Greater Lac La Biche C.H.I.L.D. (Children’s Health Improvement & Lifestyle Development) Coalition
EDI results are being used to raise funds to rebuild one of the community's outdated playgrounds. The playground was originally built for older school-aged children, but in the fall of 2014, it will also be utilized by preschool and kindergarten classes.
As one of the main playgrounds in the community, it's also used by families with children of all ages.
To make the space accessible to children of all ages and needs, the Active Kids Society, which has members that sit the Greater Lac La Biche C.H.I.L.D coalition, decided to apply for funding using the community’s EDI results as an indicator of the community’s needs. EDI results show that a high percentage — 42 per cent — of young children in the community are experiencing difficulty or great difficulty in physical health and well-being. The County has already agreed to supply manpower and equipment to prepare the grounds for the new playground.
Community at a glance
About 9,000 people live in Lac La Biche County, which serves nearly double that population as bordering communities access health care, banking, recreation, shopping and provincial government services, and classes at the local Portage College campus.The community encompasses two First Nations communities and two Métis settlements.
Poverty and unemployment levels are high. The median income is nearly a quarter less than the provincial median and the unemployment rate is double the provincial average. For families who can find work, dads are often employed in the oil patch and away from home.
Long commuting times are a reality for many families and children. Seventy-five per cent of the students that attend Vera M Welsh Elementary School, for example, are bussed to school. Many travel 1.5 to 2 hours each day from outlying areas.
EDI baseline results
Forty-four per cent of kindergarten-aged children are experiencing difficulty or great difficulty in one or more areas of development. Coalition members were shaken and then galvanized by their community results.
- Coalition members have strong community knowledge, interagency relationships and early childhood expertise.
- Métis and First Nations communities are represented on the coalition.
- A “shadow population” of temporary oil workers strains infrastructure and may not be counted in the census.
- The vacancy rate is low and housing costs are high.
- Large distances and no public transportation make it difficult to access services and programs or get to events.
- Involving parents and non-agency in the coalition has been a challenge.
- Annual spring fair: The March 2014 spring fair built on the success of the previous year’s event. Admission was free and free transportation was also offered to the Bold Centre, where the fair was held. The new recreational centre, which houses the Parent Link Centre, library and high school, is on the edge of town and not easily accessible to families who don’t have a vehicle. Fun activities were organized for children and child care was provided by high school students for parents who wished to attend presentations on parenting issues. Parents were encouraged to bring gently used boots and shoes and books to exchange, and service providers set up display booths to showcase their services.
- National Child Day Celebration: A fair was held in November 2013 at Vera M. Welsh Elementary School. Twenty play stations were set up with games for parents and children, including hopscotch and bowling and other activities that could easily be replicated by parents at home.
- Community resource directory: A resource directory of all the agencies and programs available for families and their children was released in April 2013. The directory also has colouring pages for children. The first 1,000 copies were distributed through the Lac La Bache Health Care Center, the Parent Link Center, day cares, preschools and other places frequented by families. Another 500 copies were printed in the fall of 2013.
- Community outreach: Public outreach began in the summer of 2012, kicking off with an information booth at a local parade. The coalition also hosts an annual Fun in the Park day in Lac La Bache, featuring slip-and-slide, and five activity stations for kids, one for each area of development.
- Fun Fairs are hosted on an annual basis in other communities, including the Buffalo Lake Métis Settlement, Kikino Métis Settlement Plamondon and Hylo. Outlying communities are now getting organized and staging their own activities.
- Working with the town and county: Lac La Biche County is a partner at the coalition table, with FCSS staff and fiscal oversight. The county will continue to work with the coalition on a strategic plan to advocate for more playgrounds, parks, events and programming for families with children aged 0-5, including those with special needs.
- Facebook group: The group is called Greater Lac La Biche C.H.I.L.D. Coalition and can be accessed at https://www.facebook.com/groups/397215360338941/
- Media coverage: Good media relations have paid off in solid local newspaper coverage of coalition events.
"We developed the resource directory because many parents don't know what is available. Accessing services is a huge problem."
Kim Nowicki, coalition co-chair
Updated: April 28, 2014