Catholic Family Service of Calgary
Our Story Why We Exist
I got pregnant at 16. A few months after my seventeenth birthday, I had a little boy named Dominick. Being so young and having a tiny baby to care for was terrifying.
Thankfully, I had the full support of my parents. The only thing they insisted on was that I finish my education. I started researching schools that would allow me to bring my son, because I could not afford child care. When I heard about the Louise Dean Centre, I knew it was my only option.
It wasn't until I started at Louise Dean in September 2001 that I realized how much of a blessing this school was. I was able to start working part-time after being approved for financial aid through the school. I met many strong and amazing girls who were in the same situation I was. They could all relate to what I was going through and, best of all, there was no judgment. My teachers were equally amazing; in fact all the staff were very supportive and caring. Louise Dean began to feel more like a second home than a school.
Having the Learning Centre within the school to provide affordable child care while we studied was a tremendous privilege. I will always remember Mindy, who was Dominick's caregiver. She was the most wonderful woman I had ever met. All the anxiety and worry I had about leaving my young son with a stranger was instantly cured when I met Mindy and the other Learning Centre staff. They treated every child as if they were their own.
After Louise Dean, I went to Bow Valley College for a year and then enrolled in the social work degree program at Mount Royal University. Then I met my now-husband Andrew. He was a pilot with Air Canada at the time and based in Toronto. After a few months of long hard thinking, I made the decision to be with him. I had to give up my acceptance to Mount Royal, but I enrolled in a business and health care college in Ontario and went on to graduate with a diploma in community social work.
I am proud to say that today I am the mother of two amazing boys! Dominick is now 16 years old and in Grade 11. He is a very talented electric guitarist and in his second year of Midget hockey. In 2013, Andrew and I welcomed another little boy. He is the funniest, kindest, most caring little guy you will ever meet. He is obsessed with hockey, airplanes, dinosaurs, skateboarding, soccer and BMXing. If you ask him how old he is, he will tell you he is 16, just like his big brother.
I have always imagined the day when I would be in a position to give back to the place that gave me my start in life. And for the past three years, my family has been in that position. For me it's more than just donating items to these young moms. Being involved in the Santa Sleigh Project is my way of showing them that just because they had a baby younger than most, success is not impossible – all of them can go on to fulfill their dreams.
Thank you to Elisa Revoy for sharing her story with us after participating in the 2016 Santa Sleigh Project at Louise Dean Centre.
The Louise Dean Centre is a partnership between Catholic Family Service, Calgary Board of Education and Alberta Health Services. Louise Dean Centre provides pregnant and parenting teens, their children and families with educational and health care support, as well as helping them deal with the emotional and social needs that come with pregnancy and parenting. For more information, please call us at 403.777.7635.
Our Impact What We Do
Catholic Family Service (CFS) builds stronger families. We don't turn anyone away, no matter what they've been through or where they come from. At CFS, we are driven by compassion - not religion. Our counselling, education and community outreach programs are effective because we don't prescribe solutions - we build relationships. We know that when people feel safe and understood, it can profoundly change the course of their lives. With us, people are supported to work through issues like family breakdown, trauma and abuse, so they can move forward and live the life they've always wanted.
“Humanity Above All Else” is our mantra. In 1957, CFS was founded on the belief that counselling should be available to everyone regardless of their ability to pay. In the 1960s, CFS took a bold, unorthodox stance and prioritized services to “unwed” mothers. Over the years, we have continued to innovate. Recognizing the importance of community connection, we expanded programming to connect vulnerable people to bigger society systems, including schools and communities. Everyone needs a place to belong.
In 2009, CFS launched the Unlocking Potential (UP) Foundation to work directly with the community to provide long-term, sustainable funding to our critical services.
MISSION: Catholic Family Service delivers high-impact solutions that build healthy individuals, families and communities.
VISION: Vulnerable Calgarians thrive.
