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It Takes a Village

The Village -- Mackenzie Family Resource Network

By Jenelle Van Slyke | Alannah Ross Photography

When Val Crosby, Executive Director of the High Level Toy Lending Library Society (HLTLLS), moved to High Level in 2006, The Village Mackenzie Family Resource Network (then Parent Link) was a vital connection to parental resources and to the community at large.

(L to R) Sheena McKinney, Alex Michael, Val Crosby, Katrina Morton, Shawna Moberly, Alannah Ross (floor)

“I needed to get out and meet people. It really became my lifeline,” said Crosby.

The youngest of Crosby’s three children had a speech delay, so she wanted him to interact with others to improve his speech-language skills.

“I started to come to the Parent Link Centre,” said Crosby. “My husband is a school administrator. He went off to school, and I was left at home with three littles. It was our first time living in Alberta, which is very different from Saskatchewan, where we moved from, and incredibly different than Nova Scotia, where we were before that.”

Crosby found herself lingering at the centre after the program sessions and actively sought employment there.

“I begged them to offer me a job because my little guy with the speech delay was not progressing as much as they wanted. They suggested he be with peers on more of a full-time basis,” said Crosby. “You can’t send your child off to daycare if you’re not working, so I begged and pleaded, and they offered me a part-time job as a cultural worker.”

(L) Lily Cox, High Level Program, (R) La Crete Program Space

Crosby moved up to a full-time programming position and was later promoted to executive director of the HLTLLS when the position became available.

The HLTLLS is the not-for-profit organization contracted to provide the Family Resource Network’s programming, which falls under children’s services and the Government of Alberta.

The HLTLLS started as a grassroots effort when a group of moms wanted to share and swap toys for their kids, and the initiative grew from there.

“As I understand it, they had early intervention contracts to provide toy lending. Then, they acquired a space, and they hosted playgroup times,” said Crosby. “They eventually received the Parent Link initiative contract, and that changed the direction of the organization to be more interactive and more engaging with parents.”

The HLTLLS had the Parent Link contract from 2007 to 2020, when the province replaced the initiative with the Family Resource Network.

(L) OIivia Wiebe, Jasmine Wieler and Alice Wiebe | La Crete Program, (R) High Level Program Space

The change between the two initiatives was significant.

Parent Link Centres were primarily for ages 0-6 and the Family Resource Network (FRN) is for ages 0-18. The FRN offers service under three domains: caregiver capacity, child and youth development and social connections and support.

HLTLLS was awarded FRN funding to service Mackenzie County. This FRN uses a “hub and spoke” model whereby the hub focuses on community outreach and the spokes focus on home visitation and parent education services.

“We do it all. We’re all inclusive,” said Crosby. “We provide information and referrals, and we help parents and families navigate through the systems of resources available.”

The home visitation service is a valuable resource for parents.

“Its primary focus is engaging with parents to support their child’s development,” said Crosby. “Our home visitors go in the home where the parents are most comfortable and where the child rearing is happening.”

(L) Lincoln Quist, Lyndsey Quist & Londyn Quist | High Level Program (R) Danielle Fehr & Jacob Fehr | High Level program

The home visitation program is from prenatal to age six, and the length of the visits is individualized for the parents.

“It really depends on what the family wants to work on,” said Crosby. “We might be in the home once or twice a week. For some, it might be once a month. We are very family-centred and flexible based on the family’s needs.”

The parent education service is focused on increasing the capacity of caregivers by providing support and knowledge for youth and child development ages 0-18.

The Village has two permanent spaces—one in High Level and one in La Crete—and offers monthly programming in Rainbow Lake and Fort Vermilion.

“We also offer support in our Indigenous communities,” said Crosby.

The Village diversifies programs based on the community they operate in, as the various communities in Mackenzie County are vastly different with different needs. This flexibility is incredibly important to the FRN.

“We pride ourselves on being responsive to the needs of the community,” said Crosby. “If we do a strategic plan and say, ‘we’re going to do x, y and z,’ if the needs of the community shift, I don’t want to be stuck in that plan.”

The FRN first received funding at the beginning of the pandemic.

“We’ve never had a home visitation program in the north, so trying to start this from scratch during a pandemic was really challenging,” said Crosby. “It’s very exciting to actually have a year to be able to do our business, to go out and be known in the community.”

The Village has recently expanded its resources to include prenatal care, and they now have an Indigenous liaison to help connect with and support Indigenous communities.

Jasmine Wieler, La Crete Capacity Builder

“We’re spearheading an allyship group, and we will continue to provide programming that’s culturally reflective and inviting to our Indigenous families,” said Crosby.

The value the FRN offers can not be understated.

“There’s something for everybody,” said Crosby. “If we don’t offer it, we can connect you with someone who does. That’s the real beauty of it—we’re a one-stop shop.”

Those interested in The Village’s programs and services can reach out anytime.

“Come in and see us. Pop into one of our programs. All our programs are free. Everything is confidential and voluntary,” said Crosby. “We’re a cool, fun place to hang out.”

Parents in Mackenzie County aren’t alone. They have access to an incredible resource in The Village Family Resource Network.

“We try very hard to provide fun opportunities for parents to engage with their children, and for children to engage with other children, and for parents to engage with parents,” said Crosby. “We want to build strong, healthy relationships early on.”

High Level office: 10905 100 Ave

La Crete office: 10013 101 Ave. (upstairs in the Friesen Accounting building)

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