CANMORE – A surplus will see the Family Resource Network run a summer pilot project for short-term childcare options for kids between six and 13 years old.
The roughly $7,300 surplus will allow for two programs – one for kids six to nine and the other 10-13 – to run for seven weeks. The pilot program will be known as the adventure club and focus on outdoor programming in various parks in the community.
The pilot programs were devised after looking at what was needed by community members and past successes.
“We really looked at what the community needs were based on the funding we did have,” said Christine deMontigny, the supervisor of Family Connection Centre programs. “There’s a lot more we can do based on the funding that we do have for this program, but at this point it’s how we arrived at the decision based on the community research and that we understand what the community needs.”
The program for kids six to nine will run two days a week for four hours a day and focus on increasing social and emotional development, relationship building and supporting mental health. The 10-13-year-old program, to run one day a week in two-hour blocks, will support mental health and emotional development. Neither program is a licensed childcare program.
The $7,362 surplus was due to COVID-19 restrictions limiting some programs and staff turnover that saw some financial savings. The surplus is meant to be used before March 31, 2023. A report from staff noted another Family Resource Network (FRN) grant surplus is not anticipated.
The adventure club program will be modelled after the COVID-19 short-term and temporary childcare programs that ran in 2020 and 2021. It will allow guardians to not be on site with their kids, but be available by phone if they need to be contacted.
“I think this is a really great program and I’ve been advocating with [Family and Community Support Services] for something a little bit different than what we normally offer with childcare …” Coun. Joanna McCallum said.
“I think it’s an amazing opportunity and I’m looking forward to what the data looks like in the fall. It’s not something that’s the norm.”
The FCC used a portion of its funding in 2020 and 2021 that provided a childcare alternative. Last year, there were 389 kids who attended the free play free time for kids three to five years old and play without parents for kids six to 12 years old.
The staff report emphasized the popularity of the programs in helping not only with childcare support, but also assisting with the development of youth. It highlighted the impacts the pandemic has had on youth mental health such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic symptoms.
The report gave examples of Edmonton’s green shack program that serves as a free drop-in for kids aged six to 12, Calgary’s park n’ play program for free outdoor programming for six to12 year olds and Hamilton’s summer supie program, which is also a free drop-in program at playgrounds.
An evaluation of the program will be completed and presented to council in the fall.
It will focus on whether families felt the programming supported and connected to the community, gave families affordable childcare options and allowed kids to play and develop socially.
“One of the key things is we wanted to make sure there was no ongoing operational impact because this is surplus,” said Lisa Brown, the Town’s manager of community social development. “We looked at new programs that were in a certain cost budget instead of anything like adding to existing programs that would have a long-lasting operational impact.”