Getting the word out

Prince Albert Early Childhood Intervention Program hoping to raise its public profile during ECIP week

They provide a service most don’t know exist until they need it, but this year during the week proclaimed in their name, they want everyone to know who they are and what they do.

May 27- June 2, 2018, is Early Childhood Intervention Program (ECIP) Week in Saskatchewan. For Prince Albert Early Childhood Intervention Program executive director Anne McIntosh, it’s the perfect opportunity to raise the group’s public profile.

“We’re a home-based visiting program,” she said. “The whole idea is that we support parents so they can support their child.”

ECIP works with families until their children enter kindergarten. They provide information and strategies, connections to other services in the community and emotional support to parents of children with a disability or a developmental delay, or at risk of developing a disability or developmental delay.

Those aren’t risks such as a poor environment. Rather, they’re established risks set out by a medical professional.

‘It’s more the child has been born prematurely or has spent a lot of time in the hospital or has a syndrome that may not show a delay right now, but down the road it’s going to show a delay,” McIntosh said.

“Those are the kids we work with. We usually carry them partway through kindergarten.”

The program is funded by the provincial and federal governments. Funding from the federal government comes from Health Canada and is to support children living on-reserve. Right now, ECIP Prince Albert serves about 70 kids through federal funding and 120 kids through provincial funding. Staff members have a variety of backgrounds, including education, nursing and social work. The job entails a bit of each of those other professions. It’s a lot, McIntosh said, but it really helps. The difference between qualifying kids who do or do not receive services shows in the first few years of school.

“Usually there’s a change in the developmental progress, and not just the change that would happen anyway. There’s an accelerated change,” McIntosh said.

“We’re in the middle of doing some measurements of that, but we know that kids are moving forward, but it’s also the confidence parents have and the knowledge that they have that they can then take forward into school years with their child. They know who to contact and where to go from there. It’s not just the child, it’s the family. Information is power, and they’re able to move forward that way. That’s important because down the road especially if their child has a specific type of delay or disability, they’re going to continue having to advocate for their child.”

Without that support, it can be frightening or difficult for families of children with disabilities or developmental delays.

The funding the agency does get goes a long way. About 100 or so kids served are done so with funding for 66. That’s because each child and each family has different needs.

‘Some kids are getting less service and then kids move away, and there’s always a transition of kids going off the program,” McIntosh said.

“It’ doesn’t mean we’re superhuman, it just means that’s just the way things work and we’re able to do that.”

On top of the government funding, ECIP does fundraising of its own and accepts donations. Those donations help with travel expenses for its staff, or with materials like books or toys to help out the families.

Fundraising and donations can also be used to put on get-togethers or other programs outside of the regular services ECIP offers.