Early Childhood Map Coalition County of Lethbridge
The coalition has joined with the Town of Picture Butte and the local Chamber of Commerce to launch a family friendly business initiative. The group wasn’t sure how to achieve its goals when it got started. So group members approached the Kids in the Early Years Coalition in Hanna to get some ideas and resources. The Hanna coalition had already developed a family friendly business program and a tool kit that includes a checklist for businesses and interactive materials for children. The Picture Butte “Hand in Hand” initiative was able to learn a great deal from the coalition in Hanna, and save time and resources.
This is a just one example of how coalitions are networking all across the province and sharing their ideas. It also shows how different sectors within communities are working together to create positive environments for children and families.
Community at a glance
The Lethbridge County ECD community has a distinct cultural makeup. Many children from Mennonite and Dutch families enter school as ESL (English as a Second Language) students. Twenty-two per cent of residents speak a first language other than English or French while the percentage of immigrants is only 12 per cent, according to Statistics Canada 2006 census data.
EDI baseline results
EDI baseline data shows that 20 per cent of young children are experiencing great difficulty in one or more areas of development, which is better than the Canadian and Alberta levels.
- The coalition is diverse and includes representation from all four subcommunities, including: a health nurse, a counselor with Family and Community Support Services, school principals and teachers, a dental health nurse, the Community Learning Council, a speech language pathologist, a liaison with the health clinics, a day care owner, municipal politicians, Chamber of Commerce and parents.
- Coalition meetings are held in different subcommunities to engage and create ownership in each one.
- The coalition offers a small stipend for child-care costs for those with small children who want to attend meetings or workshops.
It was difficult at first to engage people in some of the subcommunities because there was insufficient EDI for three out of the four. The coalition worked hard to convince the three subcommunities that building community capacity to support early development is not dependent upon having data.
- Educate parents: An early literacy workshop, “Rhymes that Bind”, was held at the Coaldale Community Center (Feb. 2014).The workshop teaches parents interactive play activities that incorporate language development. The program aims to serve the needs of the large ESL population in the county by showing that parents don’t have to be highly literate to facilitate the development of their children’s language skills.
- Connect families to services: A“Celebration for Children” event (March 2013) drew hundreds of people to the Nobleford Community Complex. The coalition worked with the town council and 17 service organizations to provide activities for children and information about community services.
- Share data: EDI and socio-economic data was shared with the county council, town councils in rural areas, physicians and other health workers, parent groups, provincial politicians and agencies that serve children and families.
- Participate in community events: The coalition set up a display table and shared information about EDI results and early brain development at events, such as the Night of Lights and Literacy Day in Coaldale.
- Provide input on issues related to early development: The coalition’s work and attendance at events has resulted in a reputation for being a key player in early development in the community. The coalition is consulted on issues related to children and families, including the Family Friendly Business Initiative.
- Tackle practical issues: The coalition learned, through informal conversations, that a Coalhurst park was not being used by families because dog owners were not cleaning up after their animals. In response, the coalition worked with local residents to clean up the park and the town which agreed to put out garbage bins and signs about keeping dogs on leash. This provided an opening into the community. The coalition subsequently sat on Coalhurst’s centennial committee and organized developmentally appropriate activities for children during the 2013 festivities.
Posted: April 28, 2014