Plans for Early Years Centres throughout BC
The Minister of Children and Family Development, Stephanie Cadieux, announced the launch of the new Provincial Office for the Early Years at the recent UBC Early Years Conference in Vancouver. The new office is mandated to focus on the needs of families with children up to age 6 and to help ensure they have easy access to a range of early-years services, no matter where they live in B.C. The office, housed within the ministry, will have responsibility to:
- Ensure that services across government and across B.C. are coordinated and effective.
- Focus on consulting with parents and service providers throughout the province to determine how best to meet the needs of families.
- Oversee early-years programs and services, including leading inter-ministry partnerships and coordinating cross-ministry service improvements.
- Lead the implementation of a network of early-years centres, which will offer parents and families one-stop convenient access to a range of practical advice, supports and services.
The Provincial Office for the Early Years is intended to be the foundation of the B.C. Early Years Strategy, announced in February 2013. The Early Years Strategy represents an eight-year government plan to improve the accessibility, affordability and quality of early-years programs and services for families with young children.
The Strategy proposes the development of Early Years Centres throughout BC, with the goals of enhancing integration and coordination of early years’ services for children (0-6) and their families and supporting linkages with early years’ services and planning tables.
In their feedback to the Draft Criteria for the Early Years Centres, the BC Association of Family Resource Programs (FRP-BC) support the concept in principle and agree that “the BC Early Years Strategy and the proposed Early Years Centres have the potential of resulting in one of the finest provincial early child development initiatives in Canada. Unlike most provincial proposals that focus on the importance of early learning, the BC plan incorporates early learning along with child care and family support as the three essential factors for healthy child development and school readiness.” However, their concern lies in the wording. “The goals are laudable but appear more as a wish list than essential to creating an integrated system of ECD supports….We believe the goals should have stronger language such as:
- An integration and coordination of community-based early years’ services for children (0-6) and their families in BC
- Partnerships and coordination within and between early learning, child care services, family support services and planning tables.”
The FRP-BC calls for a clear definition of the branding of supports and services to be provided through the Centres, and how that might vary different geographical areas.
The FRP-BC, with a membership representing over 90% of all family serving agencies in BC, “strongly suggests that Early Years Centres are selected from the more than 140 agencies in BC that currently deliver ECD services in BC. We believe the selection process should be limited to agencies who already have a community presence and could meet the goals with improvements rather than formation.” They also recommend incorporating reference to the term family support, alongside terms early learning and child care, when identifying an Early Years Centre.