Family Day is the Most Important Day of the Year!

By Nikki Taylor, RECE
Senior Manager, Early Years and Family Support
Oakville Parent-Child Centre

Once upon a time there were 52 “family days” in a year.

Imagine…..children, parents, grandparents, friends and family gathered together to share food, play and enjoy each other’s company. There were no agendas, few distractions, no particular place to go, and people were together.

Some of you may remember these days. They were known as Sundays. Yes, for those of you much younger than me; let me explain. Sunday was a day when stores and businesses were closed; many people did not work; technology was just in sci-fi movies; and for that one day –  every week the world slowed enough to allow a focus on family and friends. We created memories, relationships and traditions that became the glue that held us all together. One of my favorite memories of Sundays is the long drives we took with no particular destination. They were always an adventure in the making.

Fast forward and I must say, I find it a bit ironic that we now have a declared a holiday devoted to the most important thing we can do – spend quality, connected time with our loved ones. On the usually frosty February Family Day, we slow down and we give ourselves permission to tune in, focus, put the distractions away – and have a little fun together.

If you think about it, couldn’t every day be a little more like Family Day?

Here are a few simple things that you could try to keep that family day feeling going

  1. Slow down (even just a little). Carl Honore, Canadian journalist and author of In Praise of Slow (Vintage Canada 2009),  speaks persuasively in his TED talk In Praise of Slowness
  2. Share a family meal together as often as you can: Need to know why? Check out the Family Dinner Project for recipes, conversation starters and for you information junkies, lots of research on the benefits.
  3. Believe in the power of relationships. You are your children’s first and most important teacher. Check out Halton’s very own Family Relationships Matter video featuring local families.
  4. The family that plays together stays together. This Psychology Today article by Peter Gray, research professor and author of Free to Learn (Basic Books, 2013), offers 5 important ways to know if it is really play.
  5. Connection is the key. Check out this Zero to Five commentary and learn more about the connect before you direct approach and invite more connection and cooperation from your children.
  6. Empathy goes a long way to bringing us closer to children and adults alike. Brene Brown is a researcher, professor and speaker on topics such as vulnerability, courage, and authenticity. Check out her video for some humorous insight.
  7. Love and parent with authenticity and a soft heart. Learn more from Brene Brown’s Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto.

Your children are miracles, gifted to you for a very short time. Enjoy them, learn from them and hold them dear. Trust and believe in yourselves and each other. You are truly all your children need.

My challenge to you – create as many “family days” in 2018 as you can. What will your “once upon a time” stories be?

Relationships Make the Difference

A Couple of Holiday Stories to Consider, as We Start the New Year

Our Kids Network wrapped up 2017 by taking a look at our numbers in the 2016-17 Collective Impact Report. In the report, we gathered our research statistics, attendance evaluations and survey results and we saw how the data confirms that we are making progress towards the Halton 7 (the conditions of well-being for children and youth), our common agenda. If you missed it, you can read it here.

As the year wound down, we were happy to see that the data revealed our positive progress towards ensuring that all children thrive, but we also thought about the strong relationships behind those numbers. We could see that, although it is known for its use of outstanding research, OKN is also becoming known for making progress through the power of our relationships.

Going forward into 2018, you’ll be hearing more and more from OKN, our Asset-Building Table, and our partners about how relationships – from the smallest gesture to support a child to a community taking collective action on behalf of many children – make all the difference.

Here are two stories to consider as we go forward into 2018 continuing our work to ensure that all children thrive.

Beth Williams, Our Kids Network Communications Manager

The Greatest Gift of All

By Mary Tabak, Our Kids Network Developmental Assets Manager

I asked my eight-year-old niece what she wanted for Christmas. Her answer surprised me. She said that Santa and her parents were taking care of most of her gifts, but what she really wanted was some alone time with me.

I quickly re-organized my Saturday and we spent the afternoon making cookies and decorating a wreath. We even fit in little shopping for gifts that she wanted to buy her family. We wrapped them together so she could put them under the tree when she got home.

It was only an afternoon of simple (but meaningful) activities with her, but my time with my niece was precious and very well spent. And it was the greatest gift of all for both of us.

Building relationships does take time but it doesn’t always have to be a lot of time. Take a moment today to take someone out for tea, send a meaningful email, or just play with a child in your life. For more relationship-building ideas, visit  http://www.ourkidsnetwork.ca/Public/Relationships-Matter.

 

Toys for Tots at the Aldershot Hub

By Sheila Slattery-Ford, Our Kids Network Aldershot Hub Coordinator

For all families, Christmas can be a stressful season. Children can have high expectations and want the latest and sometimes costly toys. No parent wants to disappoint their child. They want to provide  joyful memories for their children to hold onto for the rest of their lives. It can be a time of grand preparation, baking, entertaining, school concerts, cleaning, decorating, and shopping. Parents who struggle to pay the rent and put groceries on the table throughout the year can be overwhelmed with thoughts of providing gifts and treats during this season.

