Assiniboine launches new Child Development Worker program in three First Nation communities

Sandy Bay Child Development Program Students
Sandy Bay Child Development Program Students

Assiniboine Community College is partnering with three First Nations communities to deliver a newly created Child Development Worker program. More than 60 frontline professionals in Ebb and Flow, Sandy Bay, and Long Plain First Nations are enrolled in the nine-month program.

“Our college values the long-standing relationships we have with Sandy Bay, Ebb and Flow, and Long Plain First Nations, and we are thrilled to be partnering once again on a program that will develop people to help with important social services in these communities,” said Assiniboine president Mark Frison.

"It’s very important to have programs focusing on child development especially young children,” says Chief Wayne Desjarlais of Ebb and Flow First Nation. “We have a lot of community members who work in various organisations which support young children and it will be really important to see their skills developed.”

The program is going to help the community as a whole. We’re always trying to provide opportunities for our youth to increase their skills without leaving the community.

The Child Development Worker program provides individuals with the knowledge, skills and abilities that are highly valued in child development programs, focusing on providing for children’s special needs and supporting their families.

The college developed the program in response to First Nations expressing a need for skilled child development workers, related to the provision of Jordan's Principle programming. The Jordan's Principle is centered around a child-first and needs-based equitable approach for Indigenous children to access government services.

"It’s very beneficial delivering the program in Sandy Bay, it reduces the barriers for participants to be involved and provides greater means for success," says Chief Lance Roulette of Sandy Bay First Nation.

There’s a huge combination of excitement and also increased levels of perseverance amongst our students who are taking the program.

The first course of 24 students in Ebb and Flow commenced in July 2019, closely followed by a class of 20 in Sandy Bay and soon to start class in Long Plain. This is the first program of its kind to be rolled out across multiple locations concurrently.

"We are fortunate to have a great partnership with ACC," said Chief Dennis Meeches of Long Plain First Nation.

This has given us opportunities to educate in a specialized area and will surely be a blessing to our people.

The curriculum was developed to provide a comprehensive program which can be taught at varying schedules to ensure students can balance their studies while still working full-time. Students are not required to travel or relocate for the program as it is delivered entirely within the community.

The program takes nine months if delivered full time, however, each course can be sculpted around the attendees’ schedule to balance this program with their workplace commitments. The current course in Ebb and Flow is two days per week, which enables their employees to complete the program as a part of their full-time work.

Instructors integrate the local knowledge and Indigenous world views into the modules and apply ‘learn by doing’ situations within the learning environment.

In recent years, Assiniboine has delivered numerous community-based programs in partnership with these First Nations, in addition to dozens more across the province.

Sandy Bay First Nation students

Pictured: students in the Sandy Bay First Nation offering of the program.

Program Origin (Background)

Lillian Houle, Health Director at Ebb and Flow First Nation Health Authority, contacted Assiniboine to discuss the need for skilled professionals in the child development field in Ebb and Flow to support their provision of a Jordan’s Principle program.

Assiniboine at the time offered a variety of courses there, however, none which covered specific areas of child development, an exciting opportunity. The Child Development Worker Certificate was the result, featuring curriculum that has been repackaged from the Early Childhood Education Diploma, the Education Assistant Certificate and the Comprehensive Health Care Aide Certificate.

“It’s so important, due to the new Jordan’s Principle funding in First Nations, to have a program which provides training for professionals to learn the skills needed to work with children who require additional support.” says Lillian Houle, Health Director at the Ebb and Flow First Nation Health Authority. “There has been a need for skilled professionals in this area and the program fills that gap.”

“By being able to provide this support we are ensuring that children with a disability can further their education and we are able to help children learn in mainstream society.”