History of Head Start in B.C.

Aboriginal Head Start (AHS)

In 1995, the Canadian government established the Aboriginal Head Start (AHS) Program to enhance child development and school readiness of Indian, Métis and Inuit children living in urban centres and in large northern communities across the country.

Following the announcement of the AHS program in 1995, First Nations advocated for the expansion of the program to on-reserve communities across the country.

Program Expansion to Reserve Communities

In October 1998, the AHS Program was expanded to First Nations children and families living on-reserve. On- and off-reserve Head Start programs share common objectives, though they must consider different realities in their program development and delivery.

In general, on-reserve Head Start programs in B.C. have smaller garget groups than off-reserve programs, a single language and culture to teach (rather than several), and fewer resources and services to draw upon and connect to. A community-based focus is especially important for on-reserve programs.

Unique characteristics of Head Start in B.C.

B.C.’s particular demographics and diversity have shaped the way Head Start has developed in the Pacific Region. B.C. has more bands than other provinces, the majority are very small, and many are geographically isolated. Some bands have no existing resources or services for children and families, while others are already well-developed, with many existing programs.

When the Head Start On-Reserve Program began in 1998, B.C. had to hit the ground running. There were national mandates for program delivery (theory and guidelines), but no actual models to work from. The funding from Ottawa came very late in the fiscal year, which meant a short turnaround to get funds to communities.

Health Canada required that a Regional Advisory Committee (RAC) be formed to oversee the distribution of funds and provide direction for policy development, program review, and monitoring and accountability. The committee membership originally included First Nations’ community representatives, Elders, child care and education specialists, Chiefs’ Health Committee representatives, and representatives from various government department (Health Canada, Human Resources Development Canada, INAC).

Head Start Timeline in B.C.

1998 Health Canada Funds Received

B.C. receives on-reserve Head Start funding from Health Canada. This is the beginning of BC First Nations Head Start (BCFNHS).

A Regional Advisory Committee (RAC) forms to oversee the distribution of funds in the region and to develop regionally specific policy and procedure.

BCNHS allocates funds to bands to write proposals and to conduct needs assessments.

1998/99 First Proposal Call

BCFNHS receives proposals from communities in three proposal intakes.

1999/00 First Allocation of Funding

The RAC develops funding parameters to facilitate equitable distribution of funding and to attempt to fund as many communities as possible, while ensuring quality programs.

The RAC reviews and rates proposals. Top rated proposals are recommended for funding.

BCFNHS allocates funds to 58 communities. In the first fiscal year, funding available for minor capital, renovations and/or program development (curriculum and policy development, staff and Parent Advisory Council training).

BCFNHS-funded programs range from $18,000 to $150,000, with an average of $90,000. Funding depends on the number of children registered with Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC), whether the community is considered isolated, and whether there are existing child care programs in place.