Sally Livingstone remembers the moment 15 years ago this holiday season that set her on the path to creating the North Shore non-profit organization Spectrum Mothers Support Society.
“It was Christmas 2005 when I was approached by a Public Health Nurse who had seen a mother with a new baby who had no support and was struggling. She asked if I could help,” explained Livingstone in an interview with Daily Hive.
“The nurse knew me because I am a long time foster parent caring for high-needs babies and had worked with her for many years. I agreed and went to visit this mother and her little one for a few hours a week.”
She calls the difference in the mother’s life “incredible.”
Mom was able to do things like shower, rest, and go for a walk. And, after spending some time together, the mother opened up about her challenges and Livingstone was able to offer positive mentoring and support.
“After that, I began to think about how many other mothers were in the same situation. So for the next few years, I offered help where I could, recruited a few people to help me, and funded it myself. The need was definitely there.”
Spectrum supports new mothers with children under the age of five in difficult and challenging situations. They provide one-on-one caregivers and mentors who give practical and emotional support. Priority is given to low-income families (which may include teenage mothers and new immigrants) and mothers of children with disabilities, developmental delays or behavioural challenges.
COVID-19 presented challenges for Spectrum as their caregivers were not able to go into the homes of the clients. They were able to continue supporting them through phone calls, texts, and providing essential items. As restrictions changed, caregivers and mentors gradually returned to in-person support.
“Our clients are new mothers who need someone to be a friend, to encourage them, to just be there for them. It’s really as simple as that. Help the mother, save a child,” said Livingstone.
“We have amazing resources on the North Shore, but our mothers are in such crisis situations that initially they are not able to access these. Our goal is to support them as they reach out to connect and become part of the community.”
“The help that Spectrum Mothers initially offers is life-saving and the relationship with the caregivers is life-changing. They have a friend for life. The clients appreciate the help of someone who is reliable, trustworthy and non-judgemental.”
Spectrum has helped hundreds of families since 2005 and accepts referrals for family support from professional groups and organizations. The society also has trained and experienced pre and postpartum doulas available to work with clients during pregnancy and the first few weeks after delivery.
Spectrum is a registered charity funded by grants and donations from community groups and individuals. To donate, please visit their website.