United Way invests $5 million in early years place-based strategies

Families attend launch of Richmond City Centre Avenues of Change
Families attend launch of Richmond City Centre Avenues of Change

Children thrive when their neighbourhoods thrive. In Metro Vancouver, United Way of the Lower Mainland has made a 5-year, $5 million investment in United Way Avenues of Change, early years, place-based strategies that will ensure young children and their families have stronger social supports and that the interface between organizations and families is improved so that service systems can be more responsive to the needs of young children.

Around the world, place-based strategies are gaining attention as a crosscutting approach to addressing the kind of complex problems that are difficult for any one organization to solve. A place-based approach focuses on the social and physical environment of a community or neighbourhood, and on better integrated and more accessible service systems, rather than focusing on the problems faced by individuals. A place-based approach can target an entire community or address specific issues that may exist at the neighbourhood level, such as poor housing, social isolation, or poor or fragmented service provision. By using a community engagement approach to address complex problems, a place-based approach seeks to make families and communities more engaged, connected and resilient.

United Way Avenues of Change has invested in 4 neighbourhoods where young children are struggling.

Coquitlam River

In the neighbourhood of Coquitlam River, volunteers are connecting families with young children to available services, fostering a culture of parents supporting parents, and promoting a clean and safe neighbourhood. The initiative has also launched a Child-Friendly Community Campaign—a campaign that brings families together for events, strengthens civic engagement, and equips parents to advocate for a truly child-friendly neighbourhood.

Guildford West

An Early Childhood and Family Check-In in Guildford West is reaching out to families where they live to foster children’s healthy early development. Another strategy, Support on the Go, promotes mental health wellness among families with young children, and offers kids and parents practical tools for stress reduction. And, Thrive! Neighbourhood Gatherings hosts a series of events that help parents and neighbours to meet one another, and learn about different resources to support families with young children.

Richmond City Centre

In Richmond City Centre, over 35 newly built high-rise apartment buildings are attracting many young families. A Vertical Parenting strategy is researching the lifestyles of young families living in a high-rise neighbourhood. As many of these families are new immigrants to Canada, Neighbourhood Family Connectors are being trained to connect them to their community, to programmes and services and to create a culture of parents supporting parents.

Strathcona Vancouver

The Graduation Strategy in Strathcona Vancouver targets educational success and supports the growth, education and healthy development of children in Vancouver’s inner city. The United Way Avenues of Change initiative focuses on early and middle years health and wellness interventions that will support the abilities of children to meet developmental milestones and to be active, engaged, and healthy.

United Way is working closely with each community and local experts to create an evaluation plan to measure results. A key test of the impact of Avenues of Change will be the Early Development Instrument (EDI), a population-level tool that measures child vulnerability across five developmental areas that predict adult health and well-being at school entry. The hope is that these early years place-based strategies will help reduce child vulnerability.

Author: Helena van Gorkum – Davidson

Photo Credit: Photo by Richmond initiatives 

United Ways Avenues of Change Link: http://www.uwlm.ca/our-work/all-that-kids-can-be/avenues-of-change/ 

Coquitlam River Link: https://www.facebook.com/UWAOCCoqRiver/

Guildford West link: https://www.facebook.com/AofC.guildfordwest/

Neighbourhood Family Connectors link: http://www.touchfam.ca/programs-and-services/avenues-of-change

Early Development Instrument link: http://earlylearning.ubc.ca/edi/

Author: Helen Davidson

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