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Major Partners. What is UEY?. A national initiative funded by Human Resources and Social Development Canada (HRSDC). Enables community members to understand the needs of young children and their families. Enables community members to work together to address those needs.

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What is UEY?

  • A national initiative funded by Human Resources and Social Development Canada (HRSDC).
  • Enables community members to understand the needs of young children and their families.
  • Enables community members to work together to address those needs.
  • Seeks to answer the question, “What family and community factors affect children’s readiness to learn at school?”
  • Looks at kindergarten children through the use of a teacher-completed questionnaire (EDI) and a more in-depth assessment of a sample of parents and children (PIDACS).

Principles of UEY

  • The early years are critical for children’s development and well-being.
  • A child’s family and community are key influences on overall development.
  • Research and knowledge are needed to guide programs and policies that enhance early childhood development.
  • Effective communities engage their citizens and utilize resources in creative collaborative ways to address challenges.

Benefits of an Understanding the Early Years Project

For Parents and Children:

  • Helps decision-makers to better understand the needs of children and families in our city.
  • Helps parents better understand ways to enhance their children’s development.

For Communities:

  • Provides a catalyst to work together on behalf of families and children.

For Educators:

  • Helps determine the factors that impact on children’s readiness to learn and success upon arrival at school.
  • Can provide information to guide decision-making.

For Non-Governmental Organizations:

  • Encourages collaboration and partnering to improve the effectiveness of program and service delivery.

For Governments:

  • Informs policy and program development related to early childhood development and community engagement.

Benefits of an Understanding the Early Years Project (cont’d)



UEY Red Deer has a contribution agreement, with funding of $358,660 provided over approximately three years. The funds support:

  • Full time community coordinator
  • Researchers/mapping technician
  • Communications and knowledge dissemination
  • Community engagement activities
  • Community Mapping Report
  • Community Action Plan

Funding (cont’d)

Additional funds from HRSDC are earmarked to:

  • Hire independent researchers who will work with the schools.
  • Cover teacher replacement costs during training and data collection times.

Key Components of UEY

  • Gathering Information
  • Children’s development and experiences
  • Early Development Instrument (EDI)
  • Parent Interviews and Direct Assessment of Children (PIDACS)
  • Inventory of community programs and services
  • Local socio-economic characteristics
  • B. Building Knowledge
  • Community Research Report and EDI Report
  • Community Mapping Report
  • Community Action Plan
  • C. Enabling Communities
  • Transferring knowledge
  • Working together to act on the knowledge
  • Strengthening the ability to make decisions

Findings from Previous UEY Communities:

  • No one family or community factor is the magic answer for improving children’s development.
  • Positive childhood outcomes are found in families that function well in the following areas:
    • Parents who use positive approaches to parenting.
    • Families who are involved in learning activities.
    • Families who utilize community programs and resources.
    • Families who are in good mental health.
    • Families who have a high level of social support and live in communities where neighbours support each other.

What has UEY Research Shown?


Findings from Previous UEY Communities (cont’d):

  • An increased community understanding of the importance of the early years.
  • An increase in community involvement in early childhood development from parents, educators, businesses, governments.
  • New and strengthened relationships with communities.

What has UEY Research Shown?


Accomplishments in Previous UEY Communities

  • New playgrounds
  • Pre-school programs increased
  • Community ‘Champions’ identified and engaged
  • Re-organization of Ontario Early Years Centres’ programs
  • Cross-sector coalition to address addiction issues
  • Food charter
  • Mom’s Groups
  • Readiness centers and literacy program

Accomplishments in Previous UEY Communities (cont’d)

  • Information portfolio: Understanding and Supporting Early Childhood Development
  • Story telling program
  • Calendars highlighting early childhood activities
  • Booklet for parents
  • Inventory for Francophone families in Manitoba
  • Collaboration on local parenting TV show
  • Collaboration on Aboriginal Elders DVD for families about cultural heritage

UEY Red Deer Key Players

  • Recipient OrganizationFamily Services of Central Alberta, Walter Lidster, Executive Director Laurie Lafortune, Community Coordinator
  • Community CoalitionThe Children’s Working Group and the UEY Steering Committee
  • ResearchersDr. Donna Morrison, with Raj Navaratnam and Nigel Stuart from Red Deer College
  • School DistrictsRed Deer Catholic Regional Schools Red Deer Public Schools
  • Human Resources and Social Development Canada
  • Independent Contractors (hired by HRSDC)

Role of the Schools

Early Development Instrument and the Parent Interviews and Direct Assessments of Children are the two instruments used to collect data.

