Province provides transitional funding to Kelowna child service provider

3 more months for centre

A Kelowna-based child service provider has been granted three months of transitional funding by the provincial government, but closure remains inevitable.

Starbright Children’s Development Centre announced Monday that it has received a contract extension that will move the organization’s closure date from March 31 to June 30.

“Sadly, this does not alter the inevitable closure of our programs here at Starbright,” said Carol Meise, Starbright president and board chair.

“This contract extension of three months is to allow for a staged transition of the Starbright clients – babies, toddlers, and preschool children with complex developmental needs – to the various Family Connection Centre providers. The services of Starbright will still end over the coming months”.

Earlier this month, the province announced the rollout of a new system for delivering services to children and youth with support needs in four regions of the province, which will function as pilot programs. While the province has previously funded a number of individual agencies who provide specific services to children and youth, the new model will create “Family Connection Centres,” as a sort of one-stop hub for families.

In the Central Okanagan/Kelowna region, one of the four regions chosen for this new model, the province chose Arc Programs Ltd. to run the new centre. ARC was awarded a three-year contract at $14.4 million per year. The five-year budget for the new system works out to $72 million.

As a result of the new model, other agencies like Starbright that have previously been funded by the government will lose that funding.

Meise said Monday they have proposed a solution to the provincial government that would see Starbright continue to deliver services to children aged from zero to kindergarten, while older children would be transitioned to the new system.

“Kindergarten has always been a natural transition point for children receiving our services, so transitioning to the pilot [Family Connection Centres] model would not be as difficult for the children and families compared to transitioning at an earlier stage. It is the early years of intense intervention that is so critical to our wee ones meeting their developmental milestones.”

The idea has been presented to both Premier David Eby and Opposition Leader Kevin Falcon, along with invites for both to visit the centre.

“It will be disheartening, frustrating, and disappointing if government will not consider the solution proposed,” Meise said.

Starbright has been delivering services in Kelowna for 57 years.

Meanwhile, the head of the agency running the new system in Kelowna, ARC Programs Ltd., says parents and families have nothing to worry about and their needs will be accommodated.

“There's a significant population of folks out there that will get service they couldn't get it before or will get different services that they couldn't get before,” said ARC CEO Shane Picken.

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