Collaboration and community building
Accessible, barrier-free, and response service
Our Programs How We Do It
CFS builds stronger families through approximately 20 programs that facilitate good mental health and wellbeing, empower parents and leaders in their families and communities, promote healthy child development, and foster success in school for people of all ages. We focus on providing affordable, accessible, and respectful services to people of all ages, faiths and cultures. Over the past 60 years, our services have been woven into the communities where our clients live, work, and go to school. Services include the Louise Dean Centre, Community Services, and Counselling Services.
At 15 years old, pregnant and scared, "A" made the bold decision to parent and stay in school. With our support at the Louise Dean Centre, this young mother beat the typical stereotype associated with youth pregnancy. She graduated from high school, obtained a Master's Degree, and is now a solid and contributing Calgary citizen. Her child, now a young adult, is also thriving and seeking a higher education.
- "To call the Louise Dean Centre a school is a vast understatement. They had everything that we needed right there...and they met us on our level - barely out of childhood and heavy with the responsibilities of an adult - without the resources or wisdom of one. What I love about the program is that they seem to have identified every barrier that a young mother could face and then worked diligently to eradicate them. I had a team of people there to support me and if I didn't show up for school, they would find me and ask 'How can we help you to get to school today? What do you need?'" - a Louise Dean Centre graduate.
At CFS, heros like this young woman find the strength within their adversity to move on and create positive, healthy change.
Affordable Counselling helps families, couples, adults and children work through issues that create barriers to living a healthy life.
- “It doesn’t seem like that long ago that I felt heavy and hopeless. Things have changed a great deal since I began counselling. I've stayed strong through some tough decisions. My daughter has improved 100%. The anger and potential self-destructive behavior are gone. She went from wanting to run away to never wanting to move out!
- I am gaining more confidence every day and the anxiety attacks are virtually gone. I bought a house and am very happy there. I remember leaving my counsellor's office the last time feeling a little lighter. Those feelings have continued with every step I have taken since then.” - Client, General Counselling
Community Services help strengthen children and families by building on the connections they have with schools and neighbourhoods.
“Our family had drifted apart - maybe we just never really knew how to be a family. As parents, we were so caught up in the tension of trying to make a living, we forgot to enjoy our family. The Families and Schools Together (F&ST) program brought us back together. Now we love to turn off the TV, eat together and share stories about our day. Before F&ST, I thought that our kids didn’t talk to us because they did not have much to say. Now I think that they didn’t talk to us because we didn’t know how to listen.” - Parent, F&ST
Fathers are making positive changes in their lives too.
- "No one in my family had ever graduated. So when I dropped out of Grade 10, it was no big deal. With lots of time on my hands, I got tangled up with the law. After my girlfriend got pregnant, I knew I wanted something different for us but it seemed like every solution needed money - something we didn't have." - Larry, Never Too Late graduate
Larry heard about the Never Too Late Program, a free adult GED preparation program. Now that fits into his budget! Larry says, "I wanted to be my daughter's hero and for her to know that her dad thinks education matters and was willing to work for it. The Never Too Late Program connected me to other students with similar goals and program staff that really cared about me. I'd never experienced that before."
Louise Dean Centre supports pregnant and parenting teens achieve success for themselves and their children through counselling, parenting education, and early childhood programs.
- "Reflecting on what I have been through, I realize what a strong and capable person I am. The team at Louise Dean supported and guided me through a sometimes painful process. Now I am a better person and a better mom." - Student, Louise Dean Centre
Our Requests What You Can Do
We welcome your gifts of time, talent and treasure to help build stronger families. To discuss options, please contact Jessica Williams, Managing Director of Stakeholder Relations at 403-205-5222 firstname.lastname@example.org
Our Greatest Needs
Affordable Counselling Affordable Counselling helps individuals, couples and families to work through issues that create barriers to living a healthy, happy and fulfilling life. A range of life events – daily stress, loss and grief, parenting challenges, marital or relationship struggles, trauma, and addiction – are addressed by Counselling Services at CFS. Counselling improves well-being, reduces mental health concerns, and strengthens relationships.
