Expectant parents and families with children ages six and under will now be able to access over 40 community services and resources all in one location, thanks to the new ‘‘A Great Start for Families: Kahwà:tsire Ronwatiyenawá:se Centre”. The Centre will have its grand opening Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022, at Kingston Community Health Centres on Weller Avenue.
The Mohawk phrase in the Centre’s name, Kahwà:tsire Ronwatiyenawá:se, translates in English to “we all work together to support each other”, reflecting the Centre’s goal to help families access preventative and early support programs to help their children thrive.
According to a news release, this project is part of the provincial transformation of the child welfare system, designed to better benefit families and their children. Families will have access to services with a cultural approach that is inclusive of identity, race, language, and the diverse lived experiences of community members, including but not limited to First Nations, Inuit, Métis, Black, and LGBTQ2S+ identities. The initiative is part of an intentional approach to reducing racial overrepresentation in the child welfare system.
Program Coordinator Vicki Casey, who provided a tour of the facility explained that the Centre included “touchdown” offices, where various community service providers can meet with clients and families privately, a program room for the facilitation of workshops by service providers, and a large child-minding room where children can play while their parents and guardians participate in appointments and programming.
The services offered include counselling to address specific challenges that affect families like mental health concerns or addiction, communal sessions like mom-and-baby yoga or healthy cooking, and well-baby checks for families who do not have access to a primary health care provider.
Casey explained, “The whole idea is to have all of these things within one space, which makes it easier so families don’t have to stress. It’s going to be fantastic for families. That’s the goal: they come to one location and get connected with all the services they need, instead of travelling from one spot to the next. Because not everybody has the means of transportation. We want to do whatever we can to remove the barriers. We also offer food, because both food insecurity and transportation might be big barriers for families.”
When a family is in crisis it is especially important that a “one-stop shop” for services is available to families, said Ruth Noordegraaf, Director of Social Services & Housing at the City of Kingston. “Ultimately, the Centre will reduce barriers to services that can help prevent further crisis or escalation of need.”
With a focus on early intervention and support, the Centre will help families understand what services are available, and how to access them. However, it is also there to listen to what services the community requires.
“We want young children and their families to feel safe, welcomed, and understood in a judgement-free environment,” explained Lousanne Rodé, Centre Manager. “Programming is available to both moms and dads with young children.”
The funding for this initiative is a collaborative response between United Way of KFL&A, the City of Kingston, and Family and Children’s Services of Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (FACSFLA).
In a written release, FACSFLA stated that they are thrilled to be a part of this new initiative. “We know the need is growing and we are committed to finding creative solutions to help young children and their families,” said Sonia Gentile, Executive Director of FACSFLA. “This holistic approach will include the crucial voice of the people we are hoping to serve.”
Also according to the release, the need for this integrated service model is well-documented. Last year, approximately 1,250 child welfare referrals were investigated, with the most prevalent issues related to substance use, intimate partner violence (IPV), and mental health crises.
Bhavana Varma, CEO at United Way of KFL&A, was quoted in the release expressing her support for the services that Centre will provide. “We’re very excited about peer and network support for people participating in this program. They will be able to connect with others with similar backgrounds, networks and cultures.”
‘‘A Great Start for Families: Kahwà:tsire Ronwatiyenawá:se Centre” at 263 Weller Avenue in Kingston will officially open on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022. Community members are invited to the drop-in open house from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm that day for tours of the Centre, free child-minding while parents learn about services, and free food and drinks.