Centre will help parents, kids learn

SAINT JOHN - Carpenters and painters are putting finishing touches on the city's first Early Learning Centre and, by late this month or the first of October, the first of several programs should be in place to help young children and their parents grow together.


Christine Roy, left, principal of St. John the Baptist-King Edward School and Janet Towers, co-ordinator of the new Early Learning Centre, stand in the new space at the school.

St. John the Baptist-King Edward School is home to the new centre which, to start things off, is offering a literacy program for parents and children to participate in together, along with parenting and early-intervention programs.

By mid-October, centre co-ordinator Janet Towers hopes to incorporate a public health clinic. Towers is the YMCA-YWCA's manager of child care and community development.

The centre will allow parents of children up to five years to access child care services, early learning programs and other resources that support their health and development. The centre is working with a variety of partners to offer a comprehensive set of programs.

It is in the process of getting the child care component licensed and has asked for 32 spaces.

"It's a work in progress that will evolve over the next three years," Towers said. Three years is the duration of the pilot project.

Under the Early Learning Centre model, multiple services come to the neighbourhood and offer a comprehensive range of programs for children and their parents, including child care programs, parent and child drop-in programs, health clinics, preschool and play group programs for children and a lending library of books and toys.

South end families have played a pivotal role in what programs are offered through intensive interviews to ensure the right mix of resources.

On any given day when the centre is in full swing, Towers expects there could be up to 15 professionals offering their expertise, including programs by the Inner-City Youth Ministry and the Boys and Girls Club.

Most of the services will come to the school, Towers said, so a parent can come in and do one-stop shopping, so to speak.

"It's extremely exciting that government came on with this, "Towers said.

"There has been a group of us working on this for the past four years.

"We knew there was a need for something like this so that people feel comfortable coming into a building and meeting with people.

"The more we can reduce barriers for people, the better. This is right in their community and they can walk there."

The plan is to have an early learning centre in each of the city's five priority neighbourhoods.

The McCain Family Foundation is donating $300,000 for a three-year evaluation of the pilot project and the health and Education Research Group, based at UNB and the Université de Moncton, will be evaluating the project.

Government is investing $400,000 annually, $100,000 per site, to create the four demonstration sites.


Published Friday September 11th, 2009 - Telegraph Journal