The school districts will support the data collection process by:

  • Providing needed information to contractors to carry out the data collection
  • Facilitating the contractors’ meetings with schools and teachers
  • Facilitating the distribution and collection of the parent letter and consent form, including follow up as necessary to reach new parents to the city or non-responding parents
  • Assisting with organizing kindergarten teacher training sessions and determining teacher reimbursement rates

Role of the Schools (cont’d)

  • Distributing teacher packages to the schools
  • Collecting completed EDI questionnaires and returning to coordinator
  • Providing space for direct assessments in the PIDACS collection
  • Providing a list of families interested in participating in the in-depth assessments.

Time Frames and Activities

May 2007 – March 2008 (Completed)

  • Hired project staff
  • Developed Communications and Knowledge Transfer Plan
  • Conducted inventory of community programs and services
  • Completed Community Mapping Report, with socio-economic data and inventory of community programs and services data (no EDI or PIDACS data for this first version)
  • Developed parent information letter and permission forms about the UEY project
  • Developed presentation materials

Time Frames and Activities (cont’d)

April 2008 – March 2009

  • Ensure EDI and PIDACS data collection is completed
    • Participate in EDI and PIDACS information sessions
    • Liaise with contractors and schools as requested during data collections
  • Continue to develop reader-friendly research products

Time Frames and Activities (cont’d)

April 2009 – March 2010

  • Receive Early Development Instrument Report from the Offord Centre at McMaster University
  • Receive Community Research Report from independent contractor
  • Continue to develop and share reader-friendly research dissemination products
  • Develop Community Action Plan
  • Complete final results-based research report

Ongoing Activities Throughout the Project

  • Work with the community to develop an understanding of and commitment to the UEY project
  • Support and strengthen the community coalition
  • Communicate the importance of the early years
  • Share UEY project results on an ongoing basis
  • Develop tools and products to assist parents and others to better understand early childhood development


Human Resources and Social Development

Family Services of Central


Research Activities

Research is critical to UEY Red Deer as it:

  • Provides information on children’s development and well-being
  • Generates knowledge of what helps the early development of children: the extent and nature of family and community factors
  • Identifies challenges that children and families are facing and gaps in programs and services for families
  • Mobilizes communities to create effective, creative, comprehensive responses to identified needs

The Early Development Instrument (EDI)

  • Developed by the Offord Centre for Child Studies at McMaster University
  • Completed by kindergarten teachers for each child in their classes
  • Designed to assess how children are faring as a group in a community in the following five domains of early development: 1. Physical health and well-being 2. Social competence 3. Emotional maturity 4. Language and cognitive development 5. Communication skills and general knowledge
  • Examines how well children are prepared to participate in school activities

Sample EDI Questions

How would you rate this child’s:

  • Level of energy throughout the school day?
  • Ability to tell a story?
  • Ability to get along with peers?

Would you say that this child:

  • Is able to write simple sentences?
  • Follows directions?
  • Appears fearful or anxious?

Collecting the EDI Data

  • Carried out in Red Deer schools from January to March 2009
  • Collected on all kindergarten children in Public and Catholic schools (with parental consent for participation)
  • Parents to be informed of the research and required to provide consent to participation and use of data collected for the community
  • Kindergarten teachers to be trained to administer the EDI

Parent Interviews and Direct Assessments of Children (PIDACS)

  • Uses instruments designed and adapted for five-year-olds in the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth (NLSCY)
  • Has two complementary components; parent questionnaire and three direct assessments of children
  • Collects information from a parent or guardian regarding: kindergarten child’s development, family, child care and other community experiences (1 hour telephone interview)
  • Child completes three activities to assess his or her cognitive development: identifies pictures, reproduces shapes, and works with numbers (30 minutes with an assessor, at school )

Sample PIDACS Questions

During the past 12 months, how many weeks did you do any work at a job or business?

