Did you know that 22 per cent of children entering Kindergarten in School District 20 – Kootenay Columbia begin school with vulnerabilities in one or more critical areas of development? The Family Action Network, working closely with UBC’s Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP), wants to change that story for our children.
Funded by Vancouver Foundation, Teck Metals Ltd., and the Columbia Basin Trust, FAN and HELP are embarking on a two-year project to gather critical information on the developmental health of children and the well-being of their families. “This is an amazing opportunity for our region.” Says FAN Executive Director Christy Anderson. “What we are missing is consistent, reliable information about preschool aged children and their families. Working closely with our community partners, we will be able to gather important data that can be used to enhance supports and services.”
Over the past 15 years in BC, children’s developmental health has been measured at the Kindergarten level using the Early Development Instrument (EDI) administered by the Human Early Learning Partnership. The EDI is a questionnaire used province-wide to measure patterns and trends in children’s developmental health and their readiness to enter the school system. The data reveals that in our province, one-third of Kindergarten students are starting school with vulnerabilities in one or more areas that are critical to their healthy development.
What can be done to reverse this trend?
“We need to better understand what factors influence children’s development in the early years period,” says Anderson. “In order to make changes that would help to decrease the number of our children starting school with vulnerabilities, we need to know the children and their families. The challenge is that we do not currently have a reliable system to provide a clear picture of children’s early experiences before they enter school.” Throughout this project, we will use two different questionnaires to gather that information, Ages and Stages and the Toddler Development Instrument (TDI).
How can parents and caregivers get involved?
FAN will be partnering with early childhood agencies in Trail and Castlegar such as StrongStart programs, childcare centers, and community programming (Mother Goose etc.). Community partners will help to offer opportunities for families with young children to fill out the Ages and Stages and TDI questionnaire. If you have children between the ages of one and two years old, you can visit the FAN website www.familyactionnetwork.ca to find a centre nearest you or to get more information on the project.
To kick off this project, a team from UBC will be visiting our region next week on May 14th and 15th. Project partners, community leaders and other stakeholders will hear more about this innovative project and discuss how we will use the information that is gathered over the course of the next year.
Families interested in participating in the study can contact the Family Action Network through their website, or for the month of June drop into their office on Cedar Avenue in downtown Trail between 9-11am to fill out the questionnaires and be entered to win a gift card.