Ontario’s McGuinty urged to ‘do the right thing’ for immigrant children

There have been a number of initiatives in the last ten years (and previously) to  address the patchwork of services and supports for families with young children in Ontario.

In the Harris/Eves government, the Ontario Early Years Centres were an attempt to respond to the Mustard/McCain report, The Early Years Study which called for an early child development and parenting model of service, to serve as Tier 1 entry to the formal school system. (See Ontario Early Years: A Very Brief History, at the Health Nexus Sante blog).

The Best Start initiative was launched by the next government, Premier Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals, and saw communities collaborating in Best Start Networks, working to bring services and supports together in ‘hubs’ for children from birth to age six.

This summer, The Premier’s early learning advisor, Dr Charles Pascal was asked to look at how to best prepare young children to succeed in school and released With Our Best Future in Mind. Pascals’ report calls for many of the same options of previous investigations but with clear – and implementable – steps.

For immigrant children and families, the system proposed by Pascal are especially important. Pascal envisions a system of child- and family-centred schools, with access to information, resources, supports and services for parents and caregivers and full-day kindergarten and early learning and child care for children. Pascal’s system builds upon the work – and success of both the Ontario Early Years Centres and the Best Start Networks.

As the province with the largest number of immigrant families with young children, Premier McGuinty would serve immigrant families very well in adopting the plan. I cannot think of a better way to welcome newcomer children and families to their new communities than by having a school act as the central point of entry into the myriad of social, health and educational services. Such community-based school centres (staffed by kindergarten teachers and Early Childhood Educators and other family support workers) will have expertise to assist the integration of newcomer families with young children into their communities.

For parents with existing resources (time, funds, language skills and peer support and/or extended family members to help), it is difficult enough to navigate the system. Imagine not having the language, the networks, or knowing where to go to get this kind of information. That is the reality for immigrant families.  The school - an institution universally recognized as the centre of a community - is the best place to act as a central (and a multiple-) point of entry to the world of health, educational and support services for immigrant families with young children.

{see June 16/09 post for more on how the Pascal plan addresses early child diversity}

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