AMHERST – They help dozens of children in the community. But scores more linger on waitlists.
“It’s a huge challenge,” said the executive director of the Cumberland Early Intervention Program, Erin Perry.
The mission of the agency, which lost its property and records in the Victoria Street fire, is to help families with children who have developmental delays or are at risk for them, according to Perry. She said 90 per cent of a brain’s ‘hardwiring’ is complete by age six; kids need help before they enter the school system – which makes the waiting list, now stretched well over a year, a serious impediment to their mission.
Perry said they lost everything in the fire, from paper files (electronic files were spared) to toys and teaching aids.
“It’s probably setting us back three to four months,” she said.
The agency’s five employees, plus the director, are currently working out of 141 Victoria St.
“It was set up to be temporary,” she said.
The job of an ‘interventionist’ – they employ four of the counsellors – is centred around visits to children in the company of caregivers, usually at home, but also in daycare. Although the waitlist for ongoing care is long, an initial consultation is made as quickly as possible. The agency practices triage, moving high priority cases up the chain.
The agency needs to raise $60,000 each year on top of its other revenue streams. The United Way has contributed money to that effort for 14 years. Perry said knowing that money will come in each year gives them more time to work on their mission, and less time on fundraising.
“We’re doing really well,” said Perry, for the amount of funding they receive. The executive director said the monetary struggle has made them thrifty.
Governments don’t always understand the practical value the agency offers. Their goal is to improve independence and functionality and to help kids achieve more success from their earliest years. Money put into helping children with delays early saves more money later.
“It makes huge sense,” said Perry.