Understanding the Early Years - Cape Breton Regional Municipality-Victoria County

The Cape Breton – Victoria Understanding the Early Years (UEY) project includes the grade primary children from two counties on Cape Breton Island. The Cape Breton Regional Municipality is a mostly urban county located on the eastern side of Cape Breton Island, and Victoria County covers a vast rural area on the north-east end of the island. The area is a popular tourist destination, known for the Cabot Trail and wilderness areas. The traditional industries of mining and steel-making have declined over the past 20 years, along with a decline in the island’s fishing industry, which was once strong and vibrant.

The Cape Breton – Victoria Understanding the Early Years project is being hosted and managed by the Cape Breton Family Place Resource Centre. Understanding the Early Years is a national initiative aimed at strengthening the capacity of communities to use quality local research to help them to make decisions to enhance children’s lives.

Parent Interviews and Direct Assessments of Children Survey (PIDACS)

This report is based on information collected with the Parent Interviews and Direct Assessments of Children Survey (PIDACS) in the community of Cape Breton – Victoria, as well as 2006 Canadian Census data. The PIDACS provides information on developmental outcomes of children and their families and neighbourhood environments and experiences.

The data in this report, which were collected from parents and their grade primary children using the PIDACS, are a snapshot from late 2008 to early 2009 of the lives of grade primary children whose parents agreed to participate in the survey. The 594 parents who were interviewed and 601 children who completed the direct assessments provide information on how grade primary children in Cape Breton – Victoria are doing. Other local information available through the UEY project includes the results of grade primary teacher assessments of children’s development using the Early Development Instrument, information on the availability and accessibility of programs and services, and data from the Canadian Census describing local socio-economic characteristics. Taken together, these data can be used to start conversations in the community about the implications of the research and the needs of children in Cape Breton – Victoria. This process can help communities develop a community action plan aimed at addressing the needs of the community.

The 2006 Canadian Census data indicated that the average family income of the community was about $60,000, which was considerably below the Canadian average of $82,000. The community’s median income, at about $52,000, was also below the national median income of about $66,000. The unemployment rate was about 17% and more than 20% of the families had annual incomes below $30,000.

Despite the economic challenges facing many families, only 11% families indicated poor family functioning and about 10% of mothers were experiencing depression. These levels were comparable to the Canadian PIDACS averages. Also, 60% of the families had a positive parenting style, which was above the Canadian PIDACS average. The children in this community tended to be actively engaged in unorganized sports, with an average rate of 4.9 times per week. However, their use of most types of educational, entertainment, cultural and recreational resources was below the Canadian PIDACS average; the exceptions were attending movies and the use of ice rinks and skiing facilities. An important concern was that the grade primary children in this community watched television or videos on average about 1.9 hours per day, which was well above the Canadian average of 1.6 hours per day.

The most prominent barriers to children’s participation in community activities were that parents were unaware the resource was available (43%), programs were not available nearby (42%), programs were not available at convenient times (42%), programs were too costly (37%), and programs were only available to older children (36%).

About 59% of the families in this community used some form of child-care arrangement while working or studying. The most frequently used type of care was care in the family home by a relative.

This study showed that most grade primary children in Cape Breton – Victoria were generally faring well; the average scores on receptive vocabulary and number knowledge were comparable to the Canadian PIDACS averages, and the average score on an assessment of pre-literacy skills was higher than the Canadian average. The proportions of children in Cape Breton – Victoria displaying inattention, anxiety or depression were comparable to the corresponding Canadian averages, while the prevalence of physical aggression was below the Canadian average. The prevalence of children with significant health problems based on assessments of general health, asthma, allergies and other chronic conditions was comparable to the Canadian PIDACS average.

As the community works towards developing its action plan, it can consider the strengths and weaknesses uncovered by this local research. The UEY Initiative stresses the importance of a coordinated approach that involves families, teachers, and the wider community to determine the best programs and services to meet children’s needs during their formative years.

To view the full report, please click Understanding the Early Years Cape Breton - Parent Interviews and Direct Assessment of Children Report.

Early Development Instrument (EDI) - Local Results Round One - 2008/2009

In addition to the Parent Interviews and Direct Assessment of Children, the Understanding the Early Years work also included the implementation of the Early Development Instrument (EDI).  A roll up report, including highlights of the PIDACS results and the EDI work was prepared for Human Resource and Skills Development Canada in the fall of 2010.

To view the Contributing to Community Change report, you will need to click on two separate reports (due to web space allocations).  They are as follows:

Contributing to Community Change - An Early Years Road Map

Contributing to Community Change - Early Years Developmental Mapping

Early Development Instrument (EDI) - Local Results Round Two - 2010/2011

Given the value of the information gathered during the first implementation of the Early Development Instrument, a decision was made to repeat this research in the spring of 2011.  New results have emerged.  As this information is compiled, it will be posted on-line for easy access.  In the interim, please feel free to contact the Sydney office of Family Place with any inquiries you may have (902 562-5616 - Contact JoAnna LaTulippe-Rochon).