders sought to offer more in the way of programming. The team experimented with many ideas over the decades and some of them stuck while others were adapted as Family Place evolved.
Most of you will know Circle Time, which was introduced in the early days to round off each drop-in session and say goodbye. But the team also offered parenting courses and couples classes for those who were interested. Co-founder, Ellen Leslie, wanted the focus to be on both the children and the parents.
One novel idea was to ask a friend and grandmother who had a good understanding of humanistic psychology – which recognized the importance of looking at the whole person and the uniqueness of each individual – to sit in the parents’ room quietly, occasionally knitting, and be available for anyone who wanted to talk, knowing that many mothers didn’t have their parents nearby and would appreciate interacting with the older generation. Over the years, this role has developed and is now taken on by trained staff.
Co-founder Ellen was influenced by her earlier involvement with the Wesbrook Parent Participation Preschool in Vancouver which introduced her to a number of useful parenting contacts including Dr. Alan Cashmore, a child psychiatrist, who was brought in as a speaker to West Side Family Place. Look out for more on Dr. Cashmore next week.