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Block Parent program sees revival in interest since start of pandemic

Click to play video: 'Riverview N.B. group starting Block Parent program'
Riverview N.B. group starting Block Parent program
WATCH: The Block Parent Program of Canada says it is experiencing a spike in interest since the start of the pandemic. The child protection program has been helping kids in crisis for more than 50 years but its popularity fell off in the late 90s. The latest to join the revival is a group in Riverview, N.B. that is concerned about an increase in youth bullying. Shelley Steeves reports. – Aug 29, 2022

The Block Parent Program of Canada says it has been experiencing a spike in interest from communities across the country looking to revive the child-protection program since the start of the pandemic.

“We were astounded that we were getting inquiries on how to be a Block Parent, number one, or how to start up a program and it was from every province,” said Linda Patterson, the president of the Block Parent Program of Canada.

The child protection program has been helping kids and youth in crisis for more than 50 years. Started in the late 1960s, the volunteer-based program offers kids, or anyone, in distress a safe door to knock on for help.

Once 250,000 homes strong across Canada, Patterson said the popularity of Block Parents died off in the late 1990s.

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But interest in the program has been growing since the pandemic began.

“Even the Northwest Territories, they were sending emails,” said Patterson.

Patterson said the program has been popular in pockets of Quebec, Alberta and Ontario for a number of years. But since the start of the pandemic, she has been getting inquiries from communities across the country, which she believes may be linked to people seeking a sense of safety amid pandemic stress.

The latest to join the revival is a group of Riverview, N.B., citizens concerned over what they see as an increase in youth bullying over the last three years.

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“A lot of people wanted to create some sort of action and the idea came about of trying to bring back the Block Parent Program,” said Riverview resident Jason Savage, who is spearheading the revival in New Brunswick.

The Riverview program was launched in mid-August and there are already plans to expand it into neighbouring Moncton and Dieppe, said Savage, who continues to help recruit and train volunteers.

Savage said he is hoping to visit with schools in the region this coming fall to help educate today’s youth about the Block Parent program.

“We are going to begin educating the younger generation on what the program is and what the sign means so when they see it they know what it is for,” said Savage.

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Click to play video: 'Block parent program makes a return to Saskatchewan'
Block parent program makes a return to Saskatchewan

Anne Bissonnette of Riverview decided to follow in her mother’s footsteps and become a volunteer.

“My mother was a Block Parent in the 1980s so I am a second-generation block parent,” said Bissonnette, who was not surprised by the spike in interest.

“These days, especially, after COVID anxiety is at a peak now,” she said.

Bissonnette said she spent much of her childhood trying to escape bullies and abusers, feeling alone and unsafe in her own neighbourhood, which is why she chose to place the red and white sign in her own window.

“I would end up walking and walking and try to deal with it alone.”

According to the Block Parent Program of Canada, volunteers in every household over the age of 12 require mandatory criminal records checks and the support of the local police.

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“We have to make sure that we do our due diligence and keep this program as safe as possible,” said Patterson. “Anyone who wants to be a Block Parent must go to their police detachment to be screened and you have to have the police involvement and support.”

Bissonnette says it was worth the effort if she can help just one person.

She also hopes that people seeing the sign in her window will also bring back something she believes has been lost in recent years — a sense of community.

“I am hoping that neighbours will talk to neighbours again ’cause we have lost that,” she said.

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