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Home visits, literacy and parenting get boost

Government to fund new children's programs

Jennifer McPhee
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Sep 21/01) - The territorial and federal governments will spend $6 million over the next three years to fill the gaps in early childhood development programs throughout the NWT.

The territorial Department of Health and Social Services, along with Education, Culture and Employment, will kick in $2 million each year to improve existing programs and integrate new services for families.

Supplementary funding will be provided through the federal government's Canada Health and Social Transfer.

The plan's 11 priorities, announced Wednesday, include a universal screening tool to detect developmental delays, a home visitation program, literacy and parenting programs that stress culture and language, and more speech pathologists.

"It sounds like a good first step, but I hope it continues beyond three years," said Liz Baile, student support co-ordinator for the Yellowknife Catholic School Board, which runs two early childhood programs.

One of these community-based services was launched nine years ago. But Baile said it took several years before hard-to-reach families got aboard.

"It takes a while to build that trust relationship," she said.

Reanna Erasmus, program manager of the Aboriginal Headstart program in Ndilo, said she could use another teacher. Ten of her 32 students need extra help with language development.

Erasmus also said she believes a standardized testing tool will make it easier to collect information and track children's long term progress.

Jake Ootes, the minister responsible for the new program, said the government will begin implementing the action plan "as of today."