Program aims to help at-risk kids keep calm, move on

A new program aims to help children in some of Ottawa's most vulnerable communities learn how to manage their emotions before losing their cool.

SNAP gives vulnerable children ages 6 to 12 the tools they need to keep emotions under control

SNAP was developed in the 1980s to help at-risk children manage their emotions in stressful situations. On Tuesday, the province announced up to $500,000 to bring the program to some of Ottawa's most vulnerable communities. (The Associated Press)

A new program aims to help children in some of Ottawa's most vulnerable communities learn how to manage their emotions before losing their cool.

Stop Now And Plan (SNAP) is funded by the province. The 13-week program will be implemented in partnership with the Britannia Woods Community House and the Somali Centre for Family Services.

SNAP was developed by Toronto's Child Development Institute in the 1980s and has since expanded across the country.

The program is offered to children between the ages of six and 12, as well as their parents. It focuses on teaching children coping mechanisms to use when they're faced with tense situations and strong emotions.

"We're getting kids strategies to understand triggers, understand how to calm themselves down," said Leena Augimeri, Child Development Institute's head of programming.

Dr. Leena Augimeri explains the Stop Now and Plan (SNAP) program. On Monday, the province announced a plan to bring the program to Ottawa with a partnership between the Britannia Woods Community House and the Somali Centre for Family Services. 0:52

Marginalized groups

Mohamed Sofa, executive director of the Britannia Woods Community House, said the program's first phase will focus on youth in Ottawa's black community.

"Racialized groups and children have proportionately lower enrolment in treatment and mental health programs," he said.

Ontario's minister of children, community and social services, Lisa MacLeod, said the province is committing up to $500,000 for the Ottawa program.

"Ontario's diversity is one of our greatest strengths, but we know that marginalized children, youth and families in Ontario face barriers," she said.

The Ottawa Inuit Children's Centre already has a SNAP program in place, but Sofa said the program announced Tuesday will be specifically tailored for different communities.

"Parents want what's best for their children, so [we are] working with them in a culturally competent manner," he said.

Sofa said the skills taught by the program can help youth steer away from trouble.

"We're collectively hoping that we can reduce contact with the criminal justice system, child welfare, and give parents the resources to support children on their own," he said.