Wednesday, September 20, 2006

True American Spirit

Living in Ontario provides many opportunities for families with young children to come together and feel part of a community. There are many services catering to the health and well being of your child developmentally and socially. I had always found one of the greatest services to be the Ontario Early Years centers. They offer places in every neighborhood for parents, caregivers, and young children to come together and play, exchange ideas, to simply enjoy meeting others. I formed many lasting friendships at the centers my daughter and I frequented and this was important to me because I was new to Ontario and had no family or friends nearby to call on for advice or companionship. So I was truly pleased to find my new community offering such a fantastic rescource. We had been enjoying visiting the Early Years centers since Violet was three months old and I was a weary sleep deprived new mother living in an unfamiliar city, not to mention country. Now living in another new city since June, we have been missing the daily trips to our local Early Years center where we could socailize in an exciting play group setting with toddlers and other stay at home parents. We ventured the 35 minute walk last Friday to our closest location in our new community and here is the complaint letter I issued after my unfortunate encounter:

I am very displeased with a recent visit to a Burlington Early Years center. My two year old and I are new to Burlington and walked to the closest location for our first visit, Cumberland, in hopes of meeting some new acquaintances in our new town. Since my daughter's birth we have absolutely loved attending the early years centers in Hamilton (Melrose, then Ryerson occasionally Queen) where we lived previously. They are (were, as some are now closed) great facilities, all posses a friendly and welcoming forum for everyone. In Hamilton, we quickly found a core group of parents and children and became friends through the program, being able to interact with other new moms and babies as a newcomer to both Ontario and Canada immensely enriched our daily lives. The Early Years Centers in Hamilton provided such amazing support of the new parent & baby, all families and truly strengthened the community. I had expectations of finding the same environment at our local Burlington center, however, it was a fully negative experience and terrible disappointment. When we arrived at Cumberland the room seemed inviting for toddler play and was nearly empty, good conditions for a first time visit with a shy two year old. Leigh greeted us, and immediately escorted us to the door just as my daughter had selected the play area she wanted to explore. Leigh let us know this was a registered program only and "hadn't I checked the center's calendar ?!" There was no structured activity going on in the room with maybe a total of 10 children in attendance at 10:45 for a group that began at 9:15 that morning. Leigh began explaining the center's lottery system (what!?) that allowed use of the resource and stuffing my hand with brochures as she inched us right up to the door. As a closure, she knelt down beside my confused and unhappy two year old and told her 'she wasn't allowed to play here today, this was a special program only for kids who had permission to be there... maybe she could play another day.' I'm unsure how much my daughter understood but it was completely heartbreaking for me to see her upset and still asking which toys she could try as she climbed into her stroller crying. While Leigh was explaining the day's "no admittance" policy to myself and my daughter two other sets of caregivers and toddlers appeared and were asked to leave, not even being allowed to enter the room.

The Early Years centers are intended to provide support, education, to be a resource for all families, and Cumberland is falling very short of that mission. As a community center it should be available to everyone, as everyone pays the taxes I presume facilitate the operation of Early Years centers. A location that is not even close to half capacity is not running efficiently nor providing anything substantial to the surrounding residents and families. I find the concept of a lottery system to gain access to a provincially sponsored children's play group center offensive. Clearly, a better idea would be to offer pre registered classes simultaneously, perhaps in another separate area (as did the Hamilton centers) and allow all children an opportunity to utilize the facility with a first come first served admittance. As a stay at home mom I rely on the Early Years centers to provide my child with new experiences for growth and development particularly through interacting and playing with other children. As a new resident of Burlington I hope to develop new bonds and learn through the exchange of ideas as a parent from the community the centers are intended to provide.

I have seldom written complaint letters in my lifetime and hope my efforts are not a loss, and that some changes or restructuring will be considered in the Burlington Early Years program .Thank you for taking the time to review my thoughts.


Blogger mamaloo said...

first, I'm mortified for you. My jaw dropped reading that. What a shitty corruption of the mandate of the Ontario Early Years Centres. Your outrage is well placed and I hope you get some action.

Don't be afraid to send this to a bunch of people, including whatever ministry oversees the centres and your provincial MP as well as the specific centre under question. The squeaky wheel gets the grease and whenever I've forwarded complaints to politicians, I've usually gotten a satisfactory response.

I got a warm fuzzy, too, knowing that you and I were two mums who "hooked up" at an early years centre.

10:29 AM  

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