It doesn’t seem likely that St. Albert is destined to get a provincially-funded family resource centre anytime soon.
Mayor Nolan Crouse shared a letter from the Human Services Minister Irfan Sabir sent to the mayor earlier this month.
The letter, written in response to correspondence from the mayor and the St. Albert Catholic and public school boards, notes that the St. Albert Family Resource Centre does receive some funding from Human Services “to offer programming comparable to what is available at Parent Link Centres, including community supports for families of young children.”
Parent Link Centres offer programs and activities for children and their parents for free. There are 53 centres across the province serving 77 different communities according to the Human Services website.
The letter also outlines the criteria used do decide which communities will receive funding for Parent Link Centres, which include targeting “communities where kindergarten-age children have a higher percentage than the Alberta average (29 per cent) of children with great difficulty in one or more areas of development.”
The letter from Sabir said as resources allow, new centres will be provided for in communities where the “needs are demonstrated to be the highest for early childhood development.”
“They’re just saying no,” said Crouse. “The long and short of it is that the criteria that is set, St. Albert doesn’t meet, and move on.”
The mayor’s letter to the minister noted that St. Albert was unlike other mid-sized cities in not having a centre, and outlined the impacts of not having one such as a lack of evening hours at the St. Albert Family Resource Centre and having to pay for support services that are free elsewhere.
The letters from the school boards urged the ministry to consider St. Albert for funding.
In an interview earlier this year, Kristi Rouse, a member of the board of the St. Albert Family Resource Centre, said St. Albert is the largest municipality in Alberta without a Parent Link Centre. She said the reasons they’d been given for why St. Albert wasn’t receiving funding is that St. Albert students are below the provincial average when it comes to having great difficulty in one or more areas of development. In other words young students in the city achieve at a higher level when compared to the rest of the province.
She said despite that there has been an increase in the number of children with developmental disabilities or other special needs and early education or head start programs enrolment has jumped in this city.
Rouse said at the time that the family resource centre does offer many comparable services, but without the benefit of as much provincial funding. That means the St. Albert Family Resource Centre can’t compete for staff on a level playing field, she said in April.
The family resource centre was closed for the holidays so a representative could not be reached for comment on the minister’s recent letter.
The letter closes the book on the mayor’s advocacy on this issue for awhile.
“While I’m disappointed I’m not going to spend any time on it at least in probably the next year,” said Crouse.
Still, he appreciates the clarification from the ministry.
“There’s times where you say you’re asking for clarity from somebody, and when you get it, it doesn’t mean you like the answer but at least you’ve got clarity,” Crouse said.