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.

National Child Day is a good time to reflect on the fact that “children are people, too”

By Mary Tabak, Our Kids Network Developmental Assets manager

Children are often viewed in society as something to be tolerated, reined in, or hovered over. Perhaps, there are some things that we need to learn – things that only they can teach us.

The United Nations has designated November 20th as National Child Day. This day is an opportunity to reflect on how we can advocate, promote and celebrate children’s rights to make the world a better place for children.

In Halton, we believe that all children are competent, capable, curious, creative and rich in potential and experience. They deserve our respect and our openness to hearing their voice in all matters that affect them. When we refocus our view of children from “problems to be fixed” to people of vast strength and potential – our experience changes, and our relationships with them deepen.*

Everyone can play a role in bettering the lives of children. In fact, one of the rights that children have is that all adults should do what is best for children, and that when adults make decisions, they should think about how their decisions will affect children.

I recall a party that I hosted for my daughter’s 7th birthday. I was hoping for a sunny day as it was a pool party in the back yard and 10 girls were coming. I had 2 tables set up for them – one was a big, beautiful picnic table close to the pool and the other one was an old fold-out card table which, in my rush, I left up on the back deck. Not thinking about how this set-up would affect seating, I continued with the party. When I asked them to come for lunch, I was horrified to find 9 girls squished onto the picnic table and one little girl sitting all alone at the card table on the back deck. It didn’t occur to me that I had set up an environment where it was possible that someone didn’t fit. It was like a dark cloud had covered the sky. We quickly moved the card table beside the picnic table and covered the whole thing with a table cloth so it looked like one big table. The 10th girl joined the group and it was a sunny day again!

It seems like such a small thing to think about but what a big difference it made to one little girl. Ten years later, she thanked me for moving that table. I had forgotten about it, but she hadn’t.

So, it isn’t just about what we give children or how we view them that is important, but also how we set up the spaces where they grow and learn to become caring supportive adults. It’s also important to consider how we, as adults, have the power to control the “weather”. Will it be a sunny day where you are, or a dark and cloudy one?

By observing children and reflecting on our own behavior, instead of judging and tolerating them, we can create a space for relationships to thrive.

For more information about the UN Convention on the Right of the Child, visit www.unicef.org/crc

For more information about Developmental Relationships, visit www.ourkidsnetwork.ca/Public/Relationships-Matter

*How Does Learning Happen? Ontario’s Pedagogy for the Early Years, 2014 

Supporting our Milton Youth

By the Our Kids Network Milton Community Hub Coordinator

Happy October and Welcome to the Milton Hub! One of our main focuses here at the Milton Hub is working with community partners to provide a thriving community for our youth. Milton is a quickly growing town with many young families whose children will soon be adolescents. The adolescent years are when children need and deserve increased focus and support. Research has proven that during the years between Grades 7 and 10, the number of Developmental Assets® that youth have decrease dramatically. This decrease can result in youth participating in high risk behaviours. We strive to build those Developmental Assets and also support parents and other adults in the community to help build them up as well during that developmental period.

One way the Milton Hub supports youth in our community is by participating on the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Committee (MYAC) in the role of an adult support member. MYAC is a dedicated group of youth who advise the Mayor and Counsellors of Milton on issues that affect the youth of Milton. These young people are advocates for their peers in the community. They also host events for youth in the community.

One of MYAC’s most successful events is the annual Youth Awards. Taking place during Youth week in May of each year, these awards recognize youth who strive to make their community a better place to live. These awards are important as they are not given out by the school, but are awarded in recognition for activities that youth do outside of school and that often go unnoticed in the community. The awards are attended by nominees, their nominators, family and dignitaries from Milton. There are also exceptional guest speakers who give the youth in attendance words of strength and inspiration. The MYAC youth run the entire awards ceremony by themselves with some assistance from the adult supports: from creating the requirements for each award and choosing the winners to ordering the food, the guest speaker, and the awards themselves – the youth do it all! It is truly an event for youth by youth.

The fantastic Milton Youth Award winners for 2017.

The supportive crowd listening to MYAC chair Daniel Jolic open the evening.

