Parents of young children in the Cariboo region will soon have access to a range of early learning, health and family services in one convenient location. A new virtual Early Years Centre, which will support families with children aged 0-6, is under development in Williams Lake. The virtual Early Years Centre will be supported by hotspots, or Links, in the community, which feature staff trained to assist individuals in accessing the virtual Early Years Centre, and understanding the website content.

The virtual Early Years Centre will be fully operational in February 2016. Hosted by the Women’s Contact Society, the virtual centres, supported by Link location staff, offer a number of programs, services and supports including:

• Information on local children’s programs, including Strong Start program locations and hours, Story and Rhyme groups, and play groups
• Links to local hearing clinics and speech support for children
• Contacts for the Williams Lake Child Development Centre, Williams Lake Child Care Resource and Referral, the Cariboo Friendship Society, and Three Corners Health Services

“The virtual Early Years Centre will provide a valuable resource for families in the Cariboo region,” said Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett. “The website features locally-oriented information in an easy-to-navigate format, and will help families access to all of the supports available to them, ensuring children have the best start possible.”

The virtual Early Years Centre is one of 14 new centres across the province. The chosen sites are in a diverse mix of urban, rural and Aboriginal communities, and will build on existing local community resources to enhance services for families. Each centre will receive $52,000 from the Provincial Office for the Early Years for this fiscal year as part of a $5.5-million investment over three years.

“The community Links and virtual Early Years Centre for the Cariboo region is an important resource for families,” says Cariboo North MLA Coralee Oakes. “Bringing together information in one easy-to-access location, and providing in-person support for parents accessing that information, will give children the best possible start as they move through their early years.”

This is the second phase of an initiative under the B.C. Early Years Strategy to implement a network of Early Years Centres throughout the province that will provide families with one-stop, convenient access to a range of services and supports, information and referrals.

“All the child serving agencies in Williams Lake have a long history of working together to meet the needs of all families,” said Women’s Contact Society EY Centre representative Irene Willsie. “We are very excited about the new virtual Early Years Centre which will use the latest technology to bring dynamic up to date resources to parents and child care providers.”

Quick Facts:

• Government committed $76 million to support the first three years of the Early Years Strategy, including support for the creation of up to 2,000 new licensed child-care spaces by March 2016 with the goal of opening 13,000 new spaces by 2020.
• The foundation of the strategy is a new Provincial Office for the Early Years that helps ensure services across government, and across B.C., are co-ordinated and effective.
• The B.C. Early Years Strategy builds on the $1 billion per year government spends on early learning and childhood development initiatives, services and supports, including:
o Success by 6, Children First and Aboriginal early childhood development programs.
o Full-day kindergarten.
o Programs that support healthy pregnancy, birth and infancy.
o Early childhood development care and learning program investments, including public health nursing, Ready, Set, Learn programs and StrongStart BC early learning programs.

Learn More:

Provincial Office for the Early Years: http://www.mcf.gov.bc.ca/early_years/index.htm