Wednesday, 02 March 2016 16:47

Early childhood program is now providing services to families from a larger office space

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Swift Current and District Early Childhood Intervention Program staff hosted an open house at their new office space at Walker Place, Feb. 24. From left to right, Melissa McBlain, Wayne Cormier and Stephanie Gobeil. Swift Current and District Early Childhood Intervention Program staff hosted an open house at their new office space at Walker Place, Feb. 24. From left to right, Melissa McBlain, Wayne Cormier and Stephanie Gobeil. Matthew Liebenberg

The Swift Current and District Early Childhood Intervention Program (ECIP) is now providing services to families in southwest Saskatchewan from a much larger office space that will create new opportunities for interaction and program delivery.


The program, which has been serving the region out of Swift Current since 1981, hosted an open house at its new location on Feb. 24.
The new 3,800-square-foot office space is located at Walker Place, with access through entrance C. The building is situated at 2150 Walker Street on the city’s east side near the Chaplin Street East and Memorial Drive intersection.
The Swift Current and District ECIP currently has three staff members. Wayne Cormier is the executive director and the early childhood interventionists are Stephanie Gobeil and Melissa McBlain.
The program has previously been located in a much smaller office space a few blocks away on Chaplin Street East. The move to the new location, which started in mid December, came after months of searching for suitable office space.
“This is what I envisioned,” Cormier said. “This is the growth that the program needed in order to be more visual and valued in the community instead of being stuck in that very small space where it was very hard to entertain families, certainly children, and to have any sort of interpretative work done.”
There is a family room of about 600 square feet for various activities, including the screening of interpretive programs on a large television.
“We’ve had probably a half a dozen families that we work with visit the new area and feel very much at home and comfortable in this space,” he said. “They’re able to meet with the interventionist and the children are able to be in this area and be entertained. So that gives the parent an opportunity to meet with our staff without the child always interrupting. Also our stakeholders — we’ve had many people come through and they just love the space.”
Individual office areas for staff members provide privacy for meetings. Another significant benefit of the new office space is the use of a separate room for the toy lending library and other program resources.
The Swift Current and District ECIP provides a home and community-based service in southwest Saskatchewan for families with children from birth to school age who are vulnerable to delays.
“The program believes that through play and focused activities children can move forward and meet their developmental milestones through time and effort by the family and by our staff,” he said.
“So we have a number of activities and measurement tools and assessment tools that first of all allow us to establish the benchmark of where that child is. Then, because the program is parent driven, we develop a family service plan with the family on what the issues are and what we need to do to help that child move forward to meet that age appropriate developmental milestone,” Cormier added.
Families in the program receive on average support for two and a half years. According to Cormier the program has grown more than 300 per cent since he became executive director three-and-a-half years ago. At that time the program provided support to 17 families. Since then the case load grew as high as 68 families, but at the moment it is more realistic at around 43 families.
“It was very, very busy, and then we went through the discharge process where we had new guidelines on age restrictions,” he said. “Our guidelines went from being we can work with children from birth to six and now it’s school age children. So within the first year that they’re in school, and that’s kindergarten and Grade 1, we need to discharge from our program.”
The program's growth was partly a result of Cormier’s efforts to visit communities in southwest Saskatchewan to create more awareness about ECIP. It was also due to Saskatchewan's economic growth that resulted in the move of more people to the region.
The move to a larger office space is part of a broader vision for the Swift Current and District ECIP.
“At the end of the day this expansion is not about just having bigger office space,” he said. “This expansion was about trying to reach the vision that we and the board have for this program. That is that we’re limiting ourselves if we stick with in-home support.”
Cormier's five-year business plan for the program includes a vision to expand the group services provided to families.
“This is year three and we are exactly where we wanted to be,” he said. “Our case load is workable — it’s maximized but it’s workable, we have a solid staffing component, we have a solid board, we have solid community connections and we have the space to move into year four of the business plan.”
The focus during the fourth year of the business plan is to expand group services in the larger office space to enhance the existing skills of parents, which will have a positive impact on the development of their children.
There is room to do group work with small groups of up to four families at a time. One of these group activities will focus on cooking skills.
“We have some families where the parents don’t really have a clear grasp of essential cooking skills,” he said. “We know that there’s a correlation between proper nutrition and development in a child’s mind. So one of the things that we’re looking at is partnering with some other non-profit organizations. We have access here at Walker Place to a full-size commercial kitchen and we already have a number of families that have expressed interest in that.”
The program’s in-home support will continue, but an important benefit of group work is that families with similar issues are connected.
“We’re actually creating a network for our families.” he said. “At the end of the day isn’t that what’s it about, having people connect with other people that may have similar concerns or similar challenges so that they don’t feel that they’re alone in this. There’s no reason why any family in this community has to feel that they’re alone. The one thing I must say is Swift Current is a community of caring and we’re a part of that community, and we connect our families with other community groups.”

Read 8898 times Last modified on Thursday, 03 March 2016 13:40
Matthew Liebenberg

Reporter/Photographer