Red Deer and Area

Child and Youth Friendly Red Deer Committee

Children create stories using iPads at a Kindergarten Here I Come event in Red Deer.
​​​​​​​​​The Child and Youth Friendly Red Deer Committee felt that it was important to get city officials on board in promoting positive early development in Red Deer. The committee convinced city council to officially recognize the significance of the early years. In the fall of 2013, council passed a notice of motion acknowledging the importance of positive early development and the value of the work being done by the committee on behalf of children aged 0 to six. The committee sees this as a crucial first step in incorporating healthy early development into the city’s strategic planning and programming.

Community at a glance

Red Deer is the third largest city in Alberta, with a population of 92,000 (2011 municipal census). It is located at the midpoint between Calgary and Edmonton. Oil and agriculture are important industries in the area.

EDI baseline results

Twenty-four per cent of kindergarten-aged children are experiencing great difficulty in one or more areas of development ― below the provincial norm of 29 per cent and the national norm of 25 per cent.  Results varied a great deal, however, among the 10 subcommunities.    

Community and coalition strengths

  • Red Deer was  one of 50 communities across Canada — and the only one Alberta — to be involved in Understanding the Early Years (UEY), a federal initiative that used the EDI and a community-based approach to measure children’s development. (The program ended in 2010.) Red Deer was able to draw upon this experience in working with ECMap, which also uses the EDI and a community-based focus. 
  • A working group has been active in promoting children’s development since 2007.
  • The committee meets regularly and has representation from health, education, social services and community agencies. It is made up of a committed, well-informed core group that includes key decision makers.


  • Greater involvement is needed from parents, businesspeople and preschools.
  • It can be difficult to reach all the organizations involved in early childhood education and care in a larger centre, such as Red Deer.
  • As is the case in other communities, young children are not routinely seen by health or other professionals from the age of 18 months, when they receive the last of their early immunizations, to age five, when they begin kindergarten (unless they are enrolled in a registered early childhood program).
  • The Early Learning and Childcare program has been suspended at Red Deer College (no new admissions as Sept. 2014) as a result of provincial funding cuts to post-secondary institutions.

Coalition Actions

  • Red Deer opted to work with an existing organization, Child and Youth Friendly Red Deer, rather than setting up a new, separate coalition.  An early childhood committee was formed within the larger organization.
  • An Early Years Festival was organized in February 2013 and has now become an annual event. Community organizations and service providers run hands-on activities that reinforce developmental stages and provide information about programs and services that are available to families.
  • The committee organizes an annual the Kindergarten, Here I Come event in May, which prepares young children and parents for kindergarten. Kindergarten teachers run activity stations related to different areas of development, community organizations provide parents with information about community resources and programs, and health professionals, such as dental hygienists and optometrists, perform screening on site.
  • The National Child Day (November 20th) blue ribbon campaign was promoted among councillors and other key decision makers and within the community. The campaign advocates the inclusion of children as a top priority in economic, social and health policy and programming decisions made by government.
  • A community forum was organized (in August 2012) to provide input to the Government of Alberta’s social policy framework, Speak. Share. Thrive.  Dinner, transportation and child care was provided for families to encourage their participation.
  • Community EDI results were widely shared with representatives from city council, Family and Community Support Services, health, education, the United Way and community agencies.
"This is a young community. The average age in Red Deer is 36. Many issues, such as high school incompletion, can be linked back to the early years. We want to communicate the bigger picture, that what happens from 0-5 can influence the entire life course."
Shelley Dallas Smith, committee co-chair
Updated: April 28, 2014