Wetaskiwin Early Years Community Advisory Table
Sustainability became a pressing concern for the Wetaskiwin and Area Early Child Development Coalition when its seed grant ran out (in June 2013). The coalition decided to join forces with the Wetaskiwin Parent Link Advisory Council. The move made sense as many coalition members also belonged to the Parent Link council. The new working group calls itself the Wetaskiwin Early Years Community Advisory Table. Its purpose is to serve as the “go to” organization for early childhood development in Wetaskiwin, disseminate future EDI data and work with other community partners to create family friendly educational and developmental activities.
Community at a glance
The Wetaskiwin and Area ECD Community covers a large area that encompasses the County and City of Wetaskiwin, the Town of Millet, Pigeon Lake, Alder Flats and a number of other hamlets and summer villages. The local economy is based on oil and gas production and agriculture. Wetaskiwin and Area is also a bedroom community for many residents who work in Edmonton and Red Deer.
EDI baseline results
A third (32 per cent) of kindergarten-aged children are experiencing great difficulty in one or more areas of development.
Community and coalition strengths
- The data contained in the Community Information Package (CIP) is being used for local planning and programming. The socio-economic data was used, for example, by the Community Health Center to plan dental services for young children in outlying areas.
- Service providers are collaborating more closely as a result of working together on the coalition. The coalition core members are knowledgeable about early child development and have experience working with families.
- Parent groups are active in the community and provide programming. For example, parent groups in Wetaskiwin (Children’s Indoor Play Society) and Millet (Millet Little Peoples Indoor Play Society) run indoor play groups for preschoolers.
- The Wetaskiwin Regional Public School Division runs a play-based, preschool program (the Early Education and Family Wellness Centre), which focuses on school readiness and family wellness and includes specialized services for children with severe special needs.
- The Primary Care Network in Wetaskiwin, which opened in late 2011, offers an excellent prenatal clinic for expectant parents.
- The local Community Health Centre offers speech and occupational and physical therapy services, and educational resources for parents.
- A $22-million, multi-purpose recreation centre, funded by the County and City of Wetaskiwin, is under construction.
Community and coalition challenges
- The community is spread across a wide geographic area.
- People living outside Wetaskiwin and Millet have to drive long distances to get to services.
- It is difficult to access services without a vehicle, including within the City of Wetaskiwin, which has no public transportation system.
- There is only one daycare in Wetaskiwin, which has a population of 12,285 (2009 municipal census).
- Residents of four nearby First Nations reserves frequently move in and out of the wider community, which can make it more challenging for service providers to reach and maintain contact with them.
- Business owners have not become actively involved with the coalition.
- “Smile cards” were distributed in places frequented by families, such as the local daycare and Parent Link Centre. Adults “caught” interacting positively with children were handed a card that read: “Smile, you are doing a fabulous job.” They also received a second card to pass along to someone else. The idea was to raise public awareness about the impact of positive experiences on early development.
- A monthly walk-in clinic was organized in Millet in response to parent concerns about the lack of local services. The clinic brought speech specialists, occupational and physical therapists, and dental hygienists to the community.
- A workshop on play was organized in response to requests from parents for more information about the role of play in early development and how to play with children. Play expert and life coach Vince Gowmon was invited to lead the June 2013 workshop.
- EDI results were presented to councils in the County of Wetaskiwin, the City of Wetaskiwin and the Town of Millet. The results were also shared with the public through a children’s festival organized in Wetaskiwin and presentations were made to parent groups in Wetaskiwin, Millet and Lakedell.
- The coalition has participated in local National Aboriginal Day events.
- A free splash party was held at the community pool with healthy snacks provided.
- A Classroom on Wheels (C.O.W bus) visit was organized in Millet to provide literacy workshops for parents and activities for children.
- Community members, many of them parents, who are not able to be actively involved in the coalition receive e-mailed updates about coalition activities, as well as community activities related to young children and families.
- A community asset-mapping survey was developed and distributed at community events and electronically; about 120 were completed.
"The EDI information provides coalition members with solid evidence as to what the issues are, so that they can say, 'Ok, we are on the right track; we should be doing this.' It is also being used to inform programming."
Lisa Cottrell, former coalition community facilitator
Updated: April 28, 2014