Edmonton South West Early Years (SWEY)
The Edmonton South West Early Years (SWEY) coalition has been surveying community residents to find out what programs and supports are available for young children and their families, and what's missing.
Two key issues emerged repeatedly: 1. Programs and services have failed to keep up with rapid growth and development in the community. 2. Many families are not aware of, or know how to access what's already 'out there.' There is a high need for a one-stop information link to all the resources that are offered in the community.
The coalition's next step is to map existing resources with ECMap and then to work with community partners to explore ways to address gaps.
The community at a glance
The Edmonton Southwest ECD community is the fastest-growing area in the city. It includes some of its newest neighbourhoods and some of its wealthiest. The community encompasses the Southgate area (around 50th Avenue) and stretches to the southernmost edge of the city.
The area’s annual mean income is $5,000 above the provincial average, and a high proportion of well-off Edmontonians live in neighbourhoods such as Twin Brooks, Grandview and Terwillegar. Yet there are pockets of poverty, as well as middle-income neighbourhoods made up of older houses built in the ’50s and ’60s. There is a high percentage percentage of new immigrants —about 24 per cent. To reflect this diversity, the coalition divided the community into 11 subcommunities.
EDI baseline results
Fifty-four per cent of young children are developing appropiately in all five areas of development, above the provincial norm of 46 per cent. EDI results vary by subcommunity.
- Large population of young families
- Strong growth with many new homes and neighbourhoods
- Active community leagues in older neighbourhoods, which build community cohesion and organize family events
- Plentiful green space and parks, many with new or renovated playground equipment
- New LRT lines serving parts of community
- A widely varying demographic that has different needs
- A large, diverse immigrant population that experiences many cultural and language barriers
- Programs and services (including schools, libraries and recreational facilities) lag behind rapid growth in new neighbourhoods.
- Shortage of quality, accessible child-care and playschool and preschool options; long waiting lists
- Lack of opportunities and meeting places for families with young children
- A need for programs that are year- round, affordable and flexible (allow drop-ins), involve dads and include children of different ages
- A need for more parent resources and information, such as a Parent Link Centre.
- Lack of awareness about existing resources in the community.
- Inadequate public transit and urban sprawl make it difficult to get to services and programs, work, shopping and recreational facilities and even to visit family and friends without a car which can be unaffordable for many families.
- EDI results are shared at school and community events (such as farmers’ markets and family fun fairs) and through meetings with community leagues. Public awareness of the importance of ECD is also raised at these events.
- 180 community members were surveyed at 18 events over a nine-month period to find out what resources exist in the community and how effective they are and what resources are missing.
- Survey results were compiled into an eight-page report and shared with the Alberta Government’s Together We Raise Tomorrow initiative community survey. A community consultation evening was also organized on August 26 in response to the initiative and a summary report was submitted to Government.
- A Facebook page and a website were created.
- Meetings are held once a month, with rotating times and venues to encourage attendance. The coalition continues to reach out to subcommunities for representation.
- The coalition participated in the Edmonton citywide coalition’s survey of mayoral, council and school trustee candidates in the October 2013 municipal election on their positions on early childhood development related issues.
- The coalition also worked with other Edmonton coalitions to connect with area MLAs to promote early childhood development and request their support for coalitions.
"Our residents were almost unanimous in their recommendation for a one-stop, coordinated and user-firnedly 'window' through which they could be linked to early childhood programs, services and supports at community, city and provincial levels."
Excerpt from SWEY's report to the Government of Alberta's Together We Raise Tomorrow initiative