In 2003, the Jane/Finch Centre and Black Creek Communitiy Health Centre began a converstaion about the supports that were lacking in the Jane and Finch community for women who were graduating out of teen mom support programs. After consulting with community agencies, community residences and completing a through literature review, it was determined that:
The number of sole-support female-led families in Toronto has increased. These families are more likely to experience stress and social isolation than two-parent households.
Sole-support mothers and their children are at a higher risk of poverty due in part to the cost related to raising children, along with reduced labour market opportunities and lack of affordable child care.
- Low-income mothers want to become financially independent and find paid work, however they are unable to find well paying jobs. The majority of jobs available to these women are low income jobs with high rates of employee turnover.
- Many women do not have the education or the skills to qualify for existing job vacancies.
Many young mothers have not completed high school due to pregnancy and a lack of support within the school system.
Many women who leave social assistance for low-wage positions have to return to the welfare system.
Many women are unaware about what is available to them. Resources are not accessible, due in part to social isolation but also a lack of appropriate programs.
Many women lack a social support system to help them pursue either employment or further education. They have a low sense of self and many are involved in physically, emotionally and/or verbally abusive relationships.
This information provided a base for the creation of a “one-stop” program for sole-support mothers to access the information, support and tools necessary to move towards economic self-sufficiency. In 2005, WMF launched with 20 women accepted into the inaugaral group. After running the program for seven years, WMF has learned a great deal about what is necessary to support a young, sole-support female-led family transition from poverty to self-sufficiency. Through participant feedback and the support of our partner agencies, Women Moving Forward has become an award-winning program with national support. To date, we have worked with over 175 women in the Jane and Finch community, impacting the lives of over 300 children living below the poverty line.