When it comes to helping families, longtime Burnaby resident Carol Matusicky believes in fixing the problem before it starts.
"We know what it takes to support the healthy development of people, but I think we're a very reactive society. We pay attention to something when it's broken, but where were we along the way?" she told the NOW. "I've been very much focused on supporting people along the way, not waiting till they're broken till we pay attention to them."
Matusicky has spent most of her professional life doing just that - helping families and preventing problems before they start. She is a renowned family advocate and former executive director with the B.C. Council for Families, a non-profit which advocates for healthy families in a healthy society. Some of the council's initiatives during Matusicky's watch include establishing a network of practitioners who work with teen parents, a network promoting positive parenting for fathers, another network focused on work-life issues, and various parenting programs, all of which are still available to B.C. families today. Matusicky has also sat on 25 provincial government task forces and advisory committees, always with a focus on helping families; again, stressing prevention.
"I was always the voice at the table championing the importance of prevention and supporting people along the way," she says. "Theoretically, it saves government tons of money in the healthcare system and the criminal justice system."
On Friday, June 7, Matusicky will be honoured for her work with a Lifetime of Distinguished Service to Families award from the B.C. Council for Families, and it's an award she actually created years ago.
"I was absolutely floored, and I started that award actually, probably in 1984 or '85. I thought we needed to recognize individuals and organizations in our province that were working with families. That work needed to be recognized. I never thought I would get it myself," she said.
Matusicky is now retired, but that hasn't stopped her from helping families. She's done consulting work with health authorities, and she sits on two Burnaby Board of Trade committees (social development and the immigrant integration subcommittee). She also sits on the boards of Burnaby Family Life Institute and the Burnaby Early Childhood Development Community Table, a group of government and non-profit agencies that provide programs and services for young children, and she helped organize Paul Kershaw's Generation Squeeze campaign.
But that's only a fraction of the work she does. Matusicky estimates she has 20 volunteer commitments, including her work chairing the Board Voice Society of B.C., a non-profit trying to develop a social policy framework for B.C.
"It's basically a plan around social issues. It means all the social policy ministries have to collaborate and cooperate with each other and not keep in their silos," she said. "I've worked with government for years, and the left hand doesn't know what the right is doing."
She's also on the board of directors for the National Alliance for Children and Youth.
"We're trying to get children and youth issues higher up on the radar screen for the federal government," she said. "We want a children and youth commissioner for Canada."
Matusicky would like to see more help for children and families.
"We certainly say that we care about children - children are our future - we say that a lot, but I don't think we put the resources and support in place to live up to that ideal. Enough families now are extremely stressed. When I was growing up, most women weren't in the workplace. They were at home, . and now, young families - you're squeezed for time, resources and support," she said.
"We have a long way to go to put our money where our mouth is to live up to that commitment - that children are our future and our best resource. We don't act on it."
Matusicky said the more ordinary citizens make their wishes known to government, the better.
Jeanne Fike, executive director of Burnaby Family Life, was "absolutely thrilled" that Matusicky was receiving the lifetime of service award.
"There's no one more deserving that I can think of. Her contributions to our sector are immeasurable, far-reaching, and a legacy for generations to come," Fike said. "She has impacted the lives of children and family because she has been a constant, consistent, persistent advocate in making policy changes, raising awareness. She's been at every significant table for the last 25 years, 30 years, and her efforts continue since she left the B.C.
Council for Families. "She's been a light in this sector."