Strategy for Early-Childhood Development Released

Department of Community Services

May 9, 2001 11:46 AM

The provincial government released details today of a plan for a
range of programs and supports that will make a difference in the
lives of Nova Scotia’s youngest children and their families.

Under the Early Childhood Development Strategy, $66 million in
new money will be spent over the next five years.

The priorities for this year are: $1.5 million for a home
visiting program, $6 million to stabilize and enhance the current
child care system and $1.6 million to develop a co-ordinated
system of early childhood development.

“The early years lay the foundation for lifelong health and well-
being,” said Community Services Minister Peter Christie. “We need
to create a climate supportive of early childhood development.
Many parents cannot do this alone.”

New funding for home visiting will enhance existing programs --
which now vary across Nova Scotia –- and will establish a
standard, provincewide home visiting program.

Approximately 10,000 babies are born in the province each year.
Every one of these families will get a home visit by a public
health nurse. An estimated six per cent of families needing
additional support will be offered continued home visiting from
the baby’s birth to age three, by either a public health nurse or
a specially trained “lay home visitor” from the community.

“A healthy population begins with healthy babies, and we want to
ensure that every child gets the best start in life,” said Health
Minister Jamie Muir.

The enhanced home visiting program, which will be implemented
over five years, will be an entry point into the early childhood
development system, linking families to a range of community
supports such as family resource centers or child care.

The Department of Community Services will undertake a number of
initiatives designed to improve the quality of and access to
child care. A first step will be to strengthen and stabilize the
existing licensed child-care programs. Funding will be used to
support the inclusion of children with special needs in
community-based child care programs; to improve salaries in order
to attract and retain qualified child care workers, and to
provide professional development opportunities for child care
workers.

"Recognizing all staff who work with young children is an
important goal," said Goranka Vukelich, executive director of St.
Joseph''s College of Early Childhood Education. “It''s promising to
see the emphasis on improved salaries, professional development
and training. These measures should improve the overall quality
of child care in the province and enable us to find and keep
quality staff, while supporting the ongoing professional
development of the people working with children now.

Nova Scotia currently spends $16 million annually on early-
childhood development programs.

Mr. Christie said the recent federal/provincial/territorial
Agreement on Early Childhood Development presents Nova Scotia
with an excellent opportunity to make substantial improvements to
our system. Over the next five years, the province will weave
together existing programs, as well as introduce new options for
parents. Among other things, funding will go toward start-up and
expansion grants for non-profit child care centres to improve
access to child care throughout the province.

A vision for an early childhood development system for Nova
Scotia, as detailed in the publication, “Our Children . . .
Today’s Investment, Tomorrow’s Promise,” builds on programs and
services offered by the Departments of Community Services and
Health. The document is available on the Internet at:
www.gov.ns.ca/coms/ecd.htm .

FOR BROADCAST USE

     The Nova Scotia government has introduced a new Early

Childhood Development Strategy for Nova Scotia’s youngest

children and their families.

The strategy, announced today by Community Services Minister

Peter Christie and Health Minister Jamie Muir, will spend 66-

million dollars in new money over the next five years.

Among other things, it will standardize and enhanced home-

visiting programs, which currently vary across the

province. The family of every baby born in Nova Scotia will get

a home visit from a public health nurse. Families needing

additional support will be offered continued visits to age three.

     Community Services also will improve quality and

accessibility of licensed child care. There is funding to improve

the quality of child-care workers by raising salaries and

offering professional-development courses. There is also funding

to support inclusion of special-needs children in community-based

child care.

-30-


Contact: Michelle Whelan
         Community Services
         902-424-4326
         E-mail: whelanme@gov.ns.ca

         Wendy Barnable
         Department of Health
         902-424-4410
         E-mail: barnabwm@gov.ns.ca

kjd         May 9, 2001         11:43 A.M.