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.

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.

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.

To learn more about the Acton Hub:

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A Mother’s Day Message

By Kathleen Callan

Kathleen and Bruce Callan just celebrated their 23rd anniversary. As a blended family, they have two children each from previous marriages, two boys and two girls, who are now 25 to 43-years-old, and three grandchildren. They are a proud foster family that has cared for many teens in the past five years, and are looking forward to their next experience of providing a loving home to a young person at a time of need. 


Oprah Winfrey once proclaimed that, “Biology is the least of what makes someone a mother.”

Although biology may be a component, it does not necessarily have to be. Mothers are women who embrace children to become part of their lives and live in their very souls. They nurture children –  whether their biological child; a niece; a nephew; a grandchild; a distant relative; an adopted child, a foster child, or a child who is in need and is embraced simply when paths cross.  Mothers are women who are there for us at all times when no one else will do. They nurture us through our years to help us become stronger, brighter, and happier human beings. They pick us up when we fall. They seem to know when we need them, and when we can manage on our own. They teach us values to live by even when we don’t want to listen. They are our strength when we need them most. They stand beside us when the world seems too big for us to bear. They give us strength to keep trying. They listen to all our stories with intent, no matter how silly they are. They are our rock, our confidant, our grounding, and our sanctuary.

All too often, mothers sacrifice their own desires to give us ours. Some say it is a thankless job, but as a mother myself, I beg to differ. The times I have spent with my children span the good, the bad and the really ugly, but I am thanked every time I see my children succeed. I am grateful every time I see their excitement, enthusiasm, and awe of the world. It touches my soul to hear their laughter and breaks my heart to see them cry.

Even though I know I have given them the strength to get through all of life’s ordeals, I stand by each day in case my children need me because my love for them never ends. Now I watch from a distance and I see that they have the strength, the values and the perseverance to carry on. And the cycle of life repeats itself as I can see the values I instilled in my children built upon with their own children.

So, when we celebrate Mother’s Day, remember we are celebrating all those moms who have touched the hearts of children, and have helped them, or are helping them, to grow and become adults with aspirations, hopes and the will to succeed at whatever they set out to do.

So from one mom to many others “Happy Mother’s Day”!

“These two snowmobile daredevils are my granddaughter and me!
We love spending time together as a family. We had a blast that day in the snow at our cottage!”  -Kathleen Callan


Read more about the Callan family.

Celebrating the Vibrant Lives of Families Video 

Families are central to the positive development and success of children and youth and are at the heart of thriving communities. Three Halton families shared stories of challenges, successes and love in this special video. The Callans and their foster son, Kyle, are one of those special families. View the video.