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August 20, 2012
For immediate release

New funding for Best Start Program provides enhanced supports for children and families

Education and Early Childhood Development

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New funding will expand the Best Start Program, providing more support to new parents to help them raise happy, healthy children, says Premier Robert Ghiz.

“Over the past five years, Government has made significant investments to help build a stronger education for all Islanders,” said Premier Ghiz. “Today’s announcement reflects Government’s commitment to lifelong learning which begins at birth and continues through the school years, higher education and throughout life.”

In 2010, Government introduced the Preschool Excellence Initiative, one of the most progressive programs in the country. The initiative marked a fundamental shift in Government’s policy focus in the early years from child care to early learning. Government also made a strong statement when they implemented a full-day kindergarten program into the provincial school system. To date, 45 Early Years Centers have been implemented across the province, which has been a huge success and a vital step in the creation of an Early Learning and Child Care System.

Now, the provincial government is investing an additional $60,000 to the Best Start program, on top of the $90,000 new money provided last year, bringing the overall funding to more than $1 million annually. The new funding expands the program, allowing families the opportunity to receive Best Start services until their child is 36 months old. Previously, the service was only available until the child became 24 months old.

Best Start is a voluntary in-home visiting program that identifies and provides service to families who face challenges and can benefit from additional support. The program has two components. Public health nurses screen all newborns and their families across the Island within two weeks of their birth and, for those who are eligible, highly skilled Best Start workers are able to follow the child and the family for a three-year period.

Families participating in the Best Start Program may be experiencing a variety of social, health, economic and educational challenges. Parents receive help in such areas as physical care of the child, nutrition, infant stimulation, breastfeeding, child development and parent-child activities.

“We are pleased to expand this program to help support a child’s opportunity for success in childhood and later life,” said Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Alan McIsaac. “This program provides support to new parents at a time that is most critical to both the child’s development and to the parents’ ability to develop important parenting skills.”

The Best Start Program aims to help parents deal with stress, interact positively with their children, and improve their personal development. It increases their knowledge of child development and their understanding of their child’s temperament. Through the program, parents also receive information and support with school, training and employment opportunities.

“As positive early childhood experiences are critically important in the first three years of life, we are delighted with the additional provincial government investment in the Best Start Program,” said CHANCES Board Co-chair Michelle Dorsey. “This early support will not only promote healthy child development, but will increase the knowledge and capacity of parents to successfully fulfill their most important job in life – parenting.”

Best Start workers meet regularly with families in their own environment. This enables the worker to learn first-hand about the life conditions of the parents and to respond appropriately to the family.

The program has been operating for more than 10 years as a province-wide program with provincial government funding. It is offered by CHANCES Family Centre in partnership with Public Health Nursing and the six other Family Resource Centres in P.E.I. which include: the Coalition actions pour enfants, Wellington; Mi’Kmaq Family Resource Centre, Charlottetown; Kids West, Alberton; Family Place, Summerside; Families First, Montague; and Main Street Family Resource Centre, Souris.

More than 400 families benefitted from the program in 2011-2012.

BACKGROUNDER

Best Start Program Expansion

August 2012

Best Start is a voluntary in-home visiting program that identifies and provides service to families who face challenges and who can benefit from additional support.

The program has two components: Public Health nurses screen all infants at birth and their families. Best Start workers offer weekly in-home visiting support to families. It is a voluntary program that is offered province-wide.

Families participating in the Best Start Program may be experiencing a variety of social, health, economic and educational challenges.

The new funding expands the program, allowing families the opportunity to receive Best Start services until their child is 36 months old. Previously the service was only available until the child became 24 months old.

Parents receive help in such areas as physical care of the child, nutrition, infant stimulation, breastfeeding, child development and parent-child activities.

Early screening and support can identify and address risk factors, and increase a child’s success throughout life. Best Start can reduce the negative impact of abuse and neglect and improve outcomes such as self-esteem and readiness to learn.

Best Start helps parents to deal with stress, to interact positively with their children and to improve their personal development. It increases their knowledge of child development and their understanding of their child’s temperament. Parents also receive information and support with school, training and employment opportunities.

Best Start workers meet regularly with families in their own environment. This enables the worker to learn first-hand about the life conditions of the parents and to respond appropriately to the family.

Best Start has been operating for over 10 years as a province-wide program with provincial government funding. It is offered by CHANCES Family Centre in partnership with the other six Family Resource Centres in P.E.I. which include: the Coalition actions pour enfants, Wellington; Mi’Kmaq Family Resource Centre, Charlottetown; KidsWest, Alberton; Family Place, Summerside; Families First, Montague; and Main Street Family Resource Centre, Souris.

In Prince Edward Island, approximately 400 children benefit from the program each year.

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Media Contact: Laura Steeves
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