Kelowna Child Care Society

It’s normal to have questions about your child’s development – after all, children don’t come with manuals. Each child is unique with their own temperaments, learning styles, strengths and needs. For parents, there can be a lot of questions and uncertainty about where can they go for the answers.

For Michelle Dickie, Executive Director of Kelowna Child Care Society, her dream is that one day, there will be universalized screening for young children. Thanks to a grant from the Central Okanagan Foundation, her dream is coming a little closer to reality. The goal of universal screening is to provide first-step support for parents and guardians with children up to the age of five, so they can learn more about their unique child, and about fun activities to support skill development.

“The way the screening is set up, there are different questionnaires to assess babies aged two months right up to 60 months of age,” said Dickie.

Parents, or someone who spends at least 20 hours a week with the child, can complete the Ages & Stages questionnaires to learn more about a child’s cognitive development, fine motor, gross motor, speech and language, and personal-social development. “There’s also a second questionnaire called Ages and Stages Emotional,” said Dickie, for parents concerned about the way their child is interacting or responding.

“We’ve had families come in and it’s their first child and they’re not quite sure what to expect, saying, ‘my friend’s child does this’– there’s so many questions as a parent. So what this assessment does is it can actually support parents in knowing things are going well,” said Dickie.

She explained, “We have a community coordinator that supports families in completing the questionnaires and she can suggest activities to support the needs of the child.”

If something seems to require a little more attention, then a referral can be made to somewhere like the Starbright Children’s Development Centre. Dickie said, “If you start activities early and support your child’s development, they may never need additional services.”

In Kamloops, where they have been using this screening process for several years, Dickie noted, there has been a significant drop in the need for additional supports systems with kindergarten students.

“It’s the kind of program that benefits parents and children immediately but there are the long term benefits as well. If we can support the children and the parents prior to kindergarten or if the school district knows a little more about the children coming in, they can help better support for success.”

The Kelowna Child Care Society has been providing services in the Central Okanagan for more than 37 years. Its original focus was childcare related but it has grown to become so much more. In addition to doing screenings, they work with childcare programs, do consulting, and offer many programs, including the Young Parents program at Kelowna Secondary School.

“We recently partnered with Okanagan Regional Library,” said Dickie, and are now offering free screening questionnaires for parents on set dates at both the downtown Kelowna and West Kelowna libraries.

Currently, screening is available free of charge to parents. The next screenings at the libraries will be on Thursdays, March 12, 26, April 9 and 23 from 10 a.m. - 11:30 a.m; and on Fridays March 20, April 17 and May 29 from 10 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.

Dickie said, “Some parents don’t feel comfortable doing the questionnaire with the community coordinator and that’s fine too.” Parents can call 250-869-2570 or email cousi@kelownachildcare.com if they would like more information or to learn more about their child’s development. There is also a service available to early childhood development professionals interested in being trained to administer the questionnaires.

“We’ve got childcare programs that are using the questionnaires for all the children coming in, so they can take a look at the needs and strengths of the children and tailor their programming to best support the group,” she said.

It’s a child’s job to play as playing is how learning happens. Supporting your child with their development should be a fun experience for both you and your child.

To learn more about the Kelowna Child Care Society, visit their website at kelownachildcare.com