The Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development explains early intervention in child development can drastically impact the path their life will take. If proper supports are introduced in a child’s life, there is a higher chance the child will not fall into the inter-generational cycle of homelessness, or suffer from the developmental impacts caused by toxic stress. As Alberta’s only 24/7, no-barrier, street level access Emergency Family Shelter, we stand at the front-line of child and family homelessness serving Alberta’s most vulnerable. The average age of a guest who enters our shelter is 3-5 years old. In 2017, 58% of those we served were children aged 0 – 17 with 40% of families served coming from outside the Calgary area.
From now until the beginning of September you have the opportunity to make sure these supports are given to children experiencing homelessness in our city. We are excited to announce we have been chosen again as a charitable recipient for Birdies for Kids in the Shaw Charity Classic. Last year, Birdies for Kids raised $98,625 for the Inn, with proceeds going to support the littlest Inn guests (0-5 years old) through it’s Early Childhood Development (ECD) program. Funds will be designated to the same program this year.
We sat down with our ECD Team Lead Candice Moch who explained why this program is so important to the work we do at Inn from the Cold.
Q: Can you explain our ECD Program?
A: The Kidz Zone a safe place where children can come it learn and play. We work within both a trauma-informed and cultural lens and we have two programs for our two different age groups, the morning program and the afternoon program.
The morning program is for younger children who are not in school or just arrived in shelter at not registered in school. The program is intentionally designed to support the development of children’s brains and bodies. Alongside our Occupational Therapist, Health and Wellness Team and programs created support child development:
- Gross motor skills
- Fine motor or tactile skills
- Personal and social skills
- Communication skills
- Problem solving skills
- Early literacy
Afternoon and evening programming starts when kids come back from school and it allows older children or youth to focus with life skill development. Programs include:
- Cooking club
- Homework club
- Mad Science
- Arts and crafts
- Field trips
Q: Why is programming like this important for children experiencing homelessness?
A: Because Inn from the Cold is a family homeless shelter our main focus is on how we can help the children. We want to all we can to support their development while they are here.
Each child that comes into our shelter goes through an Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ) which allows us to evaluate their development, social skills, all with the programming above. This takes organization-wide cooperation because what the wellness team discovers with the ASQ, we use to develop our programming for the children and our Program Design Manager can build programming for the parents.
Q: What can toxic stress do to children?
A: If unmitigated, toxic stress is incredibly damaging for child brain development. Our programming is trauma-informed and we are very aware of any Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) children may have. We know that children need positive factors in their lives such a stable and caring caregiver to mitigate any damage toxic stress situations have already had on the child’s development. We work to create a strong and caring relationship with each child. This can be done simply by knowing them on a first name basis, knowing their interests, so we can create programming that supports strong neuro-connections.
This is very important for youth because they benefit the most from these relationships. Social interactions are very important at this developmental stage, and can youth have a good sense of whom is genuine and who is not. Given their situation, these youth have a lot of people who coming in and out of their lives, so establishing a caring relationship and providing a sense of stability for them is very valuable.
Q: What is an example of a child success story?
A: We count every little thing as a big victory. Things that would be considered “normal” for many children are taught in our programming, including being able to stand in line or learning manners. Most of our children do not go to preschool where you learn those skills, so it is our job is to try and teach them here. If we can set them up from the beginning with a healthy foundation then we can hopefully set them up for life.
Have an impact on a child experiencing homelessness by making a donation today. You can find out more information on Birdies for Kids here. Every donation made to Birdies for Kids is matched up to 50%.
Find out more information on programs at Inn from the Cold here.