The Tlucha daycare and preschool was completed in January of 2018 in Ty-histanis. Funding made available this year is aimed to support special needs programming in daycares across Nuu-chah-nulth territories. (Carla Moss photo)
Day care for children with specialized needs will be expanded to include additional Nuu-chah-nulth communities through new funding announced by the provincial and federal governments.
Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council and Port Alberni Association for Community Living are two of 83 organizations across the province that will share $30 million in funding over the next three years to expand and enhance their programming for children with extra support needs.
Families in Port Alberni as well as those in outlying Nuu-chah-nulth communities will be able to take advantage of enhanced services provided through Aboriginal supported child development programming.
In all, an estimated 1,000 children with special needs in the region should benefit.
“For years we’ve been asking for more money because we haven’t had sufficient funding,” said NTC President Judith Sayers. “We haven’t had enough since the program started.”
When parents are unable to obtain affordable child care, they are limited in their ability to obtain gainful employment. As a result, families face financial hardship and poverty.
Announced back in February, the funds are directed at cutting wait lists for inclusive child care and improved access to programs across the province for children with extra support needs. Sayers said the funds going to NTC’s Early Years Outreach Program will enable more community-based support. Many families in Nuu-chah-nulth communities have been on a wait list, she said.
Lynnette Lucas, manager of NTC child and youth services, said programming will be extended to include Kyuquot, Zeballos and Tsaxana-Gold River.
“Too many families in Port Alberni are struggling to find quality, affordable child care — particularly if their children require specialized care,” said Mid-Island Pacific Rim MLA Scott Fraser. “With this funding, we are helping child care operators increase their capacity so that they can better provide the specialized care that families so desperately need.”
Gord Johns, MP for Courtenay-Alberni, acknowledged the work of Fraser and “local community champions” for making the childhood development initiative possible.
Supported child development may include:
• One-on-one help for children who may need assistance during meals or to take part in activities with peers.
• Information and training for child care staff to help them make programming more inclusive, such as creating a visual schedule to help children better understand their daily routines or allowing children to begin their day earlier to be better oriented before the day begins.
• Working with families to link them to other local resources and support groups in the community, or to help them access medical and other needed services.
Aboriginal supported child development programs offer similar services within a cultural model so that Indigenous children with extra support needs can be included meaningfully in child care programs, both on and off reserve, while also learning about their heritage and culture.
Sayers was pleased with the announcement.
“It’s really great news,” she said. “I think it’s showing the forward movement of the program.”
Parents of children with extra support needs may qualify for the affordable child care benefit, which provides up to $1,250 a month per child to help with the cost of child care.