Early Years Family Resource Centre scheduled to open ‘early 2020’ in Gateway Mall

City of Prince Albert -- Herald file photo.

Prince Albert’s new Early Years Family Resource Centre is scheduled to open in a 3,000 sq ft. space at Gateway Mall in early 2020, according to an announcement made on Thursday.

The centre aims to help reduce family isolation, support healthy child development and provide information on positive parenting.

Project coordinator and development committee chair Delphine Melchert said the centre would be vital to helping children during the most important time in their growth and development.

“This is exciting,” Melchert said during a press conference Thursday morning. “The potential is here to really have an impact in our community with families, particularly in that important … window of (ages) zero to five.”

Ideally, the development committee would like to have the new centre opened by February, however Melchert said that timeline isn’t written in stone. The centre will be free for families, and available on a drop-in basis, but other details, like hours of operation and programming, will be finalized in the future.

“The need for this kind of centre will always be there, to help encourage families, to have a place for them to go,” development committee member Donna Strauss said. “We think the location for the resource centre in the mall is ideal. It will attract families, and hopefully in 10 years time, we’ll have ongoing funding (and) we won’t have to worry about the cost of it, that it will just be a service that has become a part of our community.”

“I would like to see, in 10 years time, that the knowledge about the early (childhood development) years is really ingrained in our community, in our society, that it’s not something that you might hear about or you might not hear about,”Melchert added. “I think that through this family resource centre, we can make some great strides in that area.”

The project has been in the works for close to three years, but only received funding last spring. Final plans are based on a community consultation event held in 2018. A community partnership, led by KidsFirst Prince Albert, will be responsible for hiring staff and developing programming.

Programing will focus children ages five and under. Experts say that’s the most essential period in a child’s growth, since it affects everything from language development, to their ability to make friends and manage their emotions.

“We know that the opportunities and experiences that a child has in the first five years of life significantly impacts their outcomes moving forward,” said Kathleen Schwartzenberger, an inclusive learning consultant with Saskatchewan Rivers Public School Division and development committee member. “By providing a wide variety of opportunities for children to access socialization and language and relationship building, we’re are able to ensure that we’re nurturing the brain in all of these areas.”

Family resource centres are already up and running in Yorkton, Regina and Sandy Bay. Others are scheduled to start in Meadow Lake, Moose Jaw, Nipawin, Saskatoon, the Battlefords and one additional northern community.