Peace Parent Link says ‘farewell’

Peace River Parent Link’s new drop-in centre opened in the new Baytex Energy Centre in fall of 2019. If no new funding is approved by the provincial government it will close after March 31.

Susan Thompson
South Peace News

Local parents raised the alarm on social media when a Family Day event at the Baytex Energy Centre was also advertised as a “farewell” to Peace Parent Link.

Peace River’s Parent Link program has been operated by the Town of Peace River for the last five years. The Peace River Parent Link only moved into the new Baytex Energy Centre a few months ago, but the provincial government is making changes to the funding and operation model for Parent Link centres across the province.

Tanya Bell, director of Peace River Community Services, says the Peace Parent Link program has been 100 per cent funded through a grant from the provincial ministry of Children’s Services. The funding will be ending March 31.

“Peace Parent Link is hosting a ‘farewell’ to the program as it is currently named, although we are hopeful for the future,” Bell says.

The provincial government asked for bids on a new model for family and child focused services called Family Resource Networks. The Town of Peace River submitted a proposal in January for operation of a Family Resource Network to serve Peace River and region but has not heard back yet about the status of the bid.

“Alberta Children’s Services is to make a decision on the funding by mid-March and if Peace River’s bid is successful, the new program will operate from the Baytex Energy Centre starting April 1,” Bell says.

However, if successful, the program will restart with a new name and model, meaning it will no longer be Parent Link.

Northern Links Parent Link Network in Slave Lake and Wabasca, and Prairie Parent Link which serves High Prairie, Grouard, Enilda, Joussard, Faust, Kinuso, McLennan, Girouxville, and Sunset House, are also waiting to hear the results of their bids for new funding.

Children’s Services Minister Rebecca Schulz has said she hopes to reduce the $77 million in yearly government spending on the Parent Link programs to $65 million.

“Slashing an already-established grant program, forcing all facilities to close and then making them re-apply for a new grant, paying for how many bureaucrats to sift through those applications, only to approve the majority of them again, but forcing them to revamp and rehire, doesn’t sound efficient,” says Peace River parent Kristy Provost.

“Sounds like lots of money will be spent in an attempt to save it,” she adds.

“How is all the paperwork, political red tape and trouble of making them re-apply for the same thing saving money?” asks Lindsay Gauvreau.

“Other than making people think they are losing their support system. Because that is truly what PLC is, a support system for parents, and an education system that was deemed necessary after years of research.”

Many local parents say they have found the Parent Link program to be very valuable for their families.

“It was such an amazing resource for parents to connect and learn,” says Jolene Heinrichs.

Peace Parent Link currently has offices in Peace River and Fairview, and provides services to Manning, Grimshaw, Fairview, Peace River, Little Buffalo, and other communities.

The Peace River drop-in centre averages about 38-40 people a day and serves children up to age 17.

The Parent Link drop-in centre will be open on Family Day from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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