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Getting a clearer picture on FRN model

Cold Lake will be putting in a bid to be part of the province's Family Resource Network (FRN), even though they're not completely sure what it's going to look like.
Chris Vining
Coun. Chris Vining expressed his concerns about the province’s FRN model during council’s latest meeting.

Cold Lake will be putting in a bid to be part of the province's Family Resource Network (FRN), even though they're not completely sure what it's going to look like.

"Right now, we're collecting more information and are starting to understand the expression of interest and where we need to be, looking at our service delivery models to see how well they fit within the FRN, and the services they're not providing within that scope," explained Glenn Barnes, general manager of community services for the city.

He added, "The other issue that was brought to light was the fact that, although the question hasn't been answered yet, is there's no duplication of service, so if you have something that's being done right now by FCSS and the new FRN, which is going to be from ages zero to 18, there will be no duplication of services, so some of those services will be picked up by the FRN."

The FRN model, which is expected to start April 1, 2020, was created by the province as a way of meeting the needs of communities across Alberta while ensuring there is no replicating programming.

"That's going to impact FCSS... We're looking at some sort of reduction in services to FCSS as well, and we haven't quite narrowed down what that looks like yet," noted Barnes.

At this point, the province has confirmed Parent Link Centres across Alberta will be affected. As of March 31, 2020, their contract will expire and funding will no longer be provided by the Government of Alberta for these programs.

With that in mind, the FRN's intention is to fill the gap, however, Coun. Chris Vining is concerned the model won't maintain the same level of programming it had in the past.

He stressed that children six and under are an "even smaller piece of the pie" and will receive less programming as a result of the model's zero to 18-years-old services.

Mayor Craig Copeland chimed in, "Little kids are still a part of the package... Instead of 100 per cent, they're now 30 per cent of the pie, so the government will give you some kind of money or programming for the little kids."

"They're increasing our age scope by going all the way up to 18, we never went up that high before," noted Coun. Vicky Lefebvre.

Under the FRN, there will be a "hub" that acts as a physical centre and anchor organization. It will be responsible for arranging the delivery of the services, supports, and programs offered under the FRN.

Each hub will feature spokes that make-up the network of services, supports, and programs. These spokes must align with at least one of the three Core Service Delivery Domains, which include child development and well-being support, caregiver capacity building support, and social connections and supports.

Working together, they will cover a network area. Currently, Cold Lake has been lumped with Athabasca, Lac La Biche, Westlock, and Barrhead under the north-central region.

In order for a community to be included in the FRN, they must submit an expression of interest, which Barnes explained is completed in conjunction with the "spokes" or organizations that would offer the programs and services.

For example, an agency would submit their own proponent response form and package separately for the services they want to provide through the FRN, however, information regarding potential partnerships needs to be included in the overall proposal.

"We're encouraged to talk to those other service deliverers and build them into a model. It's likely we will be considered a hub," he stated.

One item councillors had expressed concern about at their Nov. 12 meeting, was the network Cold Lake fell under.

"I know there was some discussion about our range and where our new network is. They did say that those aren't fixed and they're just suggestions," explained Barnes.

"The government document that was shared had us in the north-central region and that when all the way over to Athabasca, but Bonnyville was in something else. If we submit an expression of interest that is totally unrelated to what they proposed, you're saying they will still look at that?" questioned Coun. Bob Buckle.

Barnes said, "That's what they're calling 'the beauty' in this application process, is that there is no firm tender document, that it's an expression of interest and so the province can come back and talk to the different hubs and spokes and work agreements and massage the application."

Buckle, while on board with submitting an expression of interest, wanted to know more about the cost that could come along with the responsibility of being the region's hub.

"I'm very worried or concerned about the financial commitment or impact to the community. We're coming into a very tough budget area, there are a lot of unknowns, and I'm questioning whether this is something we want to stick our head into. At the end of the day, if there's no actual financial benefit, but a whole lot of exposure, I understand how it works, but we're not in a financial position right now with everything that we have to even put our name in the hat."

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