As a way of celebrating, and providing the opportunity to learn from, the diversity of family support programs across Ontario, FSIO’s blog is showcasing a different family support program each month.
April’s blog post is written by Toni Travo, an FSIO board member who is the EarlyON Program Manager at Connections Early Years Family Centre in Windsor.
We’d love for you to showcase your program in a future blog post! No technical skills required; you can send us the text and photos, and we’ll put them online. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to share the great work that you and your colleagues are doing in your community!
A non-profit agency, Connections provides integrated support, learning and early identification and intervention services to advance the healthy development of families and their children 0-6 years of age in Windsor-Essex County.
Connections Early Years Family Centre began its story in 1974 with a group of committee volunteers at St. Mary’s Anglican Church in Old Walkerville, Windsor, Ontario who recognized the importance of providing supportive programs for families with preschool children in Windsor and Essex County.
The Agency moved to the present location at 795 Giles Blvd. East in 1986, incorporated as a non-profit agency and received charitable status in 1987. Managed by a community board and a small staff, the programs that were offered included parenting courses, playgroups and a Toy Lending Library. In 1998 Dr. Fraser Mustard, the co-author of the provincial study of the Early Years, hosted a focus group with parents at Connections Early Years Family Centre. Afterwards he described the Agency as a “strong early childhood and parenting centre”.
Connections’ reputation for excellence, creative thinking and parent involvement grew throughout the years, earning recognition from provincial and national organizations.
Community partnerships were viewed as crucial components of a flexible delivery service and collaborative events with community partners became a strong focus for the agency. In 2004, the Centre became the lead agency for the Talk 2 Me Program. This allowed the two programs to develop a service system that works together with families to achieve positive outcomes for their children.
The Centre consists of five main components. There is no cost in any of the programs or activities we offer.
1. EarlyON Child and Family Centre
At the EarlyON Centre, parents, caregivers and children can take part in a range of programs and activities, feel supported and share parenting information, receive information about programs and services that are available for young children, and talk to Early Years professionals as well as other parents and caregivers.
Our staff, along with our community partners, offer:
- Drop In Programs: Drop In and Play sessions, Move and Groove and Pop Up Drop In and Play at the Park
- Parenting Courses and Groups: Parenting Matters, Nobody’s Perfect, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, Ten Steps to Positive Discipline, Dads Group, Terrific Toddlers, COPEing with Toddler Behaviour, Parent Interaction Group, Children’s Sexual Health, Kids Have Stress Too, Circle of Security and Sibling Relationships
Child Care is available for children 0-6 years of age while parents and caregivers attend courses and groups. Enrichment opportunities and social experiences for children are provided while allowing them to remain close to their siblings and parents.
- Post Natal Programs: B.A.B.Y (Bright Active Babies and You) Group, Infant Massage
- Emergent Literacy and Numeracy Programs: Readers Are Leaders, Family Math, Growing Up, Going to School
- Roots of Empathy: Partnered with our neighbourhood school (Prince Edward Public School) to offer Roots of Empathy
- Leadership Development Program: A six-week course in family support co-facilitation for parents and community members.
- Committees: Dads Matter Steering Committee and Connections Dads Activities Committee
- Volunteer and Student Placement Programs: Volunteers play a key role in the operation of the Centre and the services we are able to provide. We are also committed to providing meaningful learning opportunities to students enrolled in a wide range of programs, particularly the field of Early Childhood Education, Family Supports and Speech Language Pathology.
2. Talk 2 Me
Talk 2 Me is the local preschool speech and language program for Windsor-Essex County. Talk 2 Me provides resources and programs for children with speech and language concerns from birth until school entry. We work with parents and caregivers to help every child be the best communicator they can be. Services are available at community sites, child care facilities and parents’ homes through the system of preschool speech and language partner agencies.
3. Infant Hearing Program
This program offers universal newborn hearing screening, high risk monitoring and services for children identified with a permanent hearing loss. We offer: newborn screening, audiology services, family support and communication development services.
4. Blind-Low Vision Early Intervention Program
The BLV program provides specialized family-centered services from birth to Grade 1. The program provides education and support for parents so they can encourage the healthy development of their children. Parents learn to help their children develop the skills they need for daily activities at home and in early learning and care settings.
5. Be Back Soon
This unlicensed child care program offers parents who qualify an opportunity to leave their children 0-6 years of age at Connections for a short period of time while they attend medical, legal, social service or counseling appointments, job interviews or workshops. This program is free to eligible families living with low income and is funded by the local poverty reduction strategy initiative.
Connections Early Years Family Centre understands the value of fathers and their important role in their children’s lives. We encourage and welcome fathers to participate in all of the programs, courses, classes and activities offered at our Centre.
We also offer many programs specifically designed to meet the needs of fathers and their preschool children 0-6 years of age.
Dads Group with Family Child Care
Based on the Super Dads/Super Kids program, dads participate in an interactive, planned activity with their children. Afterwards, while the children are cared for, dads will participate in a discussion group led by trained facilitators, which provides an opportunity to discuss parenting topics of interest to dads with children 0-6 years of age.
Connections Dads Activities Committee
A group of dads who plan, sponsor and implement activities for dads, families and their children 0-6 years of age. Some regular activities include Saturday and Sunday with Dad, Seasonal Family Walks at Ojibway Park and Date Night.
Dads Matter Steering Committee Windsor-Essex County
A committee with representation from organizations across Windsor and Essex County including Community Dads, two Boards of Education, twelve community agencies and the City of Windsor. The goal of the committee is to foster a healthy community wide action plan that recognizes, supports and celebrates the important role of fathers in the lives of their children.
Organized by the Dads Matter Steering Committee is the first ever Parenting Matters Conference in Windsor, Ontario on April 21st, 2018. This conference is a one-day free event for all parents and caregivers of young children 0-12 years of age to receive the latest parenting tips and trends, connect with valuable resource partners available in the community, and engage with other parents. Free child care is provided.