Lakeview Parent Link Centre has been part of the Sylvan Lake Community since 2015 and provides programs for parents and caregivers to attend with their children up to the age of 6. “All the programs are built around relationship,” said Giselle Campbell, the early learning centre supervisor for the centre. The free programs are also popular. “Our numbers are through the roof. Within the first five months of this year, we’ve had over 5000 visits,” Campbell said.
The centre also focuses on including the surrounding community. The program is run four days a week in Eckville and partners with Benalto for family events. “We collaborate with many people and corporations,” Campbell said. 12 – 14 programs are run per week and are rotated on a six – eight week rotation basis so attendees get plenty of variety.
The centre provides many programs including Parented Gym and Early Learning, Positive Parenting Program (also known as the Triple P), Ages & Stages Questionnaires and more. The program provides opportunities for parents and caregivers to socialize and create community while learning about parenting strategies and playing with their children.
Danielle Clifford has three kids in the program and has brought them to the centre for the past four and a half years. As a stay-at-home mom, she says the program helps get her and the kids out of the house. “The programs bring you closer to your kids because you’re interacting with them and giving them the attention they need,” she said.
Clifford spoke warmly of the group of caregivers and facilitator, Julie Gibson, at an early morning play group. “The kids love Julie. She’s very high energy,” said Clifford. “These programs hit all five areas of development and takes some of the pressure off of me to think about what to do with my kids. We just come to play.” The five areas the programs aim to improve are: physical health and well-being, social competence, emotional maturity, language and thinking skills, and communication skills and general knowledge.
The Positive Parenting Program is an evidence-based program that has been running in the province for approximately ten years. All nine staff members at the centre are trained in the program and able to work with parents.
Campbell spoke of the team approach she encourages, “We need to be able to meet parents when they need support and not have to make them wait or refer them to someone else.” The program offers seminars, one-on-one sessions, and discussion groups targeted towards specific parenting problems. One seminar provides a group setting for parents to explore strategies for raising confident, competent, resilient children.
For children under the age of 6, the centre offers the free support of a Family Liaison Advocate, Heather Sweetnam, who assists parents one on one through challenging life situations. Referral information, identifying root causes of needs, building connections within community are some of the services Sweetnam provides. “She’s able to give parents supportive referrals as opposed to just information referrals,” Campbell said.
According to survey stats collected at the centre, 97 percent of parents report an increased knowledge in their child’s development. This means they have a better understanding of where their children are and what milestones they should be reaching. 98 percent of parents report an increase in social connections and community connections. This helps parents answer questions about how to go about getting involved in the community. For example they can find out how to get involved in a clothing and equipment swap.
Ages and stages questionnaires are assessment tools to find out where children are at in terms of motor skills, communication, problem solving and emotional management and the scores are used as a basis for offering strategies or making referrals.
A toy and book lending library provides a variety of resources for parents and children to use.
Kitchen programs give parents and children a chance to explore and play with food. The Little Chefs programs gives parents and kids hands on experience with creating and talking about food. The Cook & Chat program gives parents and kids a chance to socialize over a variety of cultural recipes while expanding language skills.
A new program called Smile Cards allows for people in the community to give out a small card to parents/caregivers with a child between zero – five that says “Smile, you have been caught, being a great parent!” The card can be brought into the centre to receive an age-appropriate Kid Kit filled with toys and games.