- Painful and expensive outcomes (such as hospitalization) can be prevented when individuals and families access counselling. For parents who experienced abuse or neglect in childhood, counselling ensures their trauma is not passed on to their children: counselling is an intervention strategy for one generation of a family and a prevention strategy for the next.
- Counselling Services at CFS strives to eliminate barriers clients may face in accessing counselling. More than 60% of people who access counselling at CFS have household incomes less than $60,000. Donations to the counselling program ensure that professional counselling services are available to people at a rate they can afford.
- $250,000 is required annually to ensure that professional services continue to be available at a rate that does not present a barrier to individuals and families with lower incomes. More than 1,000 people access Counselling Services each year.
Families and Schools Together Families and Schools Together strengthens children by building relationships between the people who care about them: parents, teachers, school staff, and other members of their community. These relationships are an important protective factor for children to grow up happy and healthy.
Child development can be thought of as a teeter-totter that can be tipped one way or another. Positive experiences get placed on one side; negative experiences on the other. Weight can be added to or taken from a child’s teeter-totter at any time, and every adult in a child’s life influences the direction teeter-totter tips.
- Families and Schools Together tips the teeter-totter towards the positive side by heaping on strong family bonds, healthy family communication, and frequent, positive communication between parents and teachers. The program also relieves some of the weight on the negative side, such as parent stress and isolation.
- Resilience happens when the scale tips positive although it's stacked with negative weight. By strengthening the child's network of support, Families and Schools Together helps children to be more resilient, no matter what they encounter as they grow up.
- Families and Schools Together operates in public and separate schools. Families meet together with teachers and CFS staff in their child's school once per week for nine weeks. Each nine-week session serves approximately 15 families.
- $100,000 is required annually to ensure Families and Schools Together can serve over 100 families at seven elementary schools.
Louise Dean Centre To provide a stable and nurturing environment for their children, young mothers have to build a number of skills to get and keep their own lives on track while also mastering positive parenting practices. This multi-skill development can be thought of as a rope with interwoven strands. At Louise Dean Centre, young mothers have the opportunity learn and weave together academic and learning skills (CBE); healthy life style skills (AHS); and parenting, financial literacy, healthy relationship and life skills (CFS). Although it takes time, the ropes young mothers weave become anchors for the healthy development of their children.
- If one anchor for healthy child development is good, two is better. That's why CFS launched Fathers Moving Forward for fathers under age 26. Fathers Moving Forward helps young fathers weave their own ropes with skills in parenting, co-parenting, employability and financial literacy. Regardless of a romantic relationship, when young moms and dads weave their ropes together, they create a secure environment where their child can begin weaving their own skills rope. These ropes begin forming in infancy, so a swift community response is required to ensure young moms and dads are able to raise healthy children.
- $175,000 is required to offer skill development through parent education, counselling, and groups to the 400+ young parents who access Louise Dean Centre each year.
Never Too Late The Never Too Late program provides academic, social and emotional support so low-income adults within target communities can successfully complete the GED exam, an Alberta Education High School Equivalency Diploma.
- Never Too Late is embedded in communities where income levels and educational achievement rates are low compared with the norm for Calgary. By offering a community-based option and emotional support at no cost, Never Too Late reduces the barriers students may face when accessing a GED program, such as transportation, fees and school supplies, and anxiety.
- Never Too Late serves the greater Bowness area. These communities, including Ranchlands, Silver Springs, and Montgomery, were selected because of their high drop-out rate – a concern for communities, because people are more likely to live in poverty when they don't have a high school diploma. A retrospective study with Never Too Late graduates in 2012 showed that the students who increased their income after passing the GED exam did so by an average of $17,000. Never Too Late also breaks the cycle of low education and poverty in families: a top predictor of a child's likelihood of completing high school is having a parent who is a high school graduate.
- $180,000 is required to expand Never Too Late into a new community, as the program is currently offered only in the greater Bowness area. Each year 60 students participate in Never Too Late.