Fran Grunberg has devoted her entire career to advocacy for the young. Although she doesn’t consider herself any different from most social workers, there’s likely a piece of her in many children who have been protected from harm.
Grunberg is a faculty member in Langara College’s social-service-worker program. During the early 1980s, she was supervisor of the now defunct Vancouver Resources Board Child Abuse Team, which developed a program wherein trained volunteers taught students about their right not to be maltreated.
The Canadian Red Cross took over this program in 1983 and implemented it across the country. Now known as RespectED, it has instructed more than three million Canadian children and youth about abuse, bullying, violence, and sexual exploitation. The program has also educated more than a million adults.
“I guess, for me, one person can make the difference if you believe in what you’re doing, and if you create something good, it can grow,” Grunberg told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview. “And that has always been my philosophy: to pass on the knowledge.”
From 1986 to 1995, Grunberg worked as the child-abuse prevention consultant for the Vancouver school board, an experience she recalled as one of the highlights of her career. “It was the first school board to embrace child-abuse prevention and also the development of policies regarding child abuse and sexual abuse and the training of all teachers,” she said.
The University of Calgary–trained social worker also spoke of her passion for her volunteer work with the nonprofit Society for Children and Youth of B.C. She became involved with the group in the early 1980s and was its president for many years. She also served on the association’s board for 25 years.
“We pioneered a program called Feeling Yes, Feeling No, which is a sexual-abuse-prevention program based on Green Thumb Theatre doing a live production,” she said. “We got funding from the National Film Board to turn it into video, and we developed with the Vancouver school board a curriculum.”
At Langara, Grunberg teaches students skills they need in their profession, such as problem-solving, conflict resolution, communication, and interviewing.
“The best part of teaching for me is the students and their capacity to grow and change and to engage in dealing with social issues,” she said. “Our students grow personally and professionally in the program. And I get a lot of satisfaction out of being part of that process, because to be an effective helper, you really need to know yourself and have very clear boundaries between you and the person you’re helping.”
Joe Rosen has been a colleague of Grunberg’s at Langara since 1997. They met in the ’80s, when Grunberg was still a child-protection officer with the government. When Rosen joined the board of the Society for Children and Youth of B.C. in 1992, she was the group’s president.
Writing for the September 2009 edition of the Perspective, a B.C. Association of Social Workers newsletter, Rosen noted that Grunberg has received awards for her outstanding contributions to child welfare.
In a phone interview with the Straight, Rosen said: “It has been vocation and her avocation every day. She has been tireless in her efforts on behalf of young people.”