Connections Program Supports Local Families

Sometimes, having a place to connect and play in the neighbourhood can be a game changer for young families.

Building Connections for Valley Families (Connections) is an initiative of the Comox Valley Early Years Collaborative, a network of more than 50 individuals and groups who focus on ways to help early years families in the Valley thrive.

When early development indicators showed that much could be done to improve the early childhood developmental outcomes of children in Comox Valley, the Collaborative created Connections.

The project tackles childhood vulnerability across the Valley in a neighbourhood-by-neighbourhood approach, designed to address parents’ needs to be connected and supported socially.

It currently offers organized drop-in play groups in Dove Creek and Black Creek, and a pilot group in Fanny Bay, with additional supports under development in other areas of the Valley.

“We wanted a welcoming space for families to gather, play and connect,” said Darcie Emerson, the family connector for the North Comox Valley area. “Creating a place for neighbours to meet who may never have crossed paths before is especially important for families living in rural areas. Parenting can be isolating enough and we know how valuable social connections can be for adults and children alike.”

The initiative’s first years have shown how instrumental connection points have been for creating friendships, reducing isolation, and localizing supports for rural Comox Valley families.

“I wouldn’t have met all these amazing families without having this in the area and I probably wouldn’t have developed friendships here, as it is hard to put myself out there like that, especially as a busy mom,” said one mother.

Tailored to caregiver and child interests, Connections brings in information and resources, music, art and activities, mobile library services, and guest speakers to answer questions about early years development.

Connections also hosted a Teddy Bear Picnic for the whole community last year. The upbeat event drew more than 200 parents and children who came out to enjoy the day with other families, and hopefully, spark a few friendships.

“We know how important the early years are and how important it is to provide support for families,” said Betty Tate, the leadership liaison with the Early Years Collaborative. “The more support we can provide for families now, the more we strengthen their future.”

NEXT STEPS

In 2018, the Comox Valley Early Years Collaborative found 40 per cent of Comox Valley children were considered vulnerable on the early development instrument scale, which measures the developmental health of kindergarten age children. Since the Connections project began, the Collaborative has already seen a slight reduction in childhood vulnerability.

“We know, however, that moving this population level measure is complex and we are developing other indicators to evaluate the impact of our programs more fully,” said Tate.

With ongoing support from Comox Valley Community Foundation donors, the Collaborative’s work continues with the hiring of a part-time coordinator, who will engage professionals on ways to help early years children and their families thrive in the Comox Valley.

For more information, visit the Comox Valley Early Years Collaborative.

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