Editorial: Supporting child development is municipal money well spent

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It seems almost a daily occurrence to hear a story in the media about the mismanagement of public funds. We can probably all think of several examples of government spending that make a person shake his or her head and wonder “why?”

Those initiatives that make us proud as taxpayers to support are sometimes fewer and further between. Perhaps one such initiative happening locally was brought to light at the Nov. 27 Kings County council committee of the whole session.

Valley Child Development Association vice-chairwoman Debra Sundstrom and acting executive director Barbara Crouse made a presentation about their organization and the programs they offer. With its forerunner organization founded in 1976, they have an office in Coldbrook, a volunteer board and eight early interventionists on staff.

They have two programs, Behavioral Intervention and Kings Early Years Screening for School, which are funded by a local private foundation. Parenting Journey, a third program, is funded fully by the Department of Community Services and they receive partial funding from the department for a fourth program, Early Intervention.

The non-profit, community-based association provides home-based early intervention services for children from birth to age six with special needs in Kings and Hants counties who exhibit developmental delays or who might be at risk of developing disabilities.

Last year, Kings County council provided $6,127.28 to the association for the early intervention program through Grants to Organizations. The association told the county it would appreciate any similar support the municipality could provide this year.

In the words of Sundstrom, “we assist the most vulnerable children and families in our community.” Brain development from birth to age six is critical. In other words, what happens later in life depends greatly on what happens during an individual’s formative years. This is why early intervention is important.

In a strictly fiscal sense, research has shown that for every dollar invested in early intervention, the return is $7 in terms of reduced spending on health and social programs later in life.

Council agreed to send the funding request to the upcoming budget deliberation process. We applaud Kings County council for considering putting what is a relative drop in the bucket of our collective tax resources to such great use. Some people might rigidly argue the municipality has no business funding such programs because they are not part of the municipal mandate, but is there a more concrete way of investing in the future wellbeing of county citizens?

When you consider $25,000 or more in public funds is routinely expended for a one-off consultant’s report or study that often sits on a shelf, quickly becoming outdated and irrelevant as it collects dust, it becomes apparent there are far worse ways the money could be spent.

As pointed out by one councillor, this should be viewed as an amazing investment opportunity. It will mean more productive adults and more tax revenues in the long term. Perhaps council will take the opportunity to consider enhancing the level of support.

The Valley Child Development Association is currently supporting about 120 families with 30 more waiting to receive direct support. The association also offers parent education groups, playgroups, summer respite and music therapy camps and a toy and resource lending library.

Organizations: Kings County council committee, The Valley Child Development Association, Community Services

Geographic location: Coldbrook, Kings, Hants

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