First Nations, Metis and Inuit values, traditions and approaches to early intervention programs for children will shape the Aboriginal Head Start Program as it evolves. Communities need a holistic approach that will focus on Aboriginal preschool children and their families and include; culture and language, education, health promotion, nutrition, social support and parental involvement. For any Aboriginal Head Start project to be effective, it will have to complement and be coordinated with other services directed at children and families in order to achieve the goals and objectives of First Nations, Metis and Inuit people living in urban centres and Northern communities.
Within communities, the range of services for children and families can include family healing support, health services, child welfare and early intervention programs. At the community level, these work together in a flexible way to meet the needs of children and families. The focus of this Program is on direct service to children and families. As such the development of Aboriginal Head Start projects through this Program must meet child, family and community needs. Aboriginal Head Start projects, therefore, need to establish relationships with related community programs while recognizing that communities can also shape their projects to meet families social and economic goals. Where services to Aboriginal children and families are lacking in the community, the AHS projects may begin to fill the gap in services to Aboriginal children and families.
The Aboriginal Head Start Program must not only be diverse and flexible enough to meet the range of needs of First Nations, Métis and Inuit families, but also focus on providing programs that promote and protect Aboriginal languages and cultures. The Aboriginal Head Start Program must be structured to ensure the development of locally controlled projects. In doing so, Aboriginal Head Start projects will reflect the uniqueness of First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities and cultures, as they strive to instill in children and parents, a sense of pride and confidence, a desire to learn, parenting skills, opportunities for positive social and emotional development and improved family relationship.
The Ontario Aboriginal Head Start Association (OAHSA) governance system is developed from the program objective of including parents and project representatives in all aspects of the AHS Program including; planning, development, implementation and evaluation.
Accordingly, the OAHSA will provide opportunities for parents, or their selected representatives, to be involved in the policy making and operation of the program. The system is grounded in providing parents with meaningful decision-making opportunities with respect to both policy and program issues.
Thus, the decision-making system was developed to ensure shared responsibilities with respect to overseeing the implementation of program standards, regulations, and policies. This system ensures the program delivers high quality, comprehensive child and family development services.
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