Ask the expert: Caring for families at Jeneece Place and Q̓ʷalayu House

On July 15, 2021, CEO Veronica Carroll was joined by Christina Peacock of Jeneece Place for episode 4 of “From the heart: Small talk on big subjects”; a conversation about the Foundation’s home away from home network. This blog post complements that episode.

Can you tell me about your role at Jeneece Place? How long have you been involved?

The staff team’s role at Jeneece Place is to ensure that the house is welcoming, safe, and secure for families. Specifically, that means making sure that the house is clean and comforting, and that families feel supported when they come to the house. There is always someone there to answer any questions or lend an ear if needed. I started three weeks before we opened, so about nine and a half years ago.

How many families have you welcomed over the years?

We have had more than 2,300 families stay at Jeneece Place since it opened in 2012 and roughly 1,400 repeat visits. In total, there have been more than 3,700 family stays at the house.

Can you tell me about the families who stay at Jeneece Place and how they book their stay?

We primarily serve families from Vancouver Island and the surrounding islands. We do get some families from the mainland. Sometimes families are transferred to Victoria General Hospital for different reasons. Occasionally, people are on holiday here and need to stay at the house due to a medical emergency. About ninety-five percent of Jeneece Place families are from Vancouver Island and the surrounding area.

Families come to us most often through referrals from the hospital, mainly from social workers or nurses in the neonatal intensive care unit or pediatric intensive care unit. We also receive referrals from hospitals up-Island who are sending their patients to Victoria. Our goal is to continue to grow a strong network of support for Island families.

What do families appreciate the most about Jeneece Place?

Many comment that when they walk into Jeneece Place for the first time, they feel like they have a home. It is a place where they can be themselves and process their day at the hospital or other experiences relating to their children’s medical care. During such a stressful time in their lives, families appreciate having access to key living elements, like a hot shower, laundry facilities, and a stocked kitchen. Not having to worry about their basic needs helps families be increasingly resilient so they can return to the hospital and be there for their kids.

Can you share a couple examples that illustrate how important Jeneece Place is to families?

We had a family at Jeneece Place for a long time while their premature baby received care at the hospital. The little one’s parents and grandparents were able to stay at the house and be together. They were newcomers to Canada and spent a significant amount of time preparing meals for each other in the house’s kitchen.

And while our staff loved learning about the food they prepared, the baby’s grandma took a particular interest when one of our staff was baking muffins. She took part with great curiosity in measuring, mixing, and baking, because muffins were not a part of her culture. It was a great moment of connection for the family because even though the grandma spoke little English, she was able to forge a connection with staff and other families during this experience. It took her mind off her worries about her family’s little one.

Another family that stayed at the house had a young adolescent who was receiving mental health care treatment in Victoria. The teen’s mother was able to bond with one of our staff members who also had a child of similar age experiencing mental health challenges. According to the mom, being able to share her burden with a Jeneece Place staff member brought her great comfort and made her feel less alone.

Even though families are staying at Jeneece Place during a challenging time in their lives, there is so much joy and laughter in the house. It’s incredibly important to cultivate an environment where families can find relief in difficult situations.

How do you feel about Children’s Health Foundation’s new home away from home in Campbell River, Q̓ʷalayu House, now being open? How do you think it will impact north Island families?

I am so excited to see Q̓ʷalayu House being there, to serve families in a different, but similar way to Jeneece Place. It means that families are able to be closer to home and be together. Homes like Jeneece Place take an immense load of stress away from families and allows their healing journeys to start earlier. That is important.

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