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Territory talks about family resources

Lyndsay Herman
Northern News Services
Published Monday, May 28, 2012

A conversation has started between the GNWT, social program leaders and aboriginal leaders about the development of child and family resources and stakeholders say it's about time.

Tom Beaulieu, minister of Health and Social Services, and Jackson Lafferty, minister of Education, Culture and Employment, met with interest groups and leaders May 4 to discuss family resource centres, family health, a child development tracking tool called the Early Development Instrument, and the existing resources available in the territory.

"I think it's important that it's a priority because the whole area of early childhood needs more attention," said Helen Balanoff, executive director of the NWT Literacy Council, who attended the discussions. "I think it's important that the two ministers were there ... because it really is something that the two departments have to work very closely on."

Balanoff said she would have liked to have seen more representation from aboriginal leaders and from those who are currently running the territory's family resource centres.

Diane Archie, executive director of community programming for the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, said discussions were centred on developing a new framework for child and family resources in the territory in order to update the current decade-old strategy.

Balanoff said she hopes any government initiatives will build on existing resources, and will continue to involve community voices.

"They were talking about doing pilot projects but I think one of the issues that the group raised is that there are already a number of family resource centres across the NWT and there have been, in some cases, for many years," she said. "I think it's important to look at what we can learn from the ones that exist and to build on what we already have and not look at it as starting something new."

Daryl Dolynny, MLA for Range Lake and co-chair of the Standing Committee on Social Programs, said a primary focus should continue to be on early childhood development programs.

"(Between zero and three years old) is where they can learn language at a much higher rate than they can later on," he said. "This is where they pick up a lot of their skills and skill sets. If we can tailor programs, if we can tailor resources to help the development of that zero to three, we'll see the fruits of our labour later on in life when these kids are going to school. So when they're writing, let's say the Alberta Achievement Test, we can see the results then."

A way the results could be tracked is through the Early Development Instrument (EDI), which was also discussed at the May 4 meeting, Dolynny said. It tracks child development by postal code and the results are used to created trend maps instead of individual child reports.

The purpose of EDI is to identify regions that need support as well as the type and degree of support the region requires.

"It gives us a snapshot of children at the age of five years old," Dolynny said. "This is the first time we can actually do a baseline study on the brain development of our (children)."

Neither the Department of Health and Social Services nor the Department of Education, Culture and Employment could comment on future plans before press deadline.

However, Dolynny and Balanoff said they suspected the issue of child and family resources in the territory would be brought forward during the current session of the legislative assembly session.

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