“Early Years Community Developers work with anybody and everybody in communities to support families with young children by promoting the importance of the early years and facilitating community partnerships that make a positive difference for all children.”

BC Early Years Community Developers,
Provincial Dialogues, November 2009


EYCDI Presentation

Find out more about the EYCDI by clicking on the presentation below.

EYCDI Slideshow

What is the EYCDI?


We know a great deal about the importance of children’s first years. The research is clear that promoting the healthy development of children before they reach school age will have a significant impact on their success in school and, indeed, throughout their lives. In order to maximize development in these early years, it is vital that young children have access to quality environments, and that their families have the time and resources to care for their children within a supportive community. The early years takes a “pre-natal to age 6” perspective – An age group that would benefit from the same public investment in infrastructure as seen for children and youth in kindergarten to grade 12 and above.

Early Years Community Development (EYCD) is a practice that strengthens community capacity to understand the needs of families and to foster innovative strategies to best support young children. It employs collaborative processes that combine short-term outcomes and long-term planning; embracing the notion that communities themselves can create their own solutions. By changing typical power structures, EYCD empowers a community to identify strengths, acknowledge vulnerabilities, leverage resources and influence systems that affect families.

Importance

Growth and Learning

In Canada, the provision of supports and services for young children is traditionally organized across a variety of environments, institutions and sectors: federal, provincial and municipal governments; community agencies; service clubs; businesses; cultural organizations; school districts; as well as interested community members; and most importantly, parents. This approach is subject to fragmentation and inequity within and between communities. A collaborative infrastructure is critical to bring together these diverse stakeholders and to develop integrated supports based on the developmental needs of children. If we are to modify this chaotic system of supports and services to better meet the needs of young children, we require such a structure, led by skilled early years community development professionals, in every community.

Early research by the Human Early Learning Partnership indicates that there is a direct relationship between the level of neighbourhood child vulnerability and the strength of the local ECD coalition. In communities that have experienced a reduction in levels of child vulnerability, there is evidence of a strong functioning coalition. With this emerging knowledge, there is an opportunity to leverage the wisdom and experience of “successful” EYCD leadership to build the capacity and reach of this success across communities.

The importance of the role of an EYCD professional has emerged and evolved over the last ten years of doing this work. Without facilitative leadership, the community building process would struggle, and likely falter. Typically with only minimal resources and part-time hours, early years community developers in B.C. have successfully forged a new path. Together, and too often in isolation, they have learned and honed the skills needed for effective collaborative practice for children. It is important now to consolidate these learnings, to mentor new community development professionals and to begin to share with early years community developers across Canada and internationally.

History

Growth and Development

British Columbia has pioneered EYCD activity. Since 2001 there have been a growing number of funded community coalitions whose specific mandate is to focus local energy and attention towards supporting families with young children. These community ECD coalitions have many different names, titles and funding sources. (The majority of the coalitions are part of the provincial Success by 6 and Children First initiatives) The common ground, however, is the work of EYCD professionals who lead community collaborative processes.

British Columbia can also celebrate a significant start to EYCD activity that targets unique populations. Aboriginal, immigrant and newcomer initiatives have begun to examine how to improve child outcomes while respecting distinct cultures and traditions. For example, there are currently 22 Aboriginal Early Years Community Development professionals whose specialties include engaging First Nations, cultural resource development, and reducing program access barriers for Aboriginal families.

Despite over a decade of EYCD activity, the role of coalitions and the voice of EYCD professionals have not been integrated into a strong, cohesive, provincial ECD system. In fact, the patchwork of funding and programs is quite vulnerable to changing government funding priorities.

The Institute

Professional Development

The overarching purpose of the EYCD Institute is to build a stronger, more sustainable and community driven system for the early years in B.C. by creating mechanisms and infrastructure to strengthen the practice of EYCD professionals. The ultimate impact and evidence of a stronger ECD system will be reflected in improved measures of child development outcomes.

Foundationally, the institute’s focus is two-fold:

I. Building the capacity and competency of EYCD Professionals:

  • Linking existing EYCD professionals in B.C. through opportunities for learning, resource sharing, practice-based research and peer mentorship.
  • Developing and delivering a learning strategy to build skills in the core competency areas for EYCD professionals.
  • Acting as a conduit for knowledge transfer and innovation.
  • Exploring opportunities to strengthen links with EYCD professionals nationally and internationally.

II. The inclusion of EYCD within a cohesive ECD system:

  • Increasing the understanding of the critical relationship between EYCD work and an effective, comprehensive system of support for young children and their families in B.C.
  • Developing a model for research and evaluation that will add to the body of literature on community collaborative practice and local governance models.

Partners

Professional Development

The development of the EYCD Institute has been led by a working group that includes representatives from the initiatives that fund the majority of the early years community development positions in B.C.; Children First, United Way of the Lower Mainland and Success by 6, along with the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) and the Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP). EYCD professionals from around the province are also represented on the working group. Membership has now expanded to Alberta.

Members of the working group are:

The project continues to be managed by this group of partners with funding stewardship and support from the Vancouver Foundation, the Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP) and the United Way of the Lower Mainland.

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