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Category: Early Childhood

Diverse Family Characteristics of Aboriginal Children 0-4

Source: Statistics Canada


  • About 6 in 10 Aboriginal children aged 0 to 4 lived in a family with two parents. This was the case for 53.7% of First Nations, 71.8% of Métis and 68.8% of Inuit children in this age group.
  • More than one‑third of Aboriginal children aged 0 to 4 lived with a lone parent. This was the case for 38.9% of First Nations, 25.5% of Métis and 26.5% of Inuit children in this age group.
  • About 1 in 6 Aboriginal children aged 0 to 4 shared a household with at least one grandparent. This was the case for 21.2% of First Nations, 10.5% of Métis and 22.8% of Inuit children.
  • Aboriginal children accounted for 7.7% of all children aged 0 to 4, and about one‑half of all foster children in this age group.

Stepping Stones to School: Aboriginal Head Start to Kindergarten Transition Toolkit

Source: Aboriginal Head Start Association of BC. Editor: Annie Jack

Summary:  The start of kindergarten can be both an exciting and worrisome time for children and families as they step into new worlds, new beginnings. For Aboriginal children and families, the transition to kindergarten can be experienced much differently from their non-Aboriginal counterparts. This is in large part due to the lengthy history of oppression and marginalization that Aboriginal people have experienced in their relationship to formal schooling systems. Yet, early learning programs that respond to the social and historical realities of Aboriginal families offer the potential and promise to connect them with schools in positive ways.

The Aboriginal Head Start Association of British Columbia, representing 12 Aboriginal Head Start (AHS) sites in urban and northern communities in BC, is committed to supporting the early childhood development of Aboriginal children. The preschool program instills pride in their Aboriginal heritage and focuses on children 3 to 5 years of age, with the intent of bringing them to the school readiness stage in order to ensure an easy transition in to kindergarten. Family involvement is a major factor contributing to the success of the program. Aboriginal Head Start represents one of the important ‘stepping stones’ that will lead families on their continuing journey with learning.

Indigenous Early Learning and Child Care Framework

Source: Employment and Social Development Canada

Summary: Children hold a sacred place in the cultures of Indigenous Peoples. With that comes a sacred responsibility to care for them. High-quality, culturally-specific and well-supported early learning and child care (ELCC) programs, services and supports that are specifically designed for and with Indigenous families and communities will make a genuine difference in the early experiences of children. This, in turn, will support children’s long-term development and life outcomes. High-quality Indigenous ELCC programming empowers young children with a strong sense of identity. It provides educational opportunities and school readiness and contributes to their overall health and wellness from early years into adulthood.

ELCC programs can holistically support parents and families to participate in their cultures and languages. Programs provide access to information and resources, connections to community, alignment to unique health, education and social needs, and child care for children while parents participate in traditional lifestyles, work, training, education and other facets of their lives. For the purposes of this Framework, Indigenous ELCC includes a wide range of programs and activities designed to support children aged 0 to 6 in their development, learning and cultural identity. Indigenous ELCC programs and activities aim to support culturally-based language, emotional, intellectual, spiritual and physical development in the home, in a preschool or nursery school, or in a home child care or daycare setting.

Early Childhood and Education Services for Indigenous Students Prior to Entering School

Source: Resource Sheet No. 7 for the Closing the Gap Clearinghouse, Margaret Sims,
May 2011, Australian Government, Health and Welfare and Family Studies

Summary: The National Partnership Agreement for Indigenous Early Childhood Development (COAG 2008a) aims to halve the gap in mortality rates for Indigenous children under five within a decade, halve the gap for Indigenous students in reading, writing and numeracy within a decade, and ensure all Indigenous 4-year-olds have access to quality early childhood education within five years, including in remote areas.

Currently 75% of Indigenous children between 3.5 and 4.5 years of age do not attend any formal early childhood service (FaHCSIA 2009). Of those who do, 34% are attending a community-based (i.e. non-school) program, 30% a kindergarten or pre-first year of school program in a school setting or a preschool, 21% a child care program and 2% family day care. Of the infant cohort, 29% had attended a playgroup or similar group in the month prior to data collection. Alternative care was provided for the children by the child’s other parent (51%), grandparents (49%), other relatives (30%) and a parent living elsewhere (6%). In order to achieve these targets it is important to understand that early childhood education cannot be separated from child, family and community health and wellbeing. In acting on this understanding, Indigenous early childhood programs in Australia are sometimes interpreted as ‘leading the way’ in current attempts to reinterpret early childhood education as a strategy to address social inclusion (Sims et al. 2008). Internationally, such a perspective is often positioned as quality early intervention or, more recently, integrated service delivery (Azzi-Lessing 2010; Katz & Redmond 2009; Melhuish et al. 2010) which is known to be particularly effective for addressing disadvantage.

