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New branch of services being offered through Cold Lake and District FCSS

The Cold Lake Family Connections is among the services put into place since Parent Link Centres were eliminated by the province
Cold Lake FCSS
A new branch of the Cold Lake and District FCSS was developed for Lakeland area families and children. File photo.

COLD LAKE - The Cold Lake and District FCSS have developed a new branch for Lakeland area families and children to continue to receive the developmental and education supports they rely on.  

The Cold Lake Family Connections (CLFC) is a place designed specifically for children, parents, families, and caregivers. It combines an interactive play space with dedicated areas for family-centres groups and one-on-one programming aimed at strengthening bonds and keeping families together.  

“We know children are best able to reach their full developmental potential when they’re surrounded by those who support and care about them,” said Kim Schmidtz, Manager of Cold Lake and District FCSS, in a press release. “Our goal is to keep kids with their families or relatives whenever possible; we don’t want to see them go into government care. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by ensuring parents and caregivers feel supported and have the skills to solve problems and be resilient when faced with adversity.”  

The CLFC is designed to continue and build upon a popular and well-attended program in the community after a service delivery change resulted in the closure of more than 300 Parent Link Centres across the province in November 2019, including the centre operated by the Cold Lake FCSS.  

The Family Resource Centre (FRN) is how programming in Alberta is now delivered through a hub and spoke model. The City of Cold Lake submitted an expression of interest to the provincial government to develop the CLFC and deliver this ‘spoke’ service through the Lakeland FRN.  

“This is a critical service to the people of this city and community,” said Mayor Craig Copeland in a press release. “When we learned FCSS would no longer be receiving the funding to operate the Parent Link Centre, Council knew we had to take steps to ensure these services and programs remained available to our residents, and so Cold Lake Family Connections was born.”  

The CLFC will focus on three main objectives.  

One is child development. As children and youth learn best through play, social interactions, and the presence of a healthy, stable role model(s) within the family unit or support system. This program encourages parents and caregivers to build and foster opportunities to support a child’s social, physical, cognitive, emotional, and spiritual well-being to help them reach their full developmental potential.  

Another way is supporting families to make them strong and resilient. This encourages family bonds and community connections that create strong, supportive, and responsive relationships within the family unit while helping families develop coping skills and maintain their independence.  

The final objective is providing caregiver education. Since children look to their parents or guardians for guidance, stability, support, and to give a positive example, the caregiver education program supports parents and caregivers by encouraging health developmental, increasing confidence, and developing positive parenting skills. These education sessions help parents build resilience, expand their skillsets, and promote safe and nurturing environments to support healthy development in children.  

“Our former Parent Link Centre was very busy and many families came to rely on it. The number of people utilizing this resource nearly doubled over the past five years,” said Schmidtz. “In 2019, we recorded over 20,000 visits, and we expect that number will continue climbing as we transition to, and expand upon these services with Cold Lake Family Connections.”  

Programs and services to support children are offered free of charge for children from birth to 18-years-old.   

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, FCSS resources are available by appointment and virtually. Drop-in programs including the Cold Lake Family Connections play space and jungle gym are temporarily closed. 

Robynne Henry, Bonnyville Nouvelle