Aldershot is known for community spirit and the strong partnerships and relationships that foster that spirit. This is where the Halton Regional Police Service (HRPS) steps in. The police and the Aldershot Hub have been working hand in hand addressing families’ Christmas needs for eight years. The community at large gives unwrapped new toys to the police starting at the Santa Claus Parade. Also, corporations and groups donate to the cause throughout the year. The result is a warehouse full of gifts to be sorted according to ages and themes. These presents are distributed through the Salvation Army and other non-profit programs, including the Aldershot Hub, to be given to families recognized as being in need. Many Aldershot families make their needs known to the Hub, because they know it can help in accessing programs and opportunities for all families.

The police and their volunteers do the sorting – a massive time consuming task which lasts throughout December. Parents register for help providing confidential information about their families.  The Toys for Tots program is interested in each child’s wishes so that the gifts can be appropriately chosen. This way soccer balls are not given to gymnasts and aspiring dancers. Each family description with only gender, age and interests is given to the police with anonymity. Through multiple emails, texts and phone calls during the month a strong relationship is built between the HRPS Toys for Tots coordinator and the Hub coordinator. We both know that we are working with respect for families and with attention to detail to prevent any disappointment. This requires diligence and time – making a list and checking it more than twice. The program was designed for children up to 12-years-old, but since Our Kids Network serves children 0 to 18-years-old, the police adjusted their age limits. Each “Hub family”’ youth between 12 and 18-years-old is given gift certificates for the mall, movies or fast food. Continue reading

Putting Research and Relationships in Action to Help Kids Thrive in 2017

A wrap up of some of this year’s successes, challenges and what we’re planning for the future. These are just a few of the exciting ways that collective action takes place in Halton! Much more information to discover in our 2017 Collective Impact Report

 

By Beth Williams, Our Kids Network Communications Manager

A Generation of Children…
We announced that a generation of children have now completed all surveys through three data cycles. This means is children who are now in their teens were assessed through the Early Development Instrument (EDI) in 2006. They completed all surveys through three data cycles between 2006 and 2015 and represent our first generation of children who have completed every assessment or survey in the full OKN data cycle.

OKN is challenged:
with engaging professionals who plan services and supports and make decisions, to use this incredibly important research to collaborate and plan services and supports for kids and families.

In the near future:
Halton is the first community to develop a unique partnership with the Learning Bar to analyze and report the Tell Them From Me (TTFM) and OurSCHOOL Survey data at the community level. OKN researchers are currently analyzing data from 2015/16, representing 18,047 students in Grades 4 to 6 and 9 to 12. The data represent important aspects of youth experiences such as friendships, health and wellness and life in school. Our Kids Network plans to release a report on this data early in the New Year.

EXPLORE! DISCOVER! KNOW! www.ourkidsnetwork.ca
We launched our new website featuring four categories of knowledge: Our Community, Working Together, Building Relationships, Our Research,  with 238 resources for professionals.

OKN is challenged:
to surpass the 20,000 page views since March 2017 and continually refresh and expand the site.

In the future:
OKN will explore e-learning options and technology.

Asset-Building is hotter than ever in Halton!
The numbers said it all:
More than 200 youth received developmental assets presentations
19 meetings hosted for community planning and coordination with 198 different professionals
10 organizations trained in the Asset-Building Toolkit
103 professionals attended the Asset-Building Forum in April
Over 5000 professionals attended “Everyone’s An Asset-Builder” workshops
Approximately 139 diverse professionals are Asset-Building Champions (and belong to the Asset-Building Network)

OKN is challenged:
to “move the movement” towards the Developmental Relationships framework.

In the near future:
Watch for the new Relationships First workshops in early 2017!

Local Impact: Youth Voices Matter: North Oakville Youth Development Council

Youth Voices

A group of teens is changing their community by reaching out with their ideas and opinions!

OKN is challenged:
to ensure their voices are heard and respected and that their ideas get implemented.

In the future:
OKN will continue to find opportunities to advance the OKN Youth Policy of “For Youth – With Youth – By Youth”.

Local Impact: OKN Early Years Initiative
The OKN Early Years Initiative is working in six neighbourhoods using a collective impact process of involving a dedicated community-wide group of organizations. Each of these six community tables will respond to research (Early Development Instrument) that indicates young children are not meeting developmental milestones needed do well in school. The Early Years Initiative will utilize EDI scores and local experiences to engage community members, and inspire and support action.

