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Strong start crucial to a child’s growth

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Point Douglas MLA and Minister of Children and Youth Opportunities Kevin Chief launched Starting Early, Starting Strong, a provincial dialogue on supporting families through early childhood development. Chief welcomes mother-to-be Wendy Hallgrimson at the first public meeting, held at the Aboriginal Centre.

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Point Douglas MLA and Minister of Children and Youth Opportunities Kevin Chief launched Starting Early, Starting Strong, a provincial dialogue on supporting families through early childhood development. Chief welcomes mother-to-be Wendy Hallgrimson at the first public meeting, held at the Aboriginal Centre. Photo Store

Have you ever wondered why some of our earliest memories are of nursery rhymes?  

The things we learn before the age of five stay with us for the rest of our lives.  

Research shows that the early years in a child’s life are a unique period involving the most brain growth and development. Investing in early childhood development (ECD) has positive short-term effects to prepare kids for school and provides improved physical and mental health, greater academic success, and better employment opportunities later in life. Leading economists have shown that ECD has a return of up to $17 for every dollar invested. If we want to maximize the potential of our youth we have to start before a child is born. 

In July, we launched Starting Early, Starting Strong, a provincial dialogue on supporting families through ECD. Over 300 people attended the first public meeting, held at the Aboriginal Centre of Winnipeg. People from all over the North End came to share ideas on how to strengthen our early years strategy and give our kids a better start.  

We also wanted to highlight the existing resources available, such as Manitoba’s Healthy Baby Program that supports moms and their families through a prenatal benefit and community support program. To get these resources to the people in our community who need it the most, we need to reach out beyond moms and dads, to everyone involved in a child’s life — from grandparents to uncles and aunties.

Wendy Hallgrimson, mother-to-be, attended the community dialogue and was excited to spread the word about what she learned. Since the meeting, she received a package of information for expecting mothers and is now receiving the prenatal benefit. Wendy has also connected with community supports through her local parent-child coalition and met with a public health nurse.

"These programs are already helping me and my family," said Hallgrimson. "It has really opened a lot of doors for me and I feel more confident about becoming a mother for the first time." 

To find a community support program near you, call 204-945-1301. If you would like more information about Starting Early, Starting Strong or to share your thoughts, visit www.gov.mb.ca/cyo/sess

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