Frequently Asked Questions
The term “family support program” describes both an innovative model and an approach to service delivery that focuses on supporting the complex needs of families with young children in a number of ways. Such programs empower families to enable children’s healthy growth and development by enhancing strengths and capacities in individuals, families, and communities. Family support programs provide welcoming, community-based opportunities for families to voluntarily come together and exchange support. Family support programs are driven by the community and flexibly respond to a range of unique family needs. Professionals partner with families and collaborate with local organizations. Programs reduce social isolation, support healthy child development and family well-being, and facilitate capacity-building and community development. Programs are typically offered at no cost to participants and may include: drop-in programs for children and their caregiver, parenting workshops, referrals to other services, and lending libraries. With the onset of the global pandemic, COVID-19 programs are now offering virtual programming to support families and children.
Guiding Principles of Family Support by Families Canada
Hear what families tell us about family support programs in a video by Families Canada.
In 2017, the Ontario Ministry of Education provided clear business guidelines that directed CMSMs and DSSABs to manage the local delivery of core services in EarlyON Child and Family Centres. The core services include:
- Engaging parents and caregivers
- Supporting early learning and development, and
- Making connections for families.
Any program components beyond these core services or those designed to be responsive to community need are required to seek other sources of funding and have to follow guidelines as set out by their local CMSM or DSSAB.
Canada Action Programs for Children (CAP-C) and Canada Prenatal Nutrition Program (CPNP) is also another example of family support programs that work to support families living in communities in Ontario as well as across Canada.
Families and caregivers are welcomed to attend these locally-based programs where they are able to access and receive the type, level, and frequency of service needed at no or low cost. Through participation in these programs, staff aim to strengthen parents’ competence, confidence, and well-being and support the health and wellbeing of young children.
While the Province established the policy framework and service expectations for family support programs known as EarlyON Child and Family Centres, the service system management role has been devolved to the 47 municipalities in Ontario. These municipalities are referred to as Consolidated Municipal Service Managers (CMSMs) or District Social Service Administration Boards (DSSABs). CMSMs and DSSABs work with local service providers to ensure, access, equity, and quality in local communities.
Canada Action Programs for Children and Canada Prenatal Nutrition Programs fall under the auspices of the Public Health Agency of Canada who provide guidelines and service expectations for programs.