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The Salvation Army’s Bethany Hope Centre has a wide range of programming designed to impact many different aspects of young people’s lives.THE SALVATION ARMY

The Salvation Army’s Bethany Hope Centre has been providing social services in Ottawa for more than 100 years, first serving young, single mothers and then, over time, adapting its programs to support emerging needs. In recent years, it has developed a holistic approach to improve the overall well-being of young families in the city.

“Serving the needs of the whole family also means an increased focus on recognizing the importance of fathers in the context of family and of raising children,” says Naomi Praamsma, the Centre’s executive director.

Historically, Bethany Hope Centre staff worked with young women, and very often the father wasn’t involved.

“From what we know about child development and attachment, if we can have dad involved in the first two years in a meaningful way, then there is an increase in the potential for him to stay involved with his child in the long term,” says Ms. Praamsma.

While the family unit itself may break down, if both parents are stronger as individuals, then they are positioned to make decisions in the best interest of the child, she says.

However, there are many aspects that need to be addressed to improve the overall well-being of young families. In addition to its services around parenting, the Centre also offers pre- and post-natal support and health and nutrition, housing, life skills, spiritual care, education, high school completion, employment and entrepreneurship programs.

Responding to recent research, the Centre adjusted the age requirement – from 26 to 29 years – for people accessing its programs. Brain development research indicates that adolescence is extended, and that young people are often making real change around the age of 25, when there’s full brain development, says Ms. Praamsma.

“We were missing an opportunity. We have seen really improved outcomes by being able to work with people that little bit longer. They weren’t quite ready to leave the programs. By the time our young people hit 30, they are in a different place in life. They really are much better positioned. Most of them have finished school, or gone on to post-secondary, or they’ve found employment – they’re just more ready at that point,” she says.

The Centre’s wide range of programming underpins its holistic approach. Ms. Praamsma says many times a young person will come to the Centre for one reason – often for help with education – and then discover the range of services such as the health clinic, parenting classes and a play group for children.

“Their engagement with the program increases, and we see a lot of really well-rounded growth that happens because we’re able to impact so many different aspects of that young person’s life. That’s when we see them moving towards their potential,” she says.

“Even when people leave The Salvation Army program, they often retain some links to the Centre through initiatives such as the once-a-month alumni afternoon. This addresses the feeling that people were losing a part of their ‘family’ when they left, and it’s also an opportunity for them to come back and tell us about their successes,” adds Ms. Praamsma.

Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved in its creation.

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