County to locate EarlyON Child and Family Centre in Palmerston

MINTO – Town council has agreed to provide a building for a new Wellington County EarlyON Child and Family Centre in Palmerston.

The centre will provide a location from which the county can provide a range of services, including assistance for families and other social services, explained Minto CAO Chris Harrow at the Sept. 3 council meeting.

Prior to opening the new Early Learning Centre at the Palmerston Public School property last fall, the county utilized a building owned by the town at 215 William Street in Palmerston. 

The building, formerly the Palmerston Public Utilities office, was renovated to accommodate the early learning program. Since the move to the new property, the building has sat empty.

“Recently, the County of Wellington has approached us about utilizing the building for different services needed in the northern part of the county,” stated Harrow. “All of these services are needed in our community and would be beneficial to … add locally.”

Council agreed to lease the building to the county under the terms of the previous arrangement for the property, which allowed the county to utilize the building rent free. The county will pay the utilities as well as pay for any capital upgrades to the building. 

“The town would not have to pay for any upkeep on the building and would have the benefit of having much needed services provided to our community,” noted Harrow in his report.

Luisa Artuso, director of Wellington County’s Children’s Early Years Division, explained in a report to council that an EaryON Centre is a physical site with space fully committed to child and family programing. The site must be open a minimum of 30 hours per week, which is spread over six days, including one weekend day and one evening. At least two of the six days the site is open must be full days (over six hours).

Core services provided by the centres include engaging parents and caregivers, supporting early learning and child development, and making connections for families through such programs as:

– drop-in play;

– play groups, 

– literacy;

– pre- and post-natal support; 

– transfers to other agencies; and

– referrals for direct therapy.

Secondary services can include:

– cultural enrichment programs;

– community nutrition kitchens;

– parent peer support; and

– mentorship programs.

EarlyON community services provided with proper approvals at some locations also include food banks, clothing cupboards, newcomers’ groups, employment and social services.

Artuso explained it’s the county’s goal to ensure that every municipality has a licensed child care centre as well as an EarlyON centre.

She said the services at the centre will be reflective of input gained through a county-wide survey as well as a Minto advisory group.

Artuso said her department’s research indicates county residents are currently accessing services provided through various centres around the county, including existing satellite services in Minto.

“One thing that we found out in our consultation is that families are travelling,” Artuso said. “They’re actually getting their children into their car. They’re driving to Minto, they’re driving to Rockwood, they’re going to Guelph – they’re actually using a variety of areas and locations.”

“We’ve been talking about this for a few years,” said Mayor George Bridge.

“It’s come a long way just to have the centres … In the city there were all these services and in the rural area you got nothing,” said Bridge. “I think it’s a great opportunity for us to bring services and I can see it growing.”