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Data & Connection Series: Innovative Programming in Kootenay-Columbia

The Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP) gathers population-level data about children’s development and well-being through the Child Development Monitoring System (Monitoring System). Monitoring System data are woven into the fabric of BC — for over 20 years, these data have been used by school districts, health authorities, communities, and governments, as well as cross sector networks to inform actions in support of children and families. 

Feeling connected to others is an important source of children’s developmental health, well-being, and resilience (Oberle et al., 2014; Masten, 2018). Our Data & Connection Series profiles how communities have used Monitoring System data to inform community actions focused on connection — connection between sectors and organizations, families and services, and children and families themselves. This is Part 2 in the series.

SEE PART 1: How Revelstoke Used 20 Years of Data to Strengthen Connection

Using Data to Inform Supportive Conversations

Inspired by the work of HELP’s founder, Dr. Clyde Hertzman, the Family Action Network (FAN) in the Lower Columbia (SD 20 Kootenay-Columbia) region was established in 2013 by a group of dedicated early years professionals with the goal of strengthening early childhood development across the area.

The Kootenay-Columbia region was one of six areas across BC that participated in the Toddler Development Instrument (TDI) data collection pilot between September 2019 and September 2020.

RELATED: Learn more about the TDI

Over the pilot year, TDI project faculty and staff at HELP worked closely with the FAN leadership and network to strategize and distribute the TDI as broadly as possible throughout the region — a task that became much more challenging during the pandemic. FAN leadership and members were particularly concerned about the isolation and the lack service and community connections for first-time parents over this period.

FAN used the TDI data to support their cross-sectoral collaborative work — combining this with other data sources, the Network applied for funds from the Columbia Basin Trust to develop connection opportunities for families with young children in the region through the introduction of Parenting Cafés.

With the goal of creating accessible and casual opportunities for families to meet one another as well as local service providers, these Cafés are offered in different locations across the region, provide food and child care (and transportation when needed), and aim to establish a comfortable atmosphere conducive to sensitive conversations.

Cohorts of up to eight families with children between the ages of 2-4 years old can sign up for a series of six sessions facilitated by FAN staff, with support from local health and early year professionals.

TDI data has informed some of the conversation topics introduced at the Cafés, including dental health, nutrition and feeding a family on a low income, navigating screen time with preschoolers, as well as family resources available in the community. This data-informed approach has helped de-stigmatize topics for participating parents — by identifying areas of shared experiences through TDI data, families have been more open to discussing some sensitive topics, potentially due to decreased fear of judgement.

To get the word out, FAN used their social media channels and, in recognition that not all families have consistent internet access, turned to local radio, paper flyers posted around town, and word of mouth. According to Heather Glenn-Dergousoff, Executive Director of FAN, Parenting Cafés have been major success so far — along with positive feedback collected through evaluation surveys, participants have requested that the Cafés be offered on a permanent basis.

FAN staff have seen the power of connection in action during the Cafés, with families expressing gratitude for the opportunity to share challenges and build relationships with one another and service providers.

Learn more about this initiative and other work by FAN

Principal Investigator: Dr. Martin Guhn
Research Lead: Madeline Chan

If you have questions about this project, please email us.

Stay Tuned! We will continue our Data & Connection Series in the coming weeks with a look at other communities and how they are using data to create connection. To be the first to know, be sure to subscribe to our mailing list or follow us on Facebook and Twitter!