Although gains have been made, many Prince Albert children aren’t having their basic needs met.
“Most folks are of the opinion that kids are kids, and they are adaptable, and whatever happens around them doesn’t affect them,” Prince Albert Early Childhood Council chair Donna Strauss said.
This easygoing theory is false, she insists. Drawing from the story of girls that come into the Early Childhood Centre, pregnant at 16, or pregnant for a third time at 19, she said that it’s not necessarily the girls’ fault.
“When you look back at their life, it was nothing but trauma in their early childhood –- it’s why they are where they are,” Strauss said.
“It’s not enough to say ‘pull up your socks.’ We let these children down.”
In advance of National Child Day on Nov. 20, Strauss provided an update on the Prince Albert Children’s Charter the council issued at this time last year.
The charter outlines eight basic rights that children must have, with “The right to have basic needs met” the most encompassing.
“If we don’t have their basic needs met, how do we support them to be lifelong learners, to have a right to contribute?” Strauss asked. “That’s basic, and you can’t support children in isolation, you have to support their families.”
If parents are struggling with poverty, homelessness, addiction or domestic violence, it’s a safe bet their children are being negatively affected, she said.
The charter’s other seven points all tie into the idea of having one’s basic needs met, and includes the right to be safe, be themselves, belong, to have loving relationships, to lifelong learning, to play and be physically active and to contribute.
These are nice reminders to put out there every once and a while, with National Child Day an excellent excuse to draw attention to these issues, Strauss said, noting that the council’s current biggest priority is public education.
In early December, Strauss anticipates the result of an Early Development Instrument survey to come in, which measures various facets of kindergarten students’ development.
“It’ll give us a picture as to how our children are doing as they enter school,” she said.
“We haven’t had a lot of data around Prince Albert for a long time, to say how our children are faring as they’re coming into the school system … Hopefully that will point us in the right direction as to what we have to do.”
There is also an obvious need for more childcare spaces, she said, noting that a survey conducted in September showed that the city only has 54 infant spaces.
“Childcare is infrastructure. People cannot go to work and go to school if they don’t have childcare,” she said. “Lots of the people we work with have no family support, here. They’re missing that support piece that allows them to go to work.”
Noting many needs within the community, it all comes down to working together and raising awareness as to the importance of early childhood education, Strauss said.
On Nov. 20, the Prince Albert Early Childhood Council is encouraging people to dress down for National Child Day, and raise money by wearing shabby clothes to draw attention to the initiative, which is part fundraiser part public awareness piece.
Funds collected will go mainly toward public education efforts.
“That’s part of our job, to always bring awareness to the whole community, not just people who work in the early childhood field, about what the needs of children are,” Strauss said.
The Prince Albert Early Childhood Council building is located at 196 9th St. E.