Individuals and organizations comprising the Comox Valley Early Years Collaborative are committed to supporting young families, and improving the life chances of children.
Formed in 2015, the network includes Comox Valley Aboriginal Head Start, CV Family Services, Island Health, School District 71, local governments and the Wachiay Friendship Society, among others.
“Our activities are focused on making the Comox Valley the best place possible to raise children,” said Joanne Schroeder, executive director of the CV Child Development Association. “The collaborative recognizes that if we want to make a difference for children and families, we need to work together. Often, early childhood services are fragmented and hard for families to access.”
She said the collaborative wants to change this by ensuring “all children have access to the kinds of support that will help them thrive.”
SD71 hosts Welcome to Kindergarten events for new families. The recent Valley Child Family Resource Fair showcased the strength of the CVEYC, offering families a chance to learn about available resources.
Another project, dubbed 25 x 25, aims to reduce vulnerability rates for children entering kindergarten to 25 per cent by 2025. Statistics indicate the Valley’s overall vulnerability rate, at 40 per cent, was above the provincial average — meaning 40 per cent of children are facing some challenges as they enter kindergarten.
“Vulnerability exists in all areas of our community, although there is more disparity between neighbourhoods in the Comox Valley than in most communities in the province and the percentage of low income families here is greater than the provincial level,” Schroeder said.
In 2016, she notes, 22 per cent of local children under six were living in poverty.
“Our community is growing, with many families moving here to escape the high cost of living in B.C’s metropolitan areas. This has challenged our existing infrastructure, creating high demand for affordable housing, child care and transportation.”
In response to the need for more child care spaces, the collaborative has encouraged local governments to apply for funding to create a Valley-wide child care plan.