What is the highest level of education that you have ever attained?

Agree or Disagree About your Family:

  • In times of crisis, we can turn to each other for support
  • We avoid discussing our fears or concerns

How Often do You (or your spouse):

  • Read aloud to _____ or listen to him read?
  • Sing songs with him?
  • Teach him to read words?

Direct Assessments of Children-Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-Revised (PPVT-R)

  • Developed by Lloyd and Leota Dunn at the University of Hawaii
  • Widely used to assess receptive or hearing vocabulary for any age group (2 ½ years to adult)
  • Children with low scores are at risk of experiencing difficulties in learning to read
  • The test requires the child to identify one of the four pictures on a card at hearing a word spoken by the assessor
  • Pictures and words become progressively difficult as the test continues

Direct Assessments of Children-Who Am I?

  • Developed by Molly de Lemos and colleagues at the Australian Council for Educational Research
  • Used with children from 3 to 7 years of age and in UEY, kindergarten children enrolled in schools
  • Assesses the cognitive processes underlying early literacy and numeracy skills
  • Consists of three scales: symbols (circle, cross, square, triangle, and diamond); copying (printing name, letters, numbers, words, and sentences); and drawing (a picture of self)
  • The child completes as many tasks as he or she can in a booklet while the assessor turns the pages and gives instructions

Direct Assessments of Children-Number Knowledge Test

  • Developed originally by Robbie Case at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), University of Toronto and later shortened for NLSCY (National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth)
  • Used with children from about 3 ½ to 10 ½ years of age
  • Assesses understanding of quantity (more or less) and the system of whole numbers (number sequence and simple arithmetic)
  • Children with this intuitive knowledge generally do well in math
  • Children without this knowledge, or working in non-mother-tongue, often have difficulty demonstrating number sense and mastering basic arithmetic
  • The test, administered orally, continues until the child fails to correctly answer more than half the problems in a level

Data Collection Considerations

  • Participation is voluntary, but crucial, to ensure the collection of accurate data.
  • Privacy is always an important concern:
    • all information collected is kept confidential and used for only statistical purposes, at a neighbourhood (EDI) or community level
    • data-sharing agreements will accompany the data files when they are provided to the UEY recipient organization

The Community Mapping Report

  • Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software used to create maps using data from three sources: 1. Community-level Census and other data 2. The local Inventory of Programs and Services for families of young children 3. Data on children’s development (EDI data)
  • Report may also include a description of the community and an analysis of the maps
  • Developed by each community – without EDI data for first version

Local Socio-Economic Characteristics:Census Data

  • Census data at specific community or neighbourhood levels indicates the socio-economic context of communities, in the areas of employment rate, average income level, education level of parents, family status, residents’ mobility, language, home ownership, immigrant population, and reliance on government transfers
  • This data can be mapped by local UEY staff

Insights from Community Mapping

  • Gathers information on:
    • Physical and socio-economic characteristics of the neighbourhoods in which children live
    • Kinds of programs and services that are available to children aged six (6) and younger and where these programs are located
  • Helps gain a greater understanding of:
    • Whether resources are in close proximity to where children live
    • Whether there is equitable distribution of key resources
    • The most effective way for the community to plan, prioritize and allocate resources for child development

Analyzing the Research Results

The results of the three research activities (EDI, PIDACS, and Community Mapping) are analyzed to:

  • Measure children’s early development before they enter school
  • Show how family and community influences have an impact on child development in the early years
  • Profile the types and availability of community resources for families and children
  • Assess how well the needs of families with young children are being met
  • Learn more about how research can be used at the local level to bring about improvements for children

Research, Knowledge, Action

The Community Action Plan, a key product of the local UEY project:

  • Involves collaboration with the community coalition and other community members interested in improving children’s well-being
  • Is based on results of the local research
  • Outlines concrete measures that community members can take to address gaps in programs and services identified by the research
  • Aims to provide the best possible approaches to meet the needs of their young children


Human Resources and Social Development

Family Services of Central