Step By Step Child and Family Center (SBS) is an inclusive early intervention program open to all children between the ages of 18 months and 6 years and their families. At SBS every child belongs and we celebrate the gifts and respect the challenges which are unique to every child and family.
SBS was founded on the principles of the Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) value of interrelatedness and provided an accepting nurturing environment for all young children and their families. The responsibility of the SBS is to support all families in their child’s physical, cognitive, and social-emotional development based on our culture and traditions. By carrying the family fire (Kahwatsire) forward, SBS continues to provide culturally relevant childcare critical for the preservation of our language, traditions, and identity. As parents and caregivers, this is our responsibility to all children.
Recognizing and remembering that the capacity to give and receive trust, affection and empathy is fundamental to being Onkwehon:we, and realizing that all Kahnawa’kehro:nón suffer the consequences when children are raised in a way that makes them affectionless and violent, and knowing and learning Kanien:keha’ka culture and values clearly tells us these qualities are determined by the way children are cared for in their very early years….(Excerpt from Wahón:nise Tho Niiotòn:ne Community Group Guiding Principles for Early Childhood in Kahnawake)
SBS believes in capacity building. Children and families have varied strengths, assets, talents and interests. Our family –centered assessment and intervention practices place a major emphasis on supporting and strengthening family functioning through the identification of needs and the child and family strengths and capabilities relating to meeting those needs. SBS takes a positive approach to assessment and service delivery rather than one focused on deficit and pathology. We take the time to develop an authentic picture of the child and his/her family and then build on a foundation of strengths.
Using a Holistic Framework
SBS utilizes a holistic framework that understand human learning and development-both in the child and adult-as being very interconnected with people, their histories and their environments. The child is not separate from their parents and family and the family is not separate from the resources and supports – such as services, family, friends and neighbors - within the community.
Although theory and research in child development serves to guide and inform our practices, our knowledge of the community, its people and culture and the real life relationships we form with the children and families who pass through our doors also contribute profoundly to our understanding of the often unique developmental pathways of children and families.
Our efforts to support children to develop a solid foundation for the future must also include supporting the family to build their capacity and to access and build networks of support which will enrich the quality of family life.
Collaborating with Parents
Parent involvement in a child’s education is a well-established essential for growth and development. SBS wants more. We work towards a genuine collaboration with families by acknowledging and seeking out their expertise about their own children and by engaging them in our curriculum in ways that also highlight their gifts to the community. We know that successful outcomes for individual children, families and for the center as a community service will depend on an authentic collaboration and partnership with families.
Services and Supports
SBS provides a comprehensive array of services and supports to children and their families which are culturally guided, evidence-based and associated with optimal child outcomes. In addition to the quality early childhood education program delivered within each classroom, all children and families are able to benefit from services which include;
The SBS model to providing service and support is a responsive, flexible and fluid process delivered by a collaborative professional team. It is highly individualized and is shaped by each respective child and family, their strengths, needs, desires and unique situation. There is no one way or best way to deliver service and any obstacle is merely a problem to solve.
SBS accepts referrals from both internal & external community social service and health centers. Organizations may refer children and families based on their assessment or informed impression of risk factors present which without early intervention would have a negative impact on the development of the child. The acceptance of a referral for a child and family expedites the delivery of service and enables a family to jump the long waiting list. As a result, the process of review and consideration of a referral is comprehensive and takes some time enabling us to understand and confirm risk factors and to build a partnership with parents which ensures their participation in a Child and Family Support Plan.
A Natural Learning Focus
It is generally recognized that interventions are more likely to be successful if they are implemented in the context of children’s everyday activity. And so an integral part of our professional practice is related to bridging the therapeutic, home and school environment. Our specialist practitioners coach our personnel, family members, and caregivers in techniques for teaching, parenting, understanding and managing difficult behavior, language stimulation, etc., that can be carried out in natural learning contexts within the classroom, at home and within community settings.
Developing our Tools of the Trade
“There are few injustices deeper than the denial of an opportunity to strive or ever hope by a limit imposed from without, but falsely identified as lying within.”
Stephen J. Gould
SBS is a learning organization and as we continue to study, discuss and reflect, we continue to make shifts in our practices. As has been identified in the literature on early intervention and cultural difference we recognize the need to develop new practices specifically for indigenous people; new screening and assessment tools; new education and intervention strategies; new tools for monitoring child development; and alternative ways of reaching out to parents and children.
In collaboration with Quebec universities and other partners in Canada and the U.S., SBS has begun to introduce and research a new process of screening and assessment that will prevent the mislabeling of cultural difference as individual or group pathology. We believe that all professionals who assess and intervene with aboriginal children and families must understand how to build on their strengths and cultural/family values and to clarify what goals, supports and development activities are most appropriate.
SBS is also always engaged in a process of curriculum review and revision. We seek to create inspired and inspiring learning environments that help to build a child’s knowledge and skills in ways that are culturally relevant and culturally rich. We are intentional in making curricular choices that are built on a foundation of cultural openness, cultural pride and a positive image of the child and his/her potential.
Children are not our possessions, they are gifts to us. This is the belief of our people. Children must be restored to their place, the heart of the community and in doing so restore our communities to a place of power and self-sufficiency. Child daycare can be a vehicle through which culture can be retained and transmitted from generation to generation. (Joint First Nations Inuit Federal Child Care Working Group, 1995,p.9, p.35).