7 strategies to give kids the best possible start

Youth success
November 15, 2021 •  By Centraide
Visuel de la grand semaine des touts petits

For Early Childhood Week, we are voicing our strong support for our partners who strive to make early childhood a true social priority: families, community agencies, daycares, schools, neighbourhoods, municipalities, elected officials, not to mention the business community.

“Fighting poverty above all means preventing it through support for children and families. Investing in early childhood from the prenatal period to kindergarten positively impacts children for years. However, growing up poor increases the risks that they accumulate problems throughout life. By supporting a strong network for children and families and improving their living conditions, we can give children a passport to a better future. These benefits are then passed down to generation after generation.”

– Marie-Lyne Brunet,
Vice President, Social Development, Centraide of Greater Montreal

Meet their basic needs

Young children need adequate housing and the right food. But rising housing costs are a great hurdle for many low-income families, who may struggle to put food on the table when so much of their budget goes to rent.  Meeting other needs—such as for clothing, transportation, and leisure activities—is just as important.

From collective kitchens and gardens to purchasing groups and community markets, community agencies have plenty of ideas to reduce the grocery bills of families living in a situation of poverty. The ACEF (Association coopérative d’économie familiale) help these families better manage their small budgets, while housing committees support them when problems arise and advocate for more affordable housing.

Support parents in their role

Parents need help and guidance as well as spaces where they and other parents can share and develop skills. They like getting involved and participating in activities. A whole network of family agencies and family centres in all Greater Montreal neighbourhoods organizes a wide range of services for mothers, fathers and children. These include discussions, lectures, parent-child workshops, neighbourhood discovery tours, drop-in centres, support for families with newborns, kindergarten readiness, family outings, collective kitchens, and intergenerational activities.

Stimulate children through activities

Starting kindergarten is a crucial step in a child’s academic success. However, we know that one in three children from disadvantaged areas aren’t ready to start school. Yet skills such as talking, drawing, cutting, gluing, socializing, and following instructions can indeed be learned! Different workshops are organized to ensure that vulnerable children are fully developing and ready to start school.

Support young single-parent families

Single parents often feel that there aren’t enough hours in the day. They get overloaded with household tasks, mental fatigue, isolation, lack of leisure or time for self-care, and of course, financial concerns of having to provide for a family on your own and on a low income. Young single parents are particularly vulnerable. Many community agencies that work with families provide support  geared toward both mothers and fathers to address their unique challenges.

Support immigrant families

Parenting without a family network and in very unfamiliar surroundings is of course the main challenge for immigrant families. Accessing information and resources that can help them is crucial. Other major challenges include giving these families access to affordable childcare services, helping parents learn French and find employment, and giving young children opportunities to socialize, practise their French, and take part in educational activities. Drop-in centres are available at most family community agencies whose mission is to welcome and integrate immigrants and refugees. A number of initiatives give parents the help they need throughout their immigration journey.

Help families with children with special needs

Some children need special support in their daily activities due to a physical or intellectual disability, a developmental or attention deficit disorder (ADHD), or a language or learning impairment. Parents of children with special needs have greater responsibilities than most parents, for example, because they have to provide extra care while juggling many appointments. They are more likely to feel overloaded and experience social isolation. In addition to working to defend the rights of these parents, many community agencies support them and their children through adapted activities, respite services, coaching, support groups, and more.

Make neighbourhoods great places to live

Being able to play safely in a local alleyway, hanging out with other families at the park, growing fruit and vegetables in a collective garden, having access to a community centre and a school close to home, and getting around easily are all things that foster the well-being of families and children. The 38 neighbourhood roundtables and CDC (Corporation de développement communautaire) that Centraide supports bring residents and agencies together to improve neighbourhood spaces and living conditions by taking action on issues such as housing, food, education, transportation, and urban planning.