As West Kelowna develops, consideration of the needs of its children will help them grow as well.
Community Action Towards Children’s Health spokesperson Amanda Turner told West Kelowna council last week more than one in five local children reach school age vulnerable on at least one developmental scale.
Those areas include cognition or emotional development.
Turner said the result is the approximately 11,000 children startingschool over the next five years, more than 2,500 will not be developmentally ready when they enter kindergarten.
She pointed out families now face rising costs of housing, food, health care, childcare and transportation. She added they also face unchanging minimum wage and social assistance rates, along with declining sources of aid.
“So, they’re dealing with a lot.”
Turner noted a community that continually creates and improves its physical and social environments has positive effects on child development.
“You’ll often find people who live in such healthy communities feel a great sense of ownership and pride in their communities.”
She said that when communities and families cannot provide the basic needs of food, shelter and clothing, they will struggle to develop to their full potential.
“Our young children deserve thoughtful planning and actions.”
When asked what the District of West Kelowna can do to increase and enhance healthy early child development, Turner noted first of all, the area can value children.
She pointed to a 2006 survey done by CATCH. When people were asked to describe children today with two words, 60 per cent of respondents chose negative words, from difficult or unruly to undisciplined.
Turner noted the district can take action to make West Kelowna a welcoming community for children and celebrate them as citizens.
She said the district can consider children and family friendly policies in their work. She gave the example of a community square, which gives children a place to explore, teens and adults a place to meet, and seniors a place to walk. She pointed out making an area stroller-friendly also makes it wheelchair accessible, and additional foot traffic promotes community safety.
Turner said that in the district, the largest proportion of children are vulnerable on the social competence scale. Social competence involves cooperation, respect for others, knowledge of socially appropriate behaviour, self-control and self-confidence.
She added the district could look at developing safe environments for families to come together, giving children the opportunity to interact with their peers and other adults besides their parents.
“I’m aware the District of West Kelowna has been taking numerous steps, and I commend you on those efforts.”
Mayor Doug Findlater noted that childcare continues to be a challenge for families, and asked what a municipality could do to facilitate more and better childcare.
Turner noted childcare facilities have their own realm of challenges in providing the services they do, from retaining childcare workers and funding their facilities to even being able to afford to pay early childhood educators adequately.
Kent Stralbiski, administrative director of the Highlands EduCare Children’s Centre, noted the difficulties of childcare facilities are largely a funding issue. There is a dependence on provincial governments being able to provide the subsidies necessary.
Stralbiski noted that he sees areas partitioned into residential and commercial uses, with childcare facilities placed in the middle.
He added there is a negative view of childcare facilities as being too noisy, and he finds they are often unwelcome in a neighborhood.