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Prevention and Early Intervention

Why does SickKids Centre for Community Mental Health provide prevention and early intervention services?

Research indicates that a number of factors place children and families at risk for serious mental health problems. Many of these risk factors exist in the communities served by Hincks-Dellcrest, including:
  • a high rate of low-birth-weight babies;
  • a high incidence of socially isolated parents;
  • high rates of unemployment and underemployment;
  • high density housing;
  • a large proportion of single parent families;
  • a high incidence of poverty.
Research also has shown that prevention and early intervention programs have both immediate and long term benefits for children, their families, community caregivers, and the community. These benefits include:
  • improved cognitive, physical and social functioning in children;
  • less stress and less distress within the family and community settings;
  • improved parenting behaviours and skills;
  • fewer incidents of child abuse and neglect;
  • more success in school and fewer dropouts;
  • more prosocial attitudes and skills in later childhood and adolescence;
  • less delinquency in adolescence.
In addition, research has shown that prevention and early intervention services are cost-effective:
  • for every dollar spent on prevention and early intervention in early childhood, seven dollars are saved in future social and health care costs;
  • prevention and early intervention reduce short-term health care costs for children;
  • prevention and early intervention reduce long-term health care costs for both children and other family members.

What do successful prevention and early intervention programs look like?

Successful prevention programs:
  • increase knowledge, skills, and a sense of community membership in children and parents;
  • ensure balanced attention to the physical, safety, emotional, and social needs of children;
  • provide outreach to children and their families, including community-based services and home visits, as a way to impart knowledge and skills, and to help establish linkages with the community.

What kinds of prevention and early intervention programs are provided by Sickkids Centre for Community Mental Health?

Two programs (one located in downtown Toronto, and one located in northwest Toronto) provide prevention and early intervention programs to children and their families.

The downtown program (called Growing Together) provides its services to infants, preschoolers, and their families, who live in St. James Town, a high-density development. The northwest program (called Prevention and Early Intervention Services - Sheppard Site) provides its services to infants and preschoolers, and their families, who live in a number of different neighbourhoods in the northwest section of Toronto. It also provides services to school-aged children in schools serving the same or similar neighbourhoods.

Both programs provide home visiting, children's groups, parents' groups, parent-child groups, parenting counselling, individual child support, community presentations, information pamphlets, and consultation to community caregivers. In addition, the downtown program provides formal developmental screening, and the northwest program provides a mobile toy-lending service. The two programs are variously involved in a number of national and provincial prevention and early intervention programs, including: Community Action Program for Children, Healthy Babies Healthy Children, Canada Prenatal Nutrition Program, Building Brighter Futures, TLC3, and Ontario Early Years Centres.

Other special projects include: Learning through Play Calendar and Board Game; Speech and Language Calendar; Baby Connection; Partners for Conflict Resolution; and, the Community Interpretation Project.

Prevention and early intervention services are funded by the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services, the United Way, various provincial and federal grants, and private donors.