HALIFAX – The province is partnering with the Margaret and Wallace McCain Family Foundation to better support the early growth and development of children by providing improved access to more resources for young families.
Margaret McCain announced Wednesday the foundation will provide a $500,000 grant to help establish the province's first early years centres in three communities across the province. Premier Darrell Dexter and Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Ramona Jennex joined Ms. McCain at the Halifax Developmental Centre for Early Learning to welcome the news.
"It's important for families of young children to have a place to go when they have questions and need support," said Premier Dexter. "These early years centres will ensure parents have access to all the supports they need in one place.
"I want to thank Margaret McCain and the foundation for working with the province on this important initiative. Today's children are the future of Nova Scotia, and together we can make sure that they get the best possible start in life."
The early years centres will provide a variety of resources based on a community's needs, including early learning programs, regulated child care, before- and after-school programs, parent education and early intervention.
Under its Early Childhood Centre Initiative, the Margaret and Wallace McCain Family Foundation will provide $100,000 a year, for the next five years, to help establish the centres.
"We are pleased to partner with the government of Nova Scotia as it creates the first tier of life-long learning," said Ms. McCain. "The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development has the important task of turning a service patchwork into a comprehensive system for young children and their families, while keeping a link to a powerful asset, public education."
In April, the province announced it would create early years centres across the province to provide support for young children and their families at accessible locations in the community. The centres will build on the highly successful SchoolsPlus model and will help bring seamless access to regulated child care, early learning programs, early intervention and parent education.
"I am very thankful for the support of the Margaret and Wallace McCain Family Foundation," said Ms. Jennex. "The first six years of a child's life are vitally important to development, so it's crucial that families have access to the best care and programs needed for their child. The early years centres will build on the success of current resources and help create a well-integrated system."
The first three locations will be determined in the coming months.
Also announced Wednesday was the Provincial Early Years Partnership, a committee of government and non-government representatives from child care, education and health with a shared focus on early childhood development. The committee will work with the new Early Years Branch as it charts a quality system for early childhood development in Nova Scotia.
"I'm excited to be working with the Early Years Branch," said Gerard Kysela, board vice-chair of the Early Intervention Association of Nova Scotia. "Integration of services for children, from before birth to age 6, and their families, is important to optimize the developmental outcome for young children, and provide strong supports for families and communities."
Earlier this year, the province expanded the Department of Education to include an early years branch, creating the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. It will develop a comprehensive plan for checkups with families when a child is 18 months old and again at 36 months. The visits are designed to identify a child's needs early, to ensure supports are in place when the child starts school.
All of these steps are based on feedback in response to the Early Years discussion paper released in May. More than 1,000 Nova Scotians attended focus groups and interested groups sessions and provided written submissions on how to improve supports for children and families.