Alberta child-care workers offered $7M in support and training for special needs children

·3 min read
Minister of Children's Services Rebecca Schulz, second from left, sits with children  during a funding announcement Thursday.  (Mike Symington/CBC - image credit)
Minister of Children's Services Rebecca Schulz, second from left, sits with children during a funding announcement Thursday. (Mike Symington/CBC - image credit)

The federal government is providing $7 million to cover the cost of specialised training for child-care operators in Alberta who work with kids with cognitive or physical disabilities, behavioural issues or trauma.

"For parents of children with special, unique or diverse needs, sometimes it can be really challenging to find child care, and to find a child-care centre that is willing to work with parents and address those needs," said Rebecca Schulz, Minister of Children's Services.

"By doing this, we're making sure that whole centres are able to support a wide variety of needs that a kid may have."

The province says the announcement builds on the success of a nearly $3.5 million child care pilot program launched in 2021, which was also funded by the federal government, and served about 270 child-care centres.

Now that Ottawa has increased its funding commitment, the number of child-care operators who will have access to this training will nearly double to 595.

The money will be divided among five different agencies across the province that will provide training to licensed child-care operators, based on a centre's specific needs.

Providence Child Development Society in Calgary is one of the agencies receiving funding.

Its staff includes speech language pathologists, occupational therapists and social workers who are trained to support kids with autism, ADHD and trauma.

"We're able to really implement different ways of working that might be more beneficial and shift the behaviours that they may be seeing," said Elsa Campos with the Providence Child Development Society.

The other four agencies receiving money are Stepping Stones Child Care Society in Grande Prairie, Getting Ready For Inclusion Today in Edmonton, Midwest Family Connections in Lloydminster and Key Connections Consulting in Lethbridge.

Campos said child-care operators interested in training should reach out to the agency that covers their area of the province.

There can be more than one request for training made depending on whether new staff arrive, or different issues arise, she added.

Training put to the test

Providence participated in the pilot program and Campos said it's already making a big impact.

"For us, here in Calgary, we have seen a decrease in kids getting kicked out. I mean, we see blips every now and then, but we feel like programs are feeling more comfortable in being able to respond to the needs of kids in the community."

Providence worked with staff at the Little Worlds Learning Centre in southeast Calgary.

The centre recently put their training to the test when they received some children from Ukraine.

"They landed two weeks ago. And the tools that they have taught us, they are helping us to communicate, to reach to these children and they are doing fantastic," said Jessica Molina, an assistant supervisor at Little Worlds Learning Centre.

The province said the inclusive child-care supports are available to all licensed child-care programs, including facility based ones or licensed family day homes.

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