New child support services are up and running in Slave Lake. This replaces Parent Link which closed in March.
“You really can’t compare them,” says Lindsay Davis, executive director of Children’s Resource Council. The new program has “more targeted and intensive services.” Much of the work is done in one-on-one family visits. The old program only had support for zero to six. The new one helps families of children from zero to 18.
On July 7, 2020, Shay Strome and Christine Boisvert started working at the Slave Lake/Wabasca chapter of Children’s Resource Council. While the council has been around a long time, their positions have been reorganized to be part of the Alberta government’s new model of regional child support.
“The ministry did a really good job,” says Davis. They selected organizations which already had all the “pieces of the puzzle” and were used to transitions.
Children’s Resource has been around for 26 years, says Davis. It started in High Prairie. Then it expanded into Smoky River – Falher region. Now it is in High Prairie – Big Lakes County, Falher/McLennan – Smoky River, Slave Lake – Lesser Slave River, and Wabasca-Desmarais – M.D. of Opportunity. This doesn’t include Swan Hills or the various First Nations and Métis Settlements. However, the council works closely with Indigenous communities.
Strome and Boisvert are both involved in one-on-one home visitation. This is for families with children zero to six years old.
Children’s Resource was able to revamp their existing programs to align with the new vision, say Davis. Since the programs are developed for the region, they work better than general ones developed for an American urban setting.
Strome just finished her Social Work diploma from Northern Lakes College Slave Lake campus. She’s from Athabasca and moved to Slave Lake in June. She coached taekwondo for 15 years and was a nurse aide for eight.
“It’s (working for Children’s Resources) really good, we have lots of support in High Prairie.”
Strome’s title is maternal and infant health and caregiver support specialist, which also includes running the Healthy Choices program. This program hasn’t changed. The Slave Lake chapter has been run by Children’s Resources out of High Prairie for years.
Healthy Choices is the most stable program we have, says Davis.
Healthy Choices helps expectant and mothers with infants zero to 12 months.
Teen mothers and parents with health issues or addictions are encouraged to use the program, says Davis. However, it is open for anyone.
Boisvert’s title is parent education and caregiver support specialist.
“I was in education for 19 to 20 years,” she says. While teaching at Roland Michener Secondary School in Slave Lake, she took on many leadership roles.
Boisvert describes the new job “as a huge learning curve.”
Originally from Westlock, Boisvert has lived in Slave Lake for over 25 years.
Boisvert and Strome conduct one-on-one visits in person, but for now group and courses are online. One of these is an upcoming course for parents whose children are feeling anxious. In the future, there is also a plan for an anxiety course for children and teens.
Under the new model of family support from the Alberta government, there is currently no funding to replace the Early Childhood Development Coalition. However, community members can be involved with the Children’s Resource Council.
In the future, the goal is to have children’s centres in both Slave Lake and Wabasca. At the moment, Strome and Boisvert work out of the Town of Slave Lake office.
The council is also working toward having a toy and resource lending library. However, they need a physical location to store the supplies. This needs to be lockable, accessible, and long-term. Anyone interested in donating a space can contact Davis at 780-523-2715 ext. 23 or [email protected]