New parents in School District 20 are being asked to make sure they have their children included in a survey on infant health and development.
The Family Action Network has kicked off “Partnering to Increase Children’s Wellbeing,” a new project that could capture a universal snapshot of children’s health in the West Kootenay.
“The push is on to find families who are willing to fill out one of two questionnaires,” says Christy Anderson, the executive director of the Family Action Network.
FAN, working with the University of British Columbia, hopes to have every child born in the area for the next year examined using either the Toddler Development Instrument (TDI) or the Ages and Stages questionnaire.
The TDI is a questionnaire for parents and caregivers of children one to two years of age that asks about the early experience and environments of children, their caregivers and their families. It includes questions about family, home, income and community environments as well as the supports and barriers families experience within these environments.
FAN hopes to have every child born in the School District 20 in the next year examined by the TDI.
“With information from those two questionnaires, what we’ll get back for our region… is some really rich information on the developmental health of children, but also on the well-being of their families, which to our knowledge hasn’t been done before,” Anderson says.
While there is some screening done now of children at an early age, when they go in for their regular checkups and vaccinations, there’s no one-stop consistent gathering of information about all aspects of health and well being of children and their families, says Anderson.
And there’s a big gap between when a child gets its last vaccination at 18 months and his or her first day at school.
“It’s that gap we’re trying to address by gathering information on how are our children doing developmentally at the 18-month mark,” she says.
The West Kootenay is one of five regions across B.C. currently piloting the TDI throughout 2019-20.
Sharing information on how children and families are doing through the early years with local family service providers and community leaders will allow for tailored programming and creation of supports in areas where the data shows are most needed.
“Looking at the wellness of our children, and what areas they are doing really well in, and what areas that they could use some support in, and with that information local service providers might be able to change a program to address that particular area we saw some vulnerabilities in,” says Anderson. “So maybe a Strong Start program or a pre-school might focus on developing friendships, or getting along with other kids.
“If we were able to do that before a child enters school, and help work through some of those issues or challenges or vulnerability, we can see maybe a smoother entry into the school system.”
There currently exists no systematic collection of information on the developmental health of children in the pre-school aged period nor on the well-being of their families.
Parents of children who are currently one to two years old can fill out the Toddler Development Instrument online at https://tdi.ubc.ca. The survey will be online for for a year.
The Ages and Stages tool is done as a live interview with the parent and caregiver about the child. That’s available when children enter programs like preschools, daycare and other programs in the region.
Anderson says about 500 children are estimated to be the capture age for the TDI survey. The Ages and Stages survey hopes to interview the parents of about 225 children aged 18 months or older.
“We’ve got our work cut out for us,” says Anderson. “I keep saying to our partners, please help us get out to these families, so I don’t have to go chasing parents through the mall.”
About $125,000 is being spent on the project overall.
The pilot project is sponsored by Vancouver Foundation, Teck Metals Ltd., and Columbia Basin Trust.