The West Kootenay Early Years Conference 2011 (EYC) was held in Rossland this year, the third in a series that brought together care providers and educators from across the region to develop their professional skills and build relationships.
Conference organizers think it should be made an annual event to best advance the community-specific needs of young children.
The conference, held on April 8 and 9 at the Prestige in Rossland, was “very successful” said chairperson Dorothy Kaytor.
“We should have it every year,” she said of the EYC conference and that is exactly what the organizing committee aims to do with the next event in 2012.
“It’s so valuable to have cutting edge information shared on a broad basis, you can’t do that without a conference once a year,” Kaytor said.
Kaytor is also the coordinator of the West Kootenay Early Years office, a branch of the Kootenay Boundary Community Services Cooperative located in Nelson.
She explained that her office, funded by Success by 6 provincially and regionally by the Ministry of Child and Family Development, provides public awareness about the importance of the early years and skill development for professionals.
“More and more, childcare centres are closing on Friday for professional development,” Kaytor said.
“We need to provide opportunities for them.”
Her office also supports seven local community councils — stakeholders who gather periodically to plan for the needs of families and children in their communities.
Although there are regional relationships, Dorothy said, “most importantly, it happens at a community level. The outcomes are very much community-based, what does the community need? That’s what excites me!”
Neither are the Early Years office’s activities restricted to educators. “It’s a collaboration of everyone in the West Kootenay concerned with young children and their families.”
Kaytor saw the EYC as a central component to expanding the public’s awareness of childhood issues and practitioners ability to provide the best in care and education.
The keynote speaker, Sharon Gregson, a respected educator and care provider from Vancouver, has been an outspoken advocate of municipal, provincial, and federal support for quality child care services, and the expansion of the public education system to include the early years.
At the EYC, Kaytor was pleased that Gregson unveiled some significant progress towards the latter goal, with all the money, status, and support that shift brings.
As we move towards collecting all the services for young children under the Ministry of Education, Kaytor said, “as a community [of early years specialists], we’re really excited about that.”