Family Dynamics – strengthening families and communities for 80 years

By Holly Puckall and Millie Braun

Winnipeg in the 1930s:

The stock market crashed at the end of 1929, the price of wheat fell to below the cost of seed and the Great Depression smothered the Prairies with poverty and unemployment. On top of that, 1930 was the start of a ten year drought and dust storms. Many were forced to move from farms to the cities to search for new jobs. In 1932, the unemployment rate in Winnipeg was the second highest in Canada.

In 1934, the Junior League initiated a study of the social service needs in Winnipeg. Not surprisingly, this study discovered that families were under great stress and that an agency was needed to focus on the needs of the “family” as the most basic unit of our society. The agency’s founders realized that our community would only be strong, if families were strong and healthy.

On Oct. 1, 1936, the Family Bureau Counselling Service was established and housed within the Community Chest (now the United Way) with funding provided by the Junior League, the Winnipeg Foundation and the Community Chest. The first service offered was counselling followed by 20 housekeepers from the Children’s Bureau who joined the Family Bureau.

The Family Bureau saw its job as strengthening community ties through quality work with families to improve their well-being. The original constitution stated that as long as family life was of importance to society, the agency would have an important role to play.

With the name changed to Family Dynamics, the purpose has held firm through the decades.

Gordon Neufeld, in “Hold On To Your Kids” 2013, talks about current trends in our society that threaten our most important needs for connection, safety, trust, and belonging. We have become fast paced, consumer driven and technology oriented. People are separated emotionally and geographically from extended relatives and don’t know their neighbours. People have increasingly less time and energy for children. Neufeld states, we must answer to this “wake up call”.

At Family Dynamics, we are answering this call and are truly wide awake.

Our current programs include In-Home Family Support, Parent Coaching, Counselling, support for children with social and emotional challenges; supports for refugees with barriers to integration, settlement support for newcomers, training supports for Family Child Care Providers, community resource centres in six subsidized housing communities, and community development around Winnipeg schools.

Every day, we are in family homes helping parents to discover new confidence and strengthen their skills, in our counselling offices – helping people to find new paths for healthier relationships, building community in our family resource centres, helping newcomers to navigate their way through systems, supporting children and staff in child care programs, developing skills of new providers, and building communities that strengthen ties between families and schools.

To learn more about Family Dynamics, please visit or consider contributing to the Family Dynamics Endowment and Memorial Fund.

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