Each AHS project must offer programming based on the six key Aboriginal Head Start Components. In developing and implementing activities related to these components, each AHS project should address the following statements:
- All six program components must be incorporated in the service delivery of each project. The six components are parental involvement, health promotion, culture and language, nutrition, education, and social services support.
- All six program components should be developed in consultation with the families and the community and as per the terms and conditions of funding.
- The program components should represent a coordinated interdisciplinary approach for the health and well being of children, their families and the values of the community.
- The length and breaks of the program should take local realities into consideration.
I. PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT:
The foundation of success for AHS Initiative is the level of parental involvement in local projects. It is the parents’ right and responsibility to be involved in all aspects of the planning, development, implementation and evaluation of the program.
Principles of Parental Involvement
a) Parents are the child’s primary teachers and they have the most important influence on the child’s development. All the children benefit when their parents are actively involved in their development and education.
b) Critical to the success of any intervention/prevention program is what the parents and family do to shape the child’s growth and development.
c) The Aboriginal Head Start Initiative is based on community empowerment. Projects are locally designed and controlled, community based and holistic, and recognize cultural diversity.
Parental Involvement in Governance
a) A training budget for parents and board members should be included in project costs to meet the training needs of parents to manage the project.
b) Respite care must be provided to support parental participation on parent councils.
c) The governance structure of projects should be based on a partnership of equality and empowerment and must be parent/caregiver driven. Parents should hold the majority of seats on the Parent Council and sub-committees such as the Executive Committee.
d) Projects should make resources and funds available to support parents to gain skills.
e) Parents should play an active role in decision making.
f) Parents are encouraged to participate on National and Regional Committees.
Parental Involvement in Program Development/Service Delivery
a) Parents resources should be made available and should be determined by needs identified by the parents in each community.
b) The intake process needs to involve an assessment of the child’s needs through interviews with parents and children.
c) Opportunities should be provided for parents to learn the ceremonies as well as the children so they can reinforce these teachings with their children.
d) Parents are encouraged to be active volunteers in all aspects of program delivery and decision making.
e) Parents can be employed by the projects.
II. NUTRITION COMPONENT: AHS projects in Ontario will:
a) ensure the basic physical, emotional and intellectual growth of children through proper nutrition;
b) include traditional foods in menu planning;
c) provide healthy snacks and hot meals using the Canada Food Guide and the Aboriginal Food Guide and four food groups;
d) consideration ways to reduce the risks of health conditions prone to Aboriginal groups (e.g., diabetes, dental care, etc.);
III. CULTURE AND LANGUAGE COMPONENT: AHS projects in Ontario will:
a) incorporate language and culture into all aspects of the program;
b) demonstrate an understanding of, respect for, and responsiveness to the Aboriginal culture and language of every child in the program;
c) affirm the values of each family’s culture;
d) provide an environment for healthy identity development and family development;
e) reflect each community’s traditions and customs;
f) include Elders/Senators to provide traditional ceremonies and teachings to children and parents;
g) provide the opportunity for children and parents to experience cultural events;
h) recognize the significance of a common culture shared by all;
i) foster pride in being Aboriginal;
j) support families in their journey to regain their cultural identity;
k) promote learning about other Aboriginal cultures and foster respect for other cultures.
IV. EDUCATION COMPONENT: AHS projects in Ontario will:
a) provide a learning environment which focuses on play-based activities;
b) focus on early childhood development (language acquisition, motor skills, school readiness, social skills and self-esteem);
c) promote and provide activities that support the holistic development of each child;
d) recognize that indoor and outdoor play activities include more than just play (e.g., opportunities for learning, having ceremonies);
e) include exposure to Aboriginal languages (as determined by the parent council);
f) complete regular progress reports / observational assessments for each child;
g) utilize “best practises” in education for Aboriginal children;
h) support children’s construction of knowledge through interaction with their environment and people around them;
i) support children’s natural curiosity to explore their world;
j) promote and model problem solving skills;
k) promote creativity and artistic development.
V. HEALTH PROMOTION COMPONENT:
Health promotion is an important aspect of any intervention/prevention program.
Therefore, AHS projects in Ontario will:
a) support people’s need to feel they have:
- the ability to form meaningful relationships and have positive selfesteem;
- the ability to be and feel productive and know that they contribute to society;
- the ability to play, relax, and use leisure time in a manner which renews energy;
- access to information to ensure that medical milestones are met;
- opportunities to incorporate fitness and wellness into a daily lifestyle routine.
b) ensure that all staff and adults model a smoke-free lifestyle while engaged in project activities;
c) ensure that each AHS facility is smoke-free, with the exception of traditional uses of medicine;
d) recognize that there are other “determinants of health” that impact on children and families and attempt to address these issues in the program where appropriate.
VI. SOCIAL SUPPORT SERVICES COMPONENT:
The Social Services Component of Aboriginal Head Start represents an organized method of assisting families to assess their needs, and then providing those services that will build upon the individual strengths of families to meet their own needs.
a) Some of the activities that the social support staff may use to assist families to meet their needs are:
- community outreach;
- family needs assessments;
- providing information about available community resources and how to obtain/ use them;
- recruitment and enrolment of children;
- emergency assistance and/or crisis intervention;
- other contemporary and traditional functions may be undertaken based on the one-to-one or group needs being identified;
- support that is provided by Elders, Healers, ceremony makers, and/or gatherings.
b) Make resources/funds available to support parents to gain skills which may be achieved through the joint contributions of project and parent driven initiatives.
c) Projects must provide culturally-appropriate (traditional) parenting courses.
d) Projects must coordinate and plan specific workshops, field-trips, and other activities based on the needs of families.
e) The social support staff will provide support for individual families and/or primary caregivers to follow through with their child(ren)’s learning and social support needs (e.g., medical, dental, hearing, speech, immunization, health cards, birth certifications).