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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Educational programs for lone parent families in the city of Vancouver Heath, Jean


The main purpose of this thesis was to investigate the characteristics of lone parent families and the types of educational programs available to them in the City of Vancouver. Based on the investigation, the study outlines factors underlying the ineffectiveness of some of these educational programs and offers recommendations for action. The initial phases of this study were prompted by a grant from the Continuing Education Division of the British Columbia Ministry of Education to carry out two research projects on the lone parent family in the summer of 1980. The first phase of the study consisted of the analysis of census data on lone parent families in Canada and the second phase consisted of the compilation of an annotated bibliography on the subject of the lone parent family. The results were published jointly by the Vancouver School Board and the Ministry of Education under the respective titles of Lone Parent Families in Canada and British Columbia and Lone Parent Families: A Selected and Annotated Bibliography. In subsequent phases of the study, data on educational programs for lone parent families in the City of Vancouver were collected through a series of interviews conducted with educators who were either working with lone parent families in the setting of public education institutions or in conjunction with these institutions in the calendar year of 1981-82. A set of criteria was established to define the group of programs under study and representatives from the following government ministry, public institutions, and social agencies were Interviewed for data on educational programs for lone parent families in the City of Vancouver: 1. The Ministry of Human Resources, Victoria 2. The University of British Columbia, Women Student's Office 3. Vancouver Community College, Vancouver k. Douglas College, New Westminster 5. The City of Vancouver Health Department 6. Community Centres in Vancouver a. False Creek b. Britannia Community Services Centre c. Thunderbird Neighbourhood Centre 7. Family Services of Greater Vancouver 8. Y.W.C.A., Vancouver 9. The People's Law School, Vancouver 10. Single Parent Groups, Greater Vancouver 11. Vancouver School Board, Career and Community Education Services 12. New Westminster School Board, Continuing Education, New Westminster 13. The National Council of Welfare, Ottawa Ik. Federated Anti-Poverty Group of B. C, Vancouver The effort yielded data on a variety of educational programs available to lone parent families, but only those programs which met the established criteria were included in this study. The analysis of the 1976 Census data yielded the following statistical picture of lone parent families in Canada, British Columbia, Greater Vancouver, and the City of Vancouver: [Table omitted] In the five-year intercensal period between 1971 and 1976, the total number of lone parent families in Canada increased by l7.l per cent compared to an increase of just 13.0 per cent among husband-wife families. As an indication of significance in Canadian society, one in ten families in 1976 was a lone parent family. The incidence of lone parenthood was found to be highest in urban centres with a population of 100,000 and over. A total of 685,915 children of under 18 years of age were found living in lone parent families throughout Canada in 1976, and of the total number of lone parent families 83.3 per cent were headed by women and only 16.7 per cent by men. The average lone parent family had 1.9 children, and families headed by women appeared to be larger than families headed by men. The largest group of children belonged to the age group of 6 to 14. When the socio-economic characteristics of lone parent families were analyzed, it was found that 36.1 per cent of the total parents in Canada had less than grade 9 schooling. In view of the general pervasiveness of undereducation among the group, it was not surprising to find that only 47.5 per cent of the group were employed. Among those who were employed, there was a vast discrepancy between the sexes. Only 46.7 per cent of the female lone parents were employed compared to 73.5 per cent of the male lone parents. The typical lone parent was a woman who had two children and required social assistance due to her unemployed status, her relatively low level of education, and her general susceptibility to poverty. A report released by the National Council of Welfare (1979) showed that 44 per cent of all Canada's female lone parents were poor in 1975. Educational programs for lone parents and their families were conducted at all levels of public education institutions in the City of Vancouver in the calendar year of 1981-82. Some of these institutions worked in close conjunction with community centres and social agencies in the city. The majority of the programs offered, however, succeeded in reaching only a very small percentage of the total lone parent families in the city. Various attempts by the Ministry of Education to introduce new programs met with only limited success and a number of programs were terminated due to the lack of interest on the part of lone parents and their families. Yet an examination of the needs of lone parent families and the goals of educational programs offered revealed a high degree of congruency between the two. Alternative explanations for the ineffectiveness of program were sought from theories pertaining to needs and participation patterns in adult education; and it was concluded that the failure of educational programs for lone parent families lay In a variety of factors including social and psychological barriers which hindered members of the target population from active participation.

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