Crowsnest Pass and Area Early Childhood Coalition
Community at a glance
The Crowsnest Pass ECD Community spans more than 35 kilometers. Its towns dot Highway 3, from Lundbreck in the eastern foothills through the Rocky Mountain pass to Sentinel in the west. The boundaries encompass the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass, which includes Coleman, Blairmore, Bellevue, Hillcrest and Frank. The entire ECD community has a population of just under 7,000. Coal mining in the Crowsnest Pass and farming/ranching in the eastern part of the community are integral to the area’s history. Mining still constitutes 15 per cent of local industry (StatsCan 2006), though workers now travel to mines in British Columbia, 40 to 75 kilometres away.
EDI baseline results
Twenty-eight per cent of kindergarten-aged children are experiencing great difficulty in one or more areas of development, which is about the provincial level.
- There are many resources for young children, including a Parent Link Centre, Brighter Futures (which provides intervention for preschoolers who are considered ‘at risk’ and their families), literacy programs, Indoor Playground, two daycare centres and a nursery school.
- The coalition has a diverse membership that includes Parent Link, Brighter Futures, a violence prevention counselor, Family and Community Support Services, principals and Kindergarten teachers, a nursery school, a parent council, the indoor playground, community health nurses, a mental health specialist, speech pathologist, and several parents and grandparents.
- The community has an unusually high rate of volunteerism. In 2005, a study (the South West Alberta: Regional Community Consultation and Mapping project) of community assets found that the number of people who volunteer and the number of associations and organizations that rely on volunteers is very high.
- The community is known for its resiliency, having experienced a number of disasters including a major forest fire in 2003 that forced the evacuation of two towns.
- There is no public transportation, which creates difficulties for families, especially those with lower incomes and/or no vehicles.
- There is a lack of industry and jobs to attract and keep families in the area.
- A fitness and play workshop was organized in April 2013 with the assistance of the University of Lethbridge. “Be Fit for Life,” which is offered through the university, teaches parents and agencies how to play with young children and support their physical development. Participants are given activity cards to take home or share with their staff.
- A conference on early development was held for parents and caregivers in March 2012. Subsidies were provided to low-income families to cover the cost and free childcare was also available. The five areas of development measured by the Early Development Instrument (EDI) were discussed and keynote speaker Dr. Robbin Gibb, a professor of neuroscience at the U of Lethbridge, talked about the role of early experiences on shaping children’s brain development.
- The coalition made presentations to more than 20 groups and organizations, including the municipal council, the Chamber of Commerce, the Parent Link Centre, daycares, Indoor Playground and elementary school parent councils. EDI results were also shared with the general public during open-invitation information sessions.
- A Facebook page was created to announce meetings and events and provide information about the early years. Monthly articles about the importance of the early years were published in local newspapers.
- The coalition worked with the municipality to create maps of EDI results, socio-economic information and community assets.
- One-on-one conversations were held with agencies and they were asked for their ideas and support for improving EDI outcomes. As an example of one response, the Parent Link Centre increased its gym programming from one day to two days a week. (Thirty-one per cent of young children in the community are experiencing difficulty or great difficulty in physical health and well-being.) This will impact up to 40 children, who attend the gym sessions.
- An online survey was created to ask residents about the services and resources they use and where they see gaps. The results showed that most families are satisfied with the number of preschool services that are available and that the biggest gap is the lack of public transportation. Unfortunately, the municipality is unable to respond to this issue at this point, because of the prohibitive costs.
"We're constantly trying to keep the information circulating. It's creating conversation and sparking people to ask, 'What's this all about, because they're really persistent?"
Kim Lewis, former coalition community development facilitator
Posted: April 28, 2014