Starting Late: Study of the Early Development Instrument Findings

Source: Institute of Urban Studies, University of Winnipeg 

Summary: The Early Development Instrument (EDI) is a 103-item checklist that assesses readiness for school (i.e., “age-appropriate developmental expectations”) in kindergarten. In Manitoba, the EDI is completed province-wide (37 school divisions) by kindergarten teachers in the second half of the school year every two years. Some independent and First Nations schools participate voluntarily. Parents may opt their children out of the assessment. The items on the EDI are grouped into five domains: physical health and well-being, social competence, emotional maturity, language and cognitive development, and communication skills and general knowledge. Children are assessed as “ready” or “not ready” for school in each of the five domains based scoring above or below the 10th percentile using Canadian norms as a cut-off.

The objective of this study was to determine how Metis children fare on the EDI compared to children who are not Metis. As well, we examined performance by EDI domain, sex, and region.


Back – and – forth exchange boosts children’s brain response

Source: MIT – Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Summary: A landmark 1995 study found that children from higher-income families hear about 30 million more words during their first three years of life than children from lower-income families. This “30-million-word gap” correlates with significant differences in tests of vocabulary, language development, and reading comprehension.

MIT cognitive scientists have now found that conversation between an adult and a child appears to change the child’s brain, and that this back-and-forth conversation is actually more critical to language development than the word gap. In a study of children between the ages of 4 and 6, they found that differences in the number of “conversational turns” accounted for a large portion of the differences in brain physiology and language skills that they found among the children. This finding applied to children regardless of parental income or education.

The findings suggest that parents can have considerable influence over their children’s language and brain development by simply engaging them in conversation.

Navigating Structural Violence with Indigenous Families: The Contested Terrain of Early Childhood Intervention and the Child Welfare System in Canada

Source: International Indigenous Policy Journal. ISSN 1916-5781

Summary:  Internationally, the welfare of Indigenous children continues to be severely compromised by their involvement with child welfare authorities. In this context, there are calls for greater investment in early childhood programs to support family preservation and children’s well-being. This article reports on the findings from a critical qualitative inquiry undertaken with Aboriginal Infant Development Programs (AIDPs) in Canada. The findings highlight how AIDP workers’ relational approaches countered Indigenous mothers’ experiences of feeling “like a bad parent” as a result of their involvement with the child welfare system and how workers navigated an increasingly close relationship with this system. We draw on the concept of structural violence to discuss the impact of the child welfare system on Indigenous families and AIDPs.

Atuaqsijut: Following the Path Sharing Inuit Specific Ways

Sommaire: Cette ressource en anglais a été développée pour les prestataires de services qui travaillent avec les parents biologiques, les gardiens ou les parents adoptifs d’enfants Inuits âgés de 0 à 6 ans, tels que leurs éducateurs, les travailleurs sociaux, les fournisseurs de soins en périnatalité et pédiatrie, les employés en santé publique, les travailleurs communautaires, etc.

Ce manuel parle des savoirs et pratiques culturelles spécifiquement Inuits en rapport avec la grossesse, la petite enfance et le rôle parental. On y trouve des informations sur les nombreux défis et opportunités auxquels font face les parents et autres personnes qui élèvent des enfants Inuits en Ontario. Par exemple, on y discute:

  • les valeurs et les croyances inuites.
  • l’impact de la colonisation et le traumatisme inter-générationel.
  • les savoirs et les enseignements Inuits sur la grossesse et le rôle parental.
  • les programmes, services, soutiens et pratiques exemplaires spécifiques aux Inuits disponibles en Ontario.

Ces informations devraient aider les prestataires de services à réfléchir et à améliorer leurs services aux familles Inuites.

Atuaqsijut: Following the Path Sharing Inuit Specific Ways: Resource for Service Providers Who Work With Parents of Inuit Children in Ontario

Source: Best Start Resource Centre

Focus: Service providers including early childhood educators, social workers, maternal and child health workers, public health staff, community workers, health care providers, and hospital staff.

Summary: This resource provides Inuit specific knowledge and cultural practices regarding pregnancy and parenting. It shares best practices for service providers who work with biological, foster, and adoptive parents of Inuit children aged 0 to 6 years old. Inuit parents living in Ontario are often caught between two worlds – their familiar world in the north and a new world in the south. For the purposes of this resource, the north refers to Inuit regions of northern Canada called Inuit Nunangat (Inuit homeland) where Inuit traditionally live and the south refers to the province of Ontario.

This resource offers information for southern service providers on the many challenges and opportunities for Inuit and non-Inuit parents raising young Inuit children in Ontario.

Founded in Culture: Strategies to Promote Early Learning Among First Nations Children in Ontario

Source: Best Start

Summary: The purpose of this First Nations early learning report is to:

  • review early learning policy and research that has been done with First Nations children (from birth to age 6) living in Ontario; and
  • identify strategies to support early learning for service providers who work with First Nations parents/caregivers. The review involved a scan of relevant literature and interviews with key informants.

Early learning is important because it forms the foundation for lifelong learning. Taking part in early learning programs has been shown to positively influence school success.

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