Board moving forward with ‘Best Start’

The Rainy River District Social Services Administration Board on Thursday night approved an updated “Best Start” plan and will continue to move forward on implementing the program.
Kim Gardiman, the DSSAB’s children’s services manager, presented the “Best Start” Child Care Service Plan 2005-07 to the board at its regular monthly meeting.
The plan includes 13 priorities, strategies, and performance measures to be implemented through the “Best Start” funding.
The first priority is the stabilization of the current child care system throughout Rainy River District, including an equitable increase to the wage subsidy.
The second priority calls for enhanced availability and accessibility, including the expansion of services within the district.
This will include an increase in the fee subsidy to address current pressures, such as the need for care outside normal hours of operation for shift workers and the development of licensed child care in the Town of Rainy River.
This stage also will see the allocation of capital dollars for the development of infant care in Fort Frances, and the expansion of child care spaces and subsidies for JK/SK and children up to age four.
The total capital allocation for the entire district for 2005-06 is $525,000.
Other priority steps in the program are improved affordability for parents, better quality early-learning and child care, professional development and training to support child care staff, and making child care settings more responsive to the needs of children with disabilities.
These priorities were set through consultations with service providers, as well as communities and parents.
Gardiman said the plan has been reviewed by the Child Care Advisory Committee, the local “Best Start” Network, and the DSSAB’s own Child Care Committee.
“This document will be updated annually and can change as the community’s needs change,” she noted.
One issue frequently brought up at the public consultations was the need for better transportation.
“Transportation has been identified as a long-standing issue in all communities and is the main barrier to accessing services,” Gardiman noted in her report.
“The ministry is acknowledging that transportation is a huge barrier,” she told the board.
Meanwhile, the local DSSAB has made no decision yet regarding whether to make cuts to land ambulance services here as it is still awaiting word from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care on possible funding.
In other news, the Ministry of Transportation has given initial approval for a heliport in Fort Frances. There will be a stakeholder meeting in the near future to look at funding for this project.