Listening to guest speaker, Scott Hogarth. His message was one of perseverance, overcoming barriers and working towards success.

We are very proud of the phenomenal youth we have here in Milton. We can’t wait to see what amazing things the MYAC youth of 2017/18 do this year! They are an incredibly dynamic group of young people who are dedicated to making their community the best it can be.

To learn more about the Milton Community Hub, contact  miltonhub@ourkidsnetwork.ca.

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Acton Kindergarten Fun Fair 2017

Kids have Fun while  Parents Learn about Early Child Development

By Alison Hilborn, Our Kids Network Acton Community Hub Coordinator

The Acton Early Years Committee just celebrated the 3rd Annual Acton Kindergarten Fun Fair at Prospect Park on Wednesday, August 30th. There were free hot dogs, fun activities, early year’s resources and t-shirts for the children! Over 270 people attended and the weather held out for us. It was great to see the all the children wearing shirts with “I’m an awesome Acton Kid” printed on the front and a list of helpful resources for families on the back.

This event is designed to be a ‘community welcome’ to Acton families who have children going into Kindergarten for the first time. A convenient, central location like Prospect Park makes it easy for families to attend.

We want them to know that all the elementary schools in Acton are working together by supporting our event each year. Each school hung a banner in the band shell with fun props so families could take their child’s picture with their new school’s banner behind them.

This event is also a response to the concerning number of children going into Kindergarten with one or more vulnerabilities according to the latest Early Development Instrument results. For example, one of the highest vulnerabilities is in the area of fine and gross motor skills. That’s one reason we offer so many active activities at our Fun Fair – to help increase awareness of the importance of early child development, particularly in the area of fine and gross motor skills, among our families.


“Awesome Acton” kids had lots of fun as they tried out games and activities designed to build the fine and gross motor skills that will help them be better prepared to start Kindergarten.


The Acton Early Years Committee and our partners really want to decrease the EDI number significantly but it’s going to take time and lots of hard work, especially when it comes to reaching parents with preschool children. On a positive note, the committee is well represented by organizations that are focused on early child development, so Acton is in good hands. We’re a strong team and we work hard on behalf of Acton families. The Acton Fun Fair is just one of the ways that we support children and their families.

To learn more about the Acton Early Years Committee, contact Alison Hilborn at actonhub@ourkidsnetwork.ca.

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Good-bye Fast and Processed Foods: Learning to Cook from Scratch!

By Jennifer Jenkins-Scott, Health Promoter, Healthy Families Division of Halton Region Health Department

When was the last time you made a meal from scratch? A whole meal, prepared using fresh fruits, vegetables, spices and herbs?

Parents today are so busy that they often rely on fast or processed foods for ease and convenience. But the trade-off is that these foods are much higher in fat, sugar and salt. Eating these types of foods frequently can put children at risk of developing chronic diseases. There is also a lost opportunity for family time together in the kitchen and for children to learn the enjoyment and skill of cooking.

Research has shown that improving children’s food skills in the kitchen results in higher vegetable and fruit consumption for the whole family! “Our Kids Eat Well”, a new Our Kids Network work group with a focus on promoting healthy eating in fun and interesting ways, has launched “You’re the Chef!”.

You’re the Chef! Learning to Cook for 10 to 17-year-olds
Numerous Our Kids Network community organizations have been trained to deliver a four-session program to children and youth 10 to 17 years-old, on how to prepare fruit and vegetable dishes.

This valuable “You’re the Chef!” program teaches youth how to read a recipe, measure ingredients, chop, fry and bake. Learning these important skills and having fun at the same time builds confidence and the skills to prepare fruit and vegetable dishes in their own homes for themselves and their families.

The initiative started in May and runs until the end of December. It will be evaluated for its effectiveness in preparing the trainers, and in teaching cooking skills to children and youth. Ideas on how to expand the program to more age- groups, communities, and organizations will be considered 2018. Additional initiatives will also be developed to continue to build our focus on strengthening food literacy in Halton.

If you’re interested in learning more about the “You’re the Chef!” initiative, contact Jennifer Jenkins-Scott, Health Promoter, Healthy Families Division of Halton Region Health Department at Jennifer.Jenkins-Scott@Halton.ca