SELF (Safe-Space for an Early Learning Foundation)

|SELF is a pilot program focusing on early literacy of children living with their mothers in second stage transitional housing

About SELF

The Safe-Space for an Early Learning Foundation (SELF) Project is an innovative pilot developed by the Mothers Matter Centre (MMC) that launched in April 2022 and will continue until the end of March 2025. Through SELF, the MMC will adapt its flagship HIPPY (Home Instruction for Parents of Pre-school Youngsters) program to serve mothers and their children living in second-stage transitional housing.

The partner shelters are located in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

How will SELF meet the post-pandemic needs of women and their children?

The COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to increased violence against women, resulting in a higher number of women and children fleeing their homes to live in transitional shelters. 

Women typically stay in second-stage transitional housing for one to two years. It is an uncertain and trying time for both mothers and their children. Mothers may lack the time, resources, or confidence to effectively engage their pre-school children in early learning, posing a grave concern when these are the most formative learning years for children. 

Due to the gap in structured early learning opportunities for children living with their mothers in transitional housing, some children are slipping through the cracks. SELF seeks to close this gap and pilot a high-quality early learning program to serve mothers and their children living in second stage shelters.

Our partners will engage mothers using an inclusive and flexible early-learning model. Mothers will spend 15 minutes a day, five days a week, with their children working on high-quality structured early learning activities. This will prepare children to do well at school and in life. It will also strengthen the mother-child bond which is vital to the child’s development and wellbeing in the early years. Mothers and children will also be able to build community by connecting with other families living in similar circumstances.

Families enrolled in the program will receive:

Weekly home visits

Monthly group meetings for mothers (with childcare provided)

Bi-weekly play-groups

Quarterly field visits

Will parents be given the necessary tools to participate?

Yes! Through SELF, parents will be given the tools they need to provide their children with pre-school learning in transitional or affordable housing, which in turn will lead to an increase in mothers’ overall well-being and confidence, and a strengthened mother-child bond.

In addition, this week YWCA Canada announced the launch of Canada’s first-ever National Emergency Survivor Support Fund, in partnership with 12 of its member associations across the country including YWCA Hamilton. The YWCA’s fund provides women, gender-diverse people and their families experiencing intimate partner/domestic violence and current residents of emergency shelters with immediate financial support to escape abusive situations and begin rebuilding their lives.

What does SELF cost?

The SELF program is completely free of cost!

A word from Raine Liliefeldt, the Interim CEO & Director of Member Services at YWCA Canada…

“All families have been through so much during the pandemic, but families facing domestic violence, housing precarity, and financial insecurity have faced even more momentous challenges,” said Sandra Parker, Director of Child and Youth Services. “This program will help families heal, move forward, and start a new post-pandemic chapter.”

“The creation of a support payment for survivors was the number one demand voiced by women and gender diverse people experiencing intimate partner and domestic violence. Until this urgent and unmet need is addressed by government, YWCA Canada is taking action to help survivors escape violence and rebuild their lives”

To learn more about the program and how you can help, please contact

Emma Reilly McKay, Strategic Communications Specialist, YWCA Hamilton: ereillymckay@ywcahamilton.org 

Amanda Arella, Director of Public Policy, Advocacy & Strategic Communications, YWCA Canada: Aarella@ywcacanada.ca 

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