OKN is challenged:
to work together with local professionals to lay the foundation for sustained and meaningful practice and programs in these communities.

In the future:
Keep watching for the long-term results of this important work.

Relationships Help Us Sink or Swim

The voices of some Halton students are heard through their new video  about the importance of relationships in the lives of children

By Mary Tabak, Our Kids Network Developmental Assets Manager

Last October, seven amazing students from Eastview Public School told Our Kids Network (OKN) staff what they thought about their relationships with the adults in their lives. They all agreed strongly that it is those relationships that help them sink or swim. In other words, it’s relationships that help them feel good about themselves and do well – or not.

The students told stories about times when they felt they were sinking. Each story was always about a relationship in their life. Amelie told a story about when she first came to Canada and it took her a year to find a relationship where she felt connected. “Once I got to know the girl with the fluffy white dog, I felt as though I wasn’t sinking anymore,” she said.

Zane summarized some of the things that the whole group identified as really important. He stated, “We would like to have mutual respect, and for adults to have high expectations for us. We want adults to know that we have a voice and that sometimes we need assistance to accomplish what we want. We spend a lot of time with adults so we want to have a healthy relationship, so that we can be successful.”

When the students were asked to create a video to express their thoughts and stories, they jumped at the chance. Teacher, Karen Livingston, school Vice-Principal, Cynthia Snowdon, OKN Developmental Assets Manager, Mary Tabak, and OKN Research Committee chair, Shelley Lothian, all offered to help. “We all had our own ideas to contribute, and the adults made sure that information was relevant to creating healthy relationships. It made us feel supported to know that they cared about our work,” explained Nyda.  Abdullah added, “The group got stronger because of the amount of time we spent together. The more time you spend with people, (the more) you feel more comfortable to be able to share your ideas. At first we were a bit awkward with each other but now it is really easy.”

Anna said, “I felt valued because they all were given a chance to speak out about what they were passionate about.” Danijela felt the same way, “They made us feel important and made some great relationships with us. They always pushed us to our full capacity.”

Kyaan loved the opportunity to work with others and to try out new technology. “Having to do this project was a whole new experience for me. It was really cool to get to work with other kids and create a project from start to finish with them. I also got to learn how to use a program I hadn’t used before,” he said.

The students appeared at the Our Kids Network Annual Meeting on November 23 to present their video and talk about how relationships are one of the most important aspects of feeling good about yourself and doing well.

Our Kids Network congratulates Amelie, Zane, Abdullah, Nyda, Anna, Danijela and Kyaan on their outstanding work on the video and presentation.

The video is now featured in the Building Relationships section  of the OKN website and will be used to educate professionals in their work with children and families.

Making Progress through Relationships and Research

By Elena DiBattista, Director, Our Kids Network

In Halton, Our Kids Network (OKN) has been positively influencing conditions for children, youth and families for over twenty years. We know that we need to work together so that our children and youth live in a community that provides the supports and services that will enable them to develop in the most positive manner possible. We also know that we have to consider children and youth in the context of their families and that those families and caregivers also require support and services. It truly takes a village to raise a child.

In our Collective Impact Report 2016-17, we see how the data confirms that we are making progress towards the Halton 7 (the conditions of well-being for children and youth), our common agenda. The key is working together, and the challenge is how to do it in the most effective way possible, putting research and relationships into action to help our children and youth thrive.
Four years ago, OKN made an intentional decision to adopt the Collective Impact (CI) framework to help us move forward and continue to work towards our mission of All Children Thrive. As we began to focus on CI, we identified two very clear roles for our work.

One role focuses on providing “backbone” support to the work of organizations working with children youth and families. Research, accountability and finding shared measures help us answer the question, “Is anyone better off?

OKN supports the identification of a common agenda so that all participants have a shared vision for change – vision that includes a common understanding of the issues and a joint approach to solving them through agreed upon actions. Convening tables to identify strategies and emphasize alignment to lead to impact and system-wide change is integral to this role. It also focuses on building relationships and ensuring that there are communication strategies in place to support of continuous improvement and learning.

The other role, is centred on implementation. This means engaging and including everyone and constantly working collectively on improving the conditions of well-being that we call the Halton 7:

Children and Healthy
Children are Learning
Children are Safe
Children and Positively Connected
Families are Strong and Stable
Schools are Connected to the Community
Neighbourhoods are where we Live, Work and Play

In this role, we are all active partners and residents of “the village.” Services and supports are important in and of themselves, but they are also an integral part of providing a system of services to children youth and families. In Halton, services often make working together common practice, and service providers look beyond their sector, their priorities and their organization to see how – together – we can provide a more comprehensive and individualized menu of services for children, youth and families.

Only in that way, can we ensure that Halton truly is a village where All Children Thrive.