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Behind the Scenes: Early Childhood Development at the Inn

By 14 February 2019Community, News

Recently, we sat down to chat with Candice Moch, Manager of the Early Childhood Development (ECD) program here at the Inn’s Emergency Family Shelter to talk about the role and many benefits of ECD in a family emergency shelter. Here’s what she had to say:

What exactly is Early Childhood Development?

Candice Moch (CM): Typically, Early Childhood Development focuses on the first 5 years of a child’s life, however, in the context of our shelter, we work with children aged 0-10. The experiences a child has in their early years, the interactions a child has with caregivers, and the environments a child is introduced to lay the foundation for the child’s developing brain. The focus of Early Childhood Development is to ensure that the foundation is strong and solid to ensure success in adolescence and into adulthood.

How does homelessness affect Early Childhood Development?

CM: Three words: Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). ACEs are traumatic experiences that occur before a child’s 18th birthday. These experiences are typically seen as neglect, abuse, or household dysfunction, but can be extended to divorce, illness/death in the family, homelessness, or whatever a child may deem as traumatic for them. Children who have higher ACE scores are more susceptible to long-term negative health and life outcomes.

How does Inn from the Cold handle Early Childhood Development?

CM: The Early Childhood Development program, aka the “Kidz Zone”, is a unique drop-in program offered to families staying in the emergency shelter. The program offers intentional play-based experiences for children from ages 0-10 years of age, operated within a trauma-informed and cultural inclusive lens. We value belonging, acceptance, and play in the Kidz Zone; from the moment a child enters the room we want them to feel physically and emotionally safe with support from the environment and caregivers.

Throughout the day, we focus on developmentally appropriate, play-based activities for babies and toddlers such as sensory play at the water table, fine motor development through play-dough, and creative play. Our evening programming focuses on encouraging life skills in our school-age children,  including homework club, cooking classes, science experiments, yoga, and meditation, etc. On school Professional Development days we organize field trips with the intent of connecting families to the community and focusing on physical literacy. The number of children accessing our program fluctuates daily based on the number of guests residing at shelter; however, we average between 6-15 children in programming at any given time.

Why is the Early Childhood Development Program important?

CM: Many families staying at the Inn are not connected to childcare in the greater Calgary community due to the costs associated with it. Our programming fills this gap so that children can be introduced to school readiness concepts, developmentally appropriate activities, and socialization with other children. 

The program also allows us to build rapport with parents while in the shelter and to teach them new ways to initiate and engage with their children through play. These are skills that can be utilized beyond our shelter doors.

In addition, we understand that shelter can be a stressful environment and that parents are concerned with elements such as crisis, toxic stress and trauma. There are often meetings at the Inn which its preferable parents attend without their children. The Kidz Zone is a safe, nurturing space for children to play while their parents meet with staff onsite to take care of issues related to their stay at the Inn and their efforts to find housing.

Birdies for Kids! This year, Inn from the Cold is one of the Shaw Charity Classic Birdies for Kids participating charities.  When you donate to the Inn through Birdies for Kids, up to $10,000.00 will be matched at 50% with all proceeds going to our Early Childhood Development program! 

Donate today!