Prior to the public meeting discussion of the 2013 budget, a delegation of local and County FCSS members and directors spoke to Warburg Council about the Early Child Development Mapping (ECMap). ECMap is a five-year research and community development initiative contracted by Alberta Education to assess early childhood development and to help build community coalitions to respond to local needs.
The initiative gives community stakeholders a picture of how young children in Alberta are doing in five areas—Physical Health and Well-being, Social Competence, Emotional Maturity, Language and Thinking Skills, Communication Skills and General Knowledge—so they can work together to support healthy early child development.
Council was told the ECMap study revealed Warburg and Thorsby are at a “higher level risk than most communities.” Warburg FCSS Director, Marj Savage explained that ECMap brought forward this information and it remains consistent with entry levels and stays through the primary levels.
A graph on the www.ecmap.ca site reveals the percentage of kindergarten children from five areas across Leduc County who are “experiencing great difficulty in one or more areas of development.” This was averaged over a period of four years, starting in 2009. The Canadian norm is 25.40%, Alberta norm is 26.96%, Leduc County norm is 26.46%.
The area designated “Leduc_A” (which includes Warburg and Thorsby) is 45.67% experiencing great difficulty in one or more areas of development while the rest of Leduc County areas B-D averaged 24.6%, 26.98%, 23.22% respectively. Leduc_E at the eastern end of the county did not have sufficient data.
The question then becomes why are the kids struggling? The study does not address this and leaves it to community coalitions to decide. So, does the community have a role in raising children? The ECMap initiative proponents believes it does.
FCSS hopes to get a wide spectrum of input from all community stakeholders (parents, educators, service providers, non-profit organizations, policy makers, entrepreneurs, reps from ethnic and cultural groups, seniors, other family members) in order to, as Warburg FCSS Board member Matthew Magnus puts it, "create the environment for improvement."
Coalitions could help determine what resources the community needs to make those improvements.
The FCSS group requested a Vision statement from Council, as well as support for engagement with all community stakeholders. Council supported the idea of stakeholder input as Mission and Vision statements are formulated; but they resisted the invitation to formulate their Vision statement at this time.
Mayor Kohl cautioned most vision statements become a “priority list” instead. Councillor Miller suggested they first start the program, “get all the groups to sit down and discuss your vision before you come to us. It’s putting the cart before the horse.” Councillor Van Assen echoed this, saying it is up to the FCSS/ECMap to put it together and then for Council to give support. Councillor Elgersma, Council Rep for FCSS board, insisted that community stakeholders all have a say in developing the Vision. “It’s not our responsibility to present ‘our’ (FCSS/ECMap) idea, but it needs to be done.”