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Talk of Lay-Offs at Annapolis Valley Early Childhood Centre

Family Matters request for additional funding denied by Community Services

by Robert Devet

Family Matters, an early childhood centre in the Annapolis Valley, is looking at reducing services and possibly lay-offs for the summer now that Community Services denied a request for additional funding.  Photo: Mikael Colville-Andersen
Family Matters, an early childhood centre in the Annapolis Valley, is looking at reducing services and possibly lay-offs for the summer now that Community Services denied a request for additional funding. Photo: Mikael Colville-Andersen

 

Provincial funding frozen at 2007 levels is forcing an early childhood centre in the Annapolis Valley to lay of staff and reduce programs, says its executive director.

Family Matters – the Annapolis County Family Resource Centre - is a non-profit organization located in Lawrencetown, in the heart of the Annapolis Valley. Working closely with parents and caregivers, it offers early learning programs for pre-schoolers and early school years.

Wendy Knowlton, executive director of Family Matters, tells the Halifax Media Co-op that a request to the Department of Community Services for a $20,000 increase was recently denied.

“Really we haven't received any extra funding since 2007, and it has come to the point where we just can't support all the staff and the programming that we are doing,” says Knowlton.

“We are looking at laying people off,” Knowlton explains. “It's not a simple case of not giving raises this year, we're going to have to close for the summer months, lay everybody off.”

In 2007, Community Services consolidated a variety of grants to Family Matters into an annual lump sum of approximately $97,000. That amount has not changed. However, according to Knowlton participation by families has more than doubled since then, and new programs have been added.

Family Matters also receives about $70,000 in annual federal funding through the Public Health Agency of Canada. Knowlton, who recently briefed local MP Greg Kerr on the situation, says that federal funding has been frozen since 1994.

Programs offered at the centre promote school readiness and curiosity, and teach social skills such as cooperation and empathy. Parents also have the opportunity to learn new parenting skills and share information.

Family Matters also runs a toy, books and games-lending library, and teaches practical skills, such as how to cook a healthy meal for little money.

“We have programs each day of the week, in six different locations across our county, and for those programs we offer transportation, so that distance is not a barrier,” says Knowlton.

Another barrier to struggling parents is the lack of childcare. Two years ago Family Matters started a family home day care agency to relieve at least some of those pressures by actively supporting and working with daycare providers.

“We check in and make sure that things go the way we want them to go,” explains Knowlton. “If one of our daycare providers decides she wants to take in an infant for a time we can lend them a crib.”

Kevin Bauer, chair of the Annapolis Community Health Board, believes that the work of Family Matters makes a big difference.

“I think it is a very efficient and inspiring organization, really meeting a need,” says Bauer. “Their programs run from giving a new mother a much needed break right up to really important support for families living in poverty.”

Community Services spokesperson Elizabeth MacDonald, in an email to the Halifax Media Co-op dated May 16th, points out that in 2013 funding to Family Matters increased by $30,685.58.

Knowlton counters that this money in its entirety is destined for the family home daycare agency, which is a new and separate entity that was created the year before.

That funding did bring some overall relief because of cost-sharing opportunities between the daycare agency and the other programs offered by Family Matters. But it does not address all of the budget pressures that are now threatening the Family Matters programs and services, says Knowlton.

“It has been a miserable couple of months,” says Knowlton. “Our numbers [of people served] have more than doubled over the last 4 years, and yet we are being told there is no new money so we cannot continue our growth. We actually have to go backwards and cut back.”

 


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