The Tsleil-Waututh Child and Family Development has operated for over eight years and are committed to providing the highest standard of quality care. In the ongoing pursuit of this goal, the staff chose to undertake an audit of the program using an internationally recognised standardised tool, the Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale – Revised and the Infant Toddler Environmental Rating Score- Revised (ECERS/ITERS). A proposal was submitted to hire a third party consultant, with specialised education in inter rater reliability, to apply the scales and reduce potential bias. The proposal also asked the question: “How can the ECERS/ITERS be informed about future use in Aboriginal communities?”
The centre has an On-Reserve Aboriginal Head Start Program (AHS) and the manager and consultant decided to use the six guiding components of the AHS to inform the process. The six components (AHS Six) are: 1) Culture and Language; 2) Education; 3) Health Promotion; 4) Nutrition; 5) Social Support; and 6) Parent and Family Involvement.
The project has made a difference in immediate impacts by developing a solid baseline as well as improving and becoming more consistent in practice. Long-term benefits will be achieved by continually reflecting on practice, using the baseline and suggestions as guides. Other benefits were realised by having solid evidence to seek future funding to improve infrastructure and building upgrades.
The innovative piece to this project is in identifying future exploration in developing a culturally relevant scale. The project discovered a number of suggestions to support the development of and Aboriginal Addendum to the standardised ECERS/ITERS. Some of the suggestions are to include indicators to identify:
•Children being taught some of the language (alphabets, numbers, and labels of objects.
•Fluent speakers visiting and interacting with the children.
•Resource materials are made available to staff to incorporate and expand the aboriginal language.
•Children engaged in activities representing the culture.
•Staff understand families may experience barriers to accessing resources/services.
•Staff convey respect for individual choice and lifestyles.
•The centre provides multiple opportunities for families to interact with each other and to form informal support networks
•Families are provided opportunities to learn and use the aboriginal language
•Families are encouraged to take creative roles in establishing goals for their children and the program.
•Families know their input and feedback will affect change.
•Staff receive ongoing training in Aboriginal Culture.
This pilot project was based on a one-time-only funding opportunity through the First Nations and Urban Aboriginal Early Childhood Development Steering Committee. The project has raised interests in a number of potential partners, specifically: the British Columbia Aboriginal Child Care Society; the First Nation’s Employment Society; and the Aboriginal Head Start Programs under Health Canada. The possibility of developing an Aboriginal Addendum for the ECERS/ITERS would appeal to a wide variety of funders due to its immediate impacts, as demonstrated in this project, and potential use in other aboriginal communities.
The synergistic application of both ECERS/ITERS and AHS Six can provide objective, culturally safe standards of measuring quality care in First Nations, Inuit and Metis early childhood programs. The development and application of such a tool would support the ongoing process of enhancing learning by providing a solid base for children and families to build their educational future.