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Better Beginnings Set to Return with Regular Programming in January

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Better Beginnings (BB) began in the Swan Valley in the year 2000 as a pilot project. Over the last 18 years, it has become a staple in our community that provides supports to parents.
The previous coordinator Sharon Glasscock retired in July, and the board took that as an opportunity to assess the program, postponing the fall sessions that ordinarily would have began already.
With the Province conducting a review of parent and child coalition programming for children zero to six years of age, now was the time to implement changes necessary to give our children the best beginning possible and to set them up for future scholastic and social successes.
“In the past couple of months parents who previously attended BB sessions have encouraged the board to continue with the drop-in sessions and have missed having them this fall,” said SVSD Student Services Co-ordinator Deborah Burnside.
The absence of BB has been noticed Valley wide. However, that’s about to change.
“Research shows that children who receive positive BB, continue to thrive later on,” said Burnside.
There are many resources accessible to parents and children in the Valley that some aren’t even aware of despite BB’s goal to provide this information. These include: Families First, Healthy Baby, new day care centers and home-based child care sites, Head Start, Swan Valley Inter-Agency, Swan Valley Communities That Care, Triple P Parenting Program and Guiding Good Choices, life skills programming in schools, Swan Valley Crisis Centre Parent-Child Programs, and Swan Valley Community Mobilization, to name a few.
The North Parkland Parent-Child Parent Coalition’s Board of BB has been working on a new strategic plan to incorporate all resources during its time away.
The new plan will have a greater emphasis on three main priorities in order to be inclusive for all families.
“We will increase Early Child Development (ECD) programs and activities for parents and children throughout our region,” said Burnside. “Parent and child sessions will continue with an emphasis on parenting through monthly themes with Triple P Parenting tips. We will strengthen partnerships and increase engagement of community members. And, we will establish a new model of coordination with a strong board to support the coalition’s work.
The goal of BB’s programming is to provide resources and programming for families of the Swan River Valley, in the North Parkland region, and to give all children and parents an equal, inclusive opportunity for healthy living, parent-child interaction, socialization, literacy and numeracy, and other school-readiness skills.”
In an effort to include all parents and all communities, BB will continue to reach out to find local facilitators and options in the surrounding communities to encourage programming.
BB Parent-Child sessions will resume in January with more details and scheduling to follow. Plans for new sites are also underway, and will be announced once facilitators are in place.
Staff will be engaged in a BookMates Professional Development session called Sharing Stories in December, to enhance future sessions, and specific topics will be planned, such as a session for dads and a Splash and Learn session at the pool.
“Parenting is a rewarding but sometimes challenging role no matter what the age of a child,” said Burnside. “In order to connect parents to supports, before school entry, BB in partnership with other community supports, will provide Early Years Evaluation (EYE) screening of all three year-old children born in 2015.”
Screening will take place at schools in surrounding communities.
“The EYE Direct Assessment takes approximately 20 to 30 minutes per child,” said Burnside. “They will measure: awareness of self and their environment, cognitive skills, language and communication, fine motor, and gross motor areas of developmental growth.”
This allows for early identification and mobilization of resources to meet each individual child’s needs.
“Presently, the EYE is completed by SVSD before children enter Kindergarten,” she said. “By assessing children earlier, at age three, parents may be connected to pre-school services and programming during the optimal growing period before children enter Kindergarten. The assessment is fun and provides parents with resources to engage in with their child. Activity bags and books will be given to all participants and Public Health and Dental representatives will be on hand to meet parents and children, as well as those trained to conduct the EYE. More details will follow on this exciting initiative being planned for February to April, 2019.”
BB will continue to invite parents to programming with a focus on parenting and readiness skills for children.
“BB last a lifetime,” concluded Burnside.

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Jakki Lumax
REPORTER
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