Beat Bureaucracy

Resources in Vancouver for single-parent families

Step 1  Find out what programs could help you

  • Call Information Services Vancouver   Dial 211
  • or go to
  • Call the Health Information & Resource Centre  604-267-2692

Ask if there are programs that you or your child may be eligible for.  Let them know if you want help with something specific—for example, a parents’ support group, emergency childcare, or financial assistance with dental care.


Step 2  Apply for the programs

Fill out all of the forms and provide all of the information requested. If you aren't sure what the bureaucracy is asking you to do, call and ask them to help you understand. Don't send in incomplete applications--that will only delay the process of deciding whether you will receive assistance.


If your application is declined and you feel your request is valid....


Step 3  Find an advocate to help you

If the service you want is from the federal government, call your Member of Parliament (MP). For the name and phone number of your MP, call 1-800-622-6232.

►If the service you want is from the provincial (BC) government, call your Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA). For the name and number of your MLA, call 604-660-2421.

►If the service you want is from the city of Vancouver, dial 311 and ask for the office of the mayor or a city councilor.

►Legal advocacy and information: jump down to the last section on this web page.

Other advocates in Vancouver

►St. Paul’s Anglican Church   604-683-4287
►Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre  604-681-8480
►First United Church Mission  604-681-8365
►Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre (housing issues)  604-255-0546
►Your family doctor (health issues)
►Immigrant Services Society of BC (immigration and refugee issues) 604-684-7498


Work with your advocate.  Together you will need to:

  • Find out who's in charge

You or your advocate should ask to speak with a supervisor. Supervisors have the authority to interpret the bureaucracy's rules and find in your favour even if your situation doesn't quite fit the rules.

  • Be persuasive

Explain in detail why you should receive assistance. Begin by phone, but always put your appeal in writing. Attach evidence—bureaucracies run on paper.

  • Be persistent

Don’t give up because you’re tired or frustrated—if you need the service, keep trying. Let your advocate help. If there is an official appeal process, use it.


Programs and services for single-parent families in Vancouver

This list, last updated in July 2010, provides examples of the wide range of services available. For an up-to-date list with current contact information, get in touch with the organizations listed above under "Step 1: Find out what programs can help you."

Medical, drug and nutrition information

Dial 811 to speak to a nurse, pharmacist or nutritionist.

Health Information & Resource Centre  604-267-2692


Financial assistance

Income assistance   Ministry of Housing and Social Assistance    

Includes help with bus passes, camp fees, Christmas supplement; moving, transportation and living expenses, school startup supplement, security deposits, and health (medications, dental, physician care, medical equipment)  

Subsidized housing   B.C. Housing—housing for low-income families

BC Healthy Kids Program—dental care and eyeglasses     

The program helps middle and low-income families with the costs of basic dental care and prescription eyewear for their children. Eligible clients include dependent children under 19 years of age who receive Medical Services Plan (MSP) premium assistance through the Ministry of Health. Families who have been approved for MSP premium assistance will be signed up with the Program. No additional application form is needed to register.

Child Care subsidy    
A monthly payment to assist eligible British Columbia families with the cost of child care.

Helps eligible British Columbia residents with the expense of eligible prescription drugs and designated medical supplies.

Leisure access program card, Vancouver Parks Board   
Provides 50% off swimming and skating lessons, fitness centres, Stanley Park railroad and farmyard, and admission to Parks Board facilities such as Van Dusen Gardens.


Participation programs for parents and children

YWCA Vancouver Single Mothers’ Services  
Single mothers’ support groups are offered in various locations around Vancouver. They present workshops about finances and employment. Support group members are eligible to receive monthly food vouchers, YWCA thrift shop vouchers, bursaries, membership in the YWCA Health and Fitness Centre, Christmas hampers, applications for single mothers’ housing, and information and referral to other YWCA and community resources.

