In addition to the momentous life-changes that come with welcoming a new baby, many young parents find themselves in dire need of both financial and emotional assistance. That was certainly the case with White Rock father Dustin Biega, 21, who “probably wouldn’t have been able to finish school” without the Options Community Services team helping him along the way.
Options supports individuals throughout Surrey, Delta, White Rock and Langley from pre-natal care all the way up to senior care. They help with housing, food security, child care, health care – including mental and emotional support – and tackling many other financial barriers.
Growing up while raising a child
When Biega became a father at just 16 years old, the new role completely changed the trajectory of his life. Everything else became a secondary concern as his and the baby’s mother’s first priority was their newborn son, Kyson.
With help from Options Community Services, Biega was able to graduate from high school, establish a career in construction and continue to learn how to be the best possible father to his four-year-old son.
“I wouldn’t have the option of going to college, it would have to be either me or (Kyson’s) mom,” Biega said, adding that he is focused on work right now, but may go back to school in the near future.
But before going to the organization, Biega and Kyson’s mother were trading off attending school, one going in the morning while the other took care of the baby, then switching spots for the afternoon. They didn’t know how long it would take them both to finish and their lives were so uncertain that, eventually, school had to be put on hold.
Biega was also on a Youth Agreement with the provincial government, which he aged out of on his 18th birthday. While in the agreement, he was able to get housing and financial assistance to pay for groceries, rent and baby supplies among other necessities.
Once that ended, Biega’s housing situation became unstable. Sometimes he lived with the parents of Kyson’s mother and sometimes the three were on their own.
After meeting with the team at Options, the family was supplied with daycare and financial support, meaning both young parents could return to high school and graduate together.
“They helped with food, during Christmas with presents, bus passes for getting to school, their parenting programs, too. It was a lot of support there, a good environment to learn how to grow up with a child,” Biega said.
Demographic is shifting
In recent years, Options has seen an increase in the number of male clients and now supports just as many fathers as mothers and just as many men as women, said Sherri Bailey, youth services assistant manager at Options Community Services.
Biega, in particular, says that he would not be where he is today had he not received their help.
“It was interesting going there… It wasn’t something I had really heard of before,” Biega recalled, adding that he had no idea that support for teenage fathers “was a thing,” but is grateful that it is.
Along with surprise comes gratitude for the team at Options. Biega sings the praises of every member working in the building who helped his family.
In the last quarter, Bailey has helped 43 young parents and an additional 20 youths through her role at Options.
Biega’s family benefited from educational workshops focused on parenting, handling finances and more, so that they could meet Options’ goal – that every client is able to learn how to help themselves.
“We’re not only a safe place to land but we’re also teaching them how to survive beyond us,” Bailey said.
Emergency funding needed
Women of Options — Gamechangers, a fundraising campaign that began last year, is made up of 50 women who are all dedicated to raising $25,000 each for a total of $1.5 million. These funds will go towards supporting youth and young adults. Last year’s campaign went to funding an affordable housing project in Newton.
The fundraising goal is the same this year, with the group shifting their focus to funding emergency-care for clients of Options Community Services.
“Everything that you would maybe get from a family unit, that an intact family unit could help you with, we are that… You still need support, you know. Nineteen is considered an adult, but when you’ve been pretty much taking care of yourself since you were 15, they’ve lost those young years. They’ve had to hit the ground running and figure everything out,” Bailey said.
Emergency medical and dental issues, gang-affiliation issues, homelessness and more are among the many concerns that people around the province are facing that are most difficult to support, Bailey said. Options is not equipped to handle these emergency situations because they are lacking the necessary funding.
For those interested in donating, visit www.options.bc.ca/women-options-2022-gamechangers.