50 Years of Support for Families

Youth success
May 14, 2024 •  By Centraide
Femme afro-américaine qui sourit à son enfant

Over the past fifty years, families have come to look very different from the days of our parents or grandparents. In this article, we take a look back to explore these changes as well as the ongoing support that Centraide has provided to help families adapt to new realities. 

Vulnerable families: A priority then and now

Supporting families has always been a key focus for Centraide. Since 1990 it has significantly grown its investments in this sector, which receives some of its highest allocations every year. 

The agencies supported by Centraide focus on prevention and on empowering families and implementing ways to break the cycle of poverty. They foster the development of children ages 0 to 5 and 6 to 12 and strengthen the role of parents, especially of vulnerable parents who have to deal with precarious living situations or social isolation: young parents, single parents, immigrant parents, and parents living in low-rental housing. 

Groupe d'enfants souriants

The new face of families

Over the past 50 years, the traditional nuclear family of a mom, a dad and kids has morphed into many different family configurations.  

This change has also been impacted by changing roles. More and more women have entered the workforce, while men have become more active in raising children and taking care of household chores. Family size has also decreased over time. 

More and more same-sex couples are having children, and immigration has given rise to greater diversity. 

If we also include extended, single-parent and blended structures, all of these changes mean that families look very different now.  

The numbers
in Canada


Married couple families
In 1961, married couples headed 92% of all families.
By 2021, this percentage had fallen to 77%.


Single-parent families
While single-parent families represented 8% of all families in 1961,
this figure had doubled to 16% by 2021. 


Average number of children per family
The average number of children per family also fell from 2.7 in 1961 to 1.8 in 2021.

Source: Statistics Canada

Maman afro-américaine et sont enfant

Major challenges

Families now face many and varied challenges that reflect the diversity of today’s family models. 

Striking a healthy work-family balance is not always easy, and work responsibilities often keep parents from being more involved in the lives of their children and teenagers. 

Single parents face particular struggles to cope with parenting and financial responsibilities without the support of a partner. 

Blended families also have to navigate complex dynamics. 2SLGBTQIA+ families may have to deal with persistent prejudice.  

Family life can also become difficult, especially for women, when care is necessary for an elderly parent or a child with a disability or mental health issue. 

Newcomer families need to adapt to new cultural and language environments and must often do so far from their traditional support networks. 

The high cost of living, the housing crisis, and limited access to daycare can be heavy burdens for many families, especially those with low incomes. 

Petit garçon songeur

Persistent inequalities

In recent decades, the socio-economic situation of families has greatly fluctuated. While economic indicators such as median household income have improved, low-income families continue to face major challenges, highlighting that inequality can persist despite global improvement. 

for Greater Montreal


Families with children


Families experiencing poverty


Single parent families
175,870 families are headed by a single parent.


More at risk
Single-parent families experience poverty at a rate that is three times higher than that of two-parent families.

Although families have changed a great deal over the years, they are still the basic unit of Quebec society.

Half a century of innovative solutions for families

Centraide has provided stable support for families for 50 years.  Learn how Centraide helps them overcome hardship and improve their quality of life by supporting and encouraging innovative solutions.  

Supporting family community agencies

Every Greater Montreal neighbourhood has family centres or community agencies that provide a homey place for families to come together to spend time.  

With firm roots in their communities, these agencies are true collective spaces for local families. Staff at these agencies provide help, listening, and guidance with a multitude of services and activities to help them emerge from their isolation and create bonds of mutual support.  

In Vieux-Longueuil, the Maison La Virevolte is where families go to experience this sense of belonging.  

La Virevolte Video

1 out of 5 people receives our help.
5 out of 5 people benefit from it.

Let’s all lend a hand

Supporting a network of over 375 community agencies also means promoting an inclusive, poverty-free society.