Fort Macleod residents are urged to join a community conversation about children Thursday, Sept. 12.
The conversation from 7-8:30 p.m. at W.A. Day school is part of a province-wide initiative titled “Together We Raise Tomorrow.”
“It’s a community-led discussion and it’s happening all across the province,” Fort Macleod and District Early Childhood Development Mapping Coalition co-ordinator Kathy Karchuk said.
The conversation is an opportunity to build on the Alberta Social Framework, leading to development of a Children’s Charter for the province.
The Children’s Charter will guide decisions on policies and programs for children and families.
The community conversation is an important piece of shaping the charter.
“It’s about engaging people to think about what we need so we can integrate all the supports we have in the community,” Karchuk said. “And we have some great ones.”
Karchuk listed agencies such as Fort Macleod Kids First Family Centre and Family and Community Support Services, and programs such as Rhymes That Bind and Ages and Stages as examples of supports in the community.
“Now we’re looking at how we can integrate that and make it more accessible,” Karchuk explained.
The province is looking at four areas:
- Improving maternal and infant health.
- Enhancing parental supports.
- Enriching early learning experiences.
- Developing safe and supportive environments.
“Those are the key elements under the government’s commitment to child development.”
Research indicates parenting programs positively effect healthy family relationships and child behavior.
Making people aware of the importance of early brain development also has a positive effect on child development.
The goals of the community conversation are to address healthy starts for children so they realize their potential by the time they enter school.
Karchuk explained the early years are a sensitive time when children are learning and absorbing.
“If we can capitalize on making the most of that early development time children will arrive at school ready and able to learn what’s expected of them,” Karchuk said. “We want to help families provide those healthy environments and create that accessible support system.”
People who attend the community discussion will be asked specific questions. Their answers will be recorded and submitted unedited and anonymously to the provincial government.
Karchuk is hopeful the community conversation draws a large crowd.
“What I would like the public to understand is we need their experience and their knowledge of the community and what the needs are to give us a real clear picture of where we stand in our community as far as family and children supports,” Karchuk said.
Parents, care-givers and professionals who work with children have an obvious stake in the community conversation, but others should get involved as well.
“Everyone should come out,” Karchuk said. “These young children are our future. They’re our future leaders. They’re going to be making decisions that impact us.”