Lord Selkirk Park Child Care Centre opened in February of 2012; located in the heart of Winnipeg’s North End, the Centre serves the families of the Lord Selkirk Park Housing Development.
Community renewal initiatives in Lord Selkirk Park created an opportunity for the Government of Manitoba’s Healthy Child Committee of Cabinet (HCCC) to integrate an early child development centre and family resource centre in the Lord Selkirk Park public housing complex. Data from the Early Development Instrument (EDI), for the area that includes Lord Selkirk Park, indicated that many children were not ready when they entered kindergarten (Healthy Child Manitoba Office, 2018). At the direction of HCCC, several Government of Manitoba departments (the Healthy Child Manitoba Office, the Department of Family Services, and the Department of Housing) collaborated to align both financial resources and policies to support the construction of an early years centre within the complex, and to develop an enhanced early years program.
In the following video, Dr. Rob Santos, formerly of Healthy Child Manitoba, provides some background on the development of the Lord Selkirk Park Child Care Centre.
HCMO and Manitoba’s Early Learning and Childcare Branch approached Manidoo Gi-Miini Gonaan (The Great Spirit is Giving) – a well-established non-profit community-based organization to propose the opening of a new childcare centre in Lord Selkirk Park. Based on a review of evidence-based early childhood interventions research, HCCC provided the resources for Manidoo to implement the internationally renowned Abecedarian Approach; these resources included funding for an enhanced adult/child ratio, hiring a home visitor, training and mentoring in the Abecedarian Approach, and ongoing staff development. HCMO designed and carried out a multi-year evaluation to determine what impact, if any, the program had on children’s outcomes. The partnership expanded to include Red River College Polytechnic, which provided ongoing training, mentoring, and support in the delivery of the Abecedarian Approach.
Dr. Joseph Sparling, one of the founders of the Abecedarian Approach, provided the initial training for the staff of Lord Selkirk Park Child Care Centre in 2012. In the following video clip, listen to his comments on the project at that time.
The Lord Selkirk Park Child Care Centre (LSPCCC) is a non-profit Centre that has spaces for 47 children (9 children under the age of two years , 23 two to five year olds, and 15 six to twelve year olds). The centre provides lunch, two snacks, and Omega 3 vitamin supplements every day, and operates year-round. For this project, the Manitoba government waived the requirement that parents be either working or in school to be eligible for a child care subsidy, in order to make the child care centre accessible to families living with social and economic inequities. This removed a significant barrier for families, as children’s access to early interventions no longer hinged on their parents’ education or employment status.
LSPCCC has implemented the Abecedarian Approach since it opened in 2012. The following video, filmed in LSPCCC, introduces the Abecedarian Approach, and highlights how children’s language development is the first priority of the program.
Staff at LSPCCC focus on creating strong, stable relationships with children, based on individual, frequent, and intentional interactions every day. Each child has a primary caregiver who is responsible for planning an individualized program based on the child’s needs, interests, and skills. Listen to one of the Early Childcare Educators describe the scene that unfolded between her and the child in the pictures below. Through the simple, short interaction the child is encouraged and supported to zip up her jacket, fostering the child’s confidence and capabilities.
The centre added programming to reflect the population in the complex (80% Indigenous, small growing newcomer population), with regular visits from the community Elder, who provided drumming, smudging, and Indigenous language activities.
Following the initial Abecedarian training with Dr. Sparling, Red River College Polytechnic provided additional support through mentoring and coaching for the staff at the Centre, maintaining a focus on relationships and trust, as well as attentiveness to the intervention strategies and program content. New staff continue to receive Abecedarian Approach training from Red River College Polytechnic; an in-house Abecedarian mentor provides peer support and ongoing mentoring to all staff of the program. The in-house mentor works with each staff person to identify individual strengths and challenges and set goals for professional growth, encouraging each one to share their insights and knowledge, so that they too can take on a mentorship role.
“I think mentoring is, it's so important to have but you need to have the support. You can't just have one person, you need to have like a support team. And that's kind of what Manidoo is. Is it's all supportive in all angles and all levels and that sort of thing.”
A home visitor worked with the families of the children in the program, guiding them in using Abecedarian strategies at home.
At their request, the home visitor began running Abecedarian workshops for parents, deepening their understanding of the Abecedarian Approach and strategies while connecting with other parents in the community.
The home visitor also supported families during challenging life situations such as legal struggles, family breakups, navigating the medical system, and even births and deaths. She focused on helping the families feel empowered to speak up and advocate on their own behalf.
Carly Sass, LSPCCC's home visitor from 2014-2020, describes how she works with parents in the following video clip.
Throughout the Covid 19 pandemic, the home visitor continued to work with families, bringing Abecedarian activities and supports to them while they were locked down or isolating. ECEs kept in touch with their primary children through video calls. In early 2022, Executive Director Carolyn Young explained, “Omicron has affected many of our staff, children and their families. Since the beginning of December (2021), we have had more children at home either sick and/or needing to isolate than at the centre. It prompted us to come up with a way to keep in touch with our children and families. The children also benefit by continuing with the Abecedarian Approach at home. Parents and children are loving it! This also demonstrates the absolute priority of investing in relationships.”
Caregiver and children on a video call during Covid
Children from LSPCCC typically attend the local elementary school once they are old enough to be enrolled. The school is next to the centre, and staff from LSPCCC walk the children to and from the school in the morning, at lunchtime, and after school. This provides opportunities to develop connections with the school staff, and to work in partnership with teachers and parents.
Tim Cox is the former principal of the elementary school. Listen as he describes the school population and the importance of supporting and building on the early experiences of children that foster school readiness.
Now listen to the Kindergarten teacher describe what she noted about the children who attended LSPCCC when they entered her classroom.
Healthy Child Committee of Cabinet (HCCC)Building on the foundations of the Manitoba Children and Youth Secretariat (1994-2000), the Government of Manitoba introduced Healthy Child Manitoba in 2000. Led by the Healthy Child Committee of Cabinet and legislated in 2007, this was a strategic, cross-departmental, cross-sectoral, evidence-based approach, drawing on government and community partners to achieve the best possible outcomes for Manitoba’s children. Based on the emerging science of early child development, particular attention was given to supporting the prenatal and early years, to set a solid foundation for every child to thrive. The Healthy Child Manitoba act was repealed in 2020.
Early Development Instrument (EDI)The Early Development Instrument (EDI) is a population-based survey designed to measure the developmental health of children at five (5) years of age. It provides a snapshot for communities to assess and monitor their children’s development and school readiness in the following domains: physical health and wellbeing; social competence; language and cognitive development; communication skills; and general knowledge. When the study began, Kindergarten teachers across Manitoba were completing the EDI every two years.