There remains a lot of unknowns on what will happen to programs and services when central Alberta’s Parent Link Centres cease to exist in their current form next spring.
When the provincial government announced its budget on Oct. 23, it was learned that the UCP planned to save money by eliminating Parent Link Centres as they stand now and launch a realigned system of services the government it’s calling Family Resource Networks.
Cora Hoekstra, regional director for Central Parkland Parent Link which includes Ponoka, explained that the current programming and facilities of Parent Link Centres will continue until the funding contract ends on Mar. 31, 2020.
“The reality is that Lacombe and District FCSS is the funding agency and that grant will end in March,” stated Hoekstra in a phone interview, who is also a councillor of the City of Lacombe.
“In a nutshell, it is the end of one way of service and the beginning of another similar and expanded process.”
Hoekstra admitted the process will be painful with many unknowns, however the province is hoping for more consistent programming and services across the province.
“In central Alberta, parents knew where to get services, the process and who was delivering them,” she said, adding the new structure will deliver programs to children until they are 18.
“We don’t know what agencies will apply and be approved for this new three year contract or if their vision is what our visioning was. And it stands to reason that, with no increase in funding and providing services to more children, there will likely be less services.”
Lauren Armstrong, the press secretary for the Minister of Children’s Services, explained in an emailed statement that nothing is being eliminated, but that the hope is to save millions by inviting service providers to apply under the new program.
“Parent Link Centres have not been eliminated, nor have Family Resource Centres or home visitation services. Instead, we have launched a new Expression of Interest process to consolidate and re-align the way prevention and early intervention services are delivered across the province,” the statement said.
“The new Family Resource Networks will rectify the service gap that can exist after age six and align with the precedent-setting Well Being and Resiliency Framework to help at-risk kids grow up to lead productive and meaningful lives.”
The statement added that while the ministry can’t presume the outcome of the process, it’s believed many of the current providers will win contracts under the new funding deal with the government estimating a savings of $12 million.