Midwest Family Connections was founded in 1982 as Lloydminster Early Intervention and has remained to this day a volunteer governed parent-driven organization. The first program that our agency provided was ECIP (Early Childhood Intervention Program) as funded by Saskatchewan Community Living Division. Given our bi-provincial location, efforts then focused on securing Alberta funds in order to provide a similar service to Alberta families. In Alberta, the Early Intervention Program (EIP) was primarily delivered by Health Units however Lloydminster was served by a Saskatchewan public health system so a contract was established with Lloydminster Early Intervention to offer the program. This was the beginning of the amalgamation of services in Lloydminster.
In the early 1990s, the agency began to offer fee-for-service home based programming for Onion Lake First Nations under a contract with the Onion Lake Health Centre. In the mid-1990s an interdepartmental steering committee worked at a local level to secure federal funding to offer the First Steps Program which focused on families who have children who are at risk for delay. This was at the same time as Kids First was rolling out provincially however Lloydminster was a non-designated community. The steering committee approached our agency to manage the program in order to maximize the infrastructure we already had in place, provide a local mechanism for collegial support, and to promote an integrated continuum of early childhood home based programs. First Steps continues to be offered through a municipal grant. A few years later, Alberta was rolling out the Home Visitation Initiative which is essentially the Alberta version of the Kids First program and again our agency was looked to to administer the program.
From 1982 to the late 1990s we evolved from being a single program single funder agency to having 5 separate home based programs each with its own funder and accountabilities. From an administrative perspective, this created efficiencies in overhead and management functions and from a service delivery perspective promoted the accessibility of centralized and coordinated approaches to early childhood services as we worked hand-in-hand through formal advisory and community networking structures.
In 2003, the local school divisions participated in a “School Readiness to Learn” Study that was coordinated by the Canadian Centre for Studies of Children at Risk of McMaster University. In Lloydminster, the EDI was completed for over 350 Kindergarten students in the 2002/03 year. The results of this study showed that children in Lloydminster, at school entry, are scoring lower in all aspects of development as compared to children across Canada. Areas where local children are deviating most significantly from the national averages include social competence, and language cognitive development. The scores for physical health and well-being, emotional maturity, and communication and general knowledge were not as low however they were still much lower than the national average.
The Integrated School Linked Services Committee; including representatives from health, education, family services, justice and the aboriginal community, then pursued funds to be designated for the Lloydminster community within the provincial allocation of Parent Link Centre funds. Lloydminster had not been an intended site for the development of a Centre. With the approval of the Alberta Children’s Ministry, Lloydminster Early Intervention was approached to administer the development and operation of a Parent Link Centre. The intention being a centralized service delivery mechanism that would promote universal access to quality family support, parent education and early learning services. In 2004, we secured a new location that underwent a $300,000 renovation in order to include an indoor playground, education room, meeting rooms, family room/quiet room and staff offices. The funds to support the renovation have come entirely from fundraising and the corporate community.
In 2005, the agency name changed from Lloydminster Early Intervention to Midwest Family Connections to reflect family as the heart of our organization, that our service area was broader than Lloydminster and that our purpose is to connect families to information, resources and one another. Our funded targets for service delivery are 500 unique individuals. Annually we serve over 2300 unique individuals across our home-based, community-based and outreach programs. We would not have been able to respond to this level of need without:
We are proud that our programs and facility are accessible to families from all walks of life and that our innovation includes barriers funds to address transportation or other barriers facing families wishing to participate in programs.
We believe this is a model that can be transferred to other communities. We could not be operating today with the full array of services that we provide had the management of many programs not been amalgamated. The cost to have a stand alone facility, toy and parent resource libraries, early learning programs, parent education programs and family support services would have far exceeded the resources available. We are not a fully funded Parent Link Centre however, due to the array of pre-existing programs that we offered and the service partnerships we have established, we are a “fully serviced” Parent Link Centre.
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The Lloydminster United Way
Parent Link Centre
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