Success by Six: Making life better for local families despite funding crunch
They may not be Whitney Houston, but, yes, they do firmly believe that children are our future and despite a 10% cut to their provincial funding this year, the Success by Six program, now formally in its eight year of operation in BC, continues to do more with less.
The news of a funding cut isn’t all bad for the group, however, as they see the silver lining of a firm commitment from the province in the program even if that came with $100,000 less to back it up this year. Dropping from the $3.5 million the group received last year from the provincial government to $3.4 million this year the group is pleased that the former grant money has now been solidified into an actual contract with the province. “The big shift is that this year there has been a real renewal of commitment to Success by Six from the province,” explained Kim Adamson, provincial coordinator for the program. “We’ve moved away from a granting process into a contract with the provincial government and that, I think, puts us in good position. It really sets a very strong level of commitment even if it’s a one year contract.” Despite the funding cut, the group (which also is supported by the Credit Unions of BC who donate 25 cents each year from each member for roughly a $400,000 annual contribution) doesn’t expect any reductions in its service levels. With significant local support for the local branches of the organization from the business community, the cut will simply mean if anything coordinators will have to get a little more creative in their approach and collaborate and cooperate more with like-minded organizations. At the local level, roughly $77,000 of the total $4 million dollar budget was spent on projects in the West Kootenay district in 2009 (the most recent report presently available). That seemingly small piece of the pie has translated into a number of programs designed specifically to meet the needs of the local communities. That custom approach to funding the programs various regions and local groups is unique among government programs and perhaps one that could be modeled elsewhere. “In most cases the government tends to create programs and the funding goes out to the regions and everybody creates sort of the same program,” explained Adamson. “Success by Six is very much driven on community based decision making and community needs for a community’s children. What you may need in Rossland to support children may be completely different than what they need in Fort Nelson or the Lower Mainland or Kelowna, for example.” What needs each community has are derived from a local discussions table in each area made up of local service providers for families and children. Rossland is serviced by the Greater Trail Success by Six group. With a core group of 10 and several more associate members the Greater Trail Success by Six discussion table meets monthly to discuss the issues affecting family and children in the community and to work on identifying solutions and programs they can participate in or initiate to make life easier and better for families in the area. One of the biggest single issues around here, recognized and discussed at the local table, is the lack of child care space in the Greater Trail area. “That’s always a big issue for us so we try to figure out what we can do and who we can partner with that can help,” explained Trail Success by Six coordinator Sonia Tavares. “Our waiting list for children in childcare is one of our biggest struggles that we deal with in this area. There are too ma children and not enough childcare in this area.” While that may be a huge issue in itself, the local Success by Six group looks to break it down to a smaller scale to see what they can do to help. Whether that is simply promoting the free programs that are already out there, initiating new programs or simply sharing resources between existing organizations, the discussion table looks to get creative to solve big issues locally. In Rossland, where recreation is a way of life for much of the population, one of the programs initiated and funded by Success by Six is the Stars for Success program which is designed to lvel the playing field for pre-schoolers and make sure financial issues are less at play in children’s early development. “Starts for Success was developed to address the fact that there are kids that can participate in sports and early learning programs and then there are the kids that can’t because there is a fee attached and families afford it,” explained Adamson. ‘It all creates a real inequity. There are the kids that start kindergarten and they have had access to all the fun stuff because they could afford it and then there are the kids that can’t and they are starting school at a real disadvantage because they might not have had access to be part of kids’ programs, sports and so on. Being involved in group activities with other kids you’re developing your social skills and interacting with others, so those kids are more ready when they get to kindergarten to take advantage of the education.” To address that problem, just short of $14,000 was allocated to the program to provide financial support to families in need so that their children don’t miss out on key development experience such as early learning programs, kids’ sports and the like. “Over the last four or five years I know that hundreds of children have received that support to participate in programs they otherwise couldn’t afford,” added Adamson. Of course one of the most well known local programs by the group is the Teddy Bear picnic in Gyro Park each summer in which families and children can have a fun and educational day together in the park and socialize with other families and children while learning from area service providers. So even though they have had their funding cut by 10%, the local Success by Six groups are just one more example of a group of people actively working to make life better for the people of the West Kootenay that often remain behind the scenes. With a simple and noble goal of asking the question ‘what do families and children need in the West Kootenay?’ and then working together with like-minded folks to come up with on the ground local solutions, province wide, the Success by Six group continues to charge forward despite small economic setbacks. “Early years are always the first group of people that are cut funding wise so it’s good that we have good people at the table and great local support but we do need that funding an it would be nice to have a steady funding amount but we know we don’t have that luxury,” concluded Tavares. “So I look at the cuts both ways. It allows me to think outside of the box and think of more creative ways of doing things and partnering with people, but at the same time we need the funding to keep supporting the service that families need.”