Single Mothers/Fathers Support Network                                                                                 
604-732-3300 Ext. 2
Offers workshops on life skills and community building. Registered health practitioners provide services by donation (acupuncture, counseling, nutrition, massage, yoga, etc.)

Healthiest Babies Possible   

Evergreen Community Health Centre  3425 Crowley Drive, Vancouver 
Prenatal outreach program offering free and confidential services for pregnant women in Vancouver and Richmond. Services include nutrition and prenatal lifestyle counselling, opportunities to meet other pregnant women, breastfeeding information, vitamins and food coupons, labour and delivery information, and community referrals. 

Nobody's Perfect Parenting Program 
604-255-9841 (William Street)   604-435-0323 (Joyce Street)    604-216-1650 (E. Hastings)
Free program, 6-8 weeks; presented at the East Side Family Place and Collingwood Neighbourhood House

Family Places and Centres
Eastside, Westside, South Vancouver and Marpole Family Places
Collingwood, Cedar Cottage, Little Mountain, Mount Pleasant, Gordon, Kiwassa, South Vancouver and Frog Hollow Neighbourhood Houses, Crabtree Corner (Hastings)

Children/Parents Program  
604-436-1025  Multicultural Family Support Services, 4980 Kingsway, Burnaby (available to Vancouver residents)

Offers individual and group counselling to children and youth of various ethnocultural backgrounds, including culturally sensitive support and counselling about issues of violence and parent-child conflict. Mom and Tots Group with recreational activities and group discussions for parents and young children. Provides a supportive environment for caregivers and children who want to practise their English. The Single Mom Support Group offers groups in English, Chinese, and Punjabi to single mothers of young children. Childcare is available. Through the Bicultural Family Mediation program, offers mediation to Burnaby parents and their children/youth.

Volunteer grandparents   

Encourages the development of strong, healthy families and builds positive relationships between generations.

Frugal Living website
Articles about living on one income


Participation programs for children

Boys and Girls Clubs
604-325-9612 (Victoria Dr.)   604-879-9118 (St. George St.)     604-874-0117 (East 6th)
After-school and summer recreation and education programs; program fees may be waived

Big Brothers 
604-876-2447   Big Sisters  604-873-2545
In-school and after-school activities and mentoring

YMCA Kids' Clubs   
Before- and after-school programs provide children aged five to twelve with a place to be with their friends, create and contribute and develop leadership skills.

The KidSafe Project   
Provides safe environments for at-risk inner-city elementary school students when schools are traditionally closed. Offers innovative learning programs, nutritious food and leadership programs.

Other sources of information about services and programs

City of Vancouver Contact Centre   Vancouver government programs
Dial 311

Inquiry BC     B.C. government programs

Service Canada   Federal programs
1-800-O Canada

Vancouver Status of Women


Legal services and information

Family Maintenance Enforcement Program  

Monitors and enforces maintenance orders and agreements (for either child support or spousal support). If payments aren't made, the program tries to get payment voluntarily. If this doesn't work, it can take enforcement action.

Vancouver Family Justice Centre 
Assists parents who are going through a separation to resolve child custody, access, guardianship, child support, and spousal support issues. Family justice counsellors are accredited family mediators who provide dispute resolution services. They can also make referral to Parenting After Separation programs, legal aid, other legal services, and community resources. Focus is on serving separating or divorcing parents who are eligible for legal aid, and others of modest means.

Parenting After Separation  

Three-hour session provides education and information to separating parents about the impact of separation on children, child support guidelines, and options available (legal and otherwise). Focuses on how children and parents experience separation, and provides participants with tools to support them in making decisions in their children's best interests

Legal Services Society 
Provides information on law, legal rights, self-help and sources of assistance

Atira Women’s Resource Society
604-331-1407 ext. 105
Supports women and children who experience violence

This resource list is provided by Beat Bureaucracy, which provides strategic advice to people facing bureaucratic obstacles. Email:  Website: