Kelowna Child Development Center strives to shine in the face of closure

There is still much uncertainty about the future of Kelowna’s Starbright Children’s Development Center and what its potential closure could mean for the families who rely on its specialized services.

Although Starbright has received transitional funding from the province to stay open until the end of June, what will happen after that is unclear.

“We are heartbroken,” said Dr. Rhonda Nelson, Executive Director. “Our agency has been a service hub for decades and we know how to structure services to meet the needs of children.”

Part of Starbright’s mission statement is to “…support the growth and development of children with exceptional developmental needs through early intervention services and empower their families…”

That mission is now under threat after the provincial government changed its service model to support neurodivergent children and their families.

It has moved from an individualized funding model for families to a needs-based community hub model.

Pilot programs for Family Connection Centers (FCCs) will serve the central Okanagan (Kelowna) and three other regions in the spring, with province-wide implementation planned for 2024.

Starbright submitted a request for proposals months ago to become one of these FCCs.

“We knew that with such a massive change, we had to come up with a workable proposal that would be something the province could consider,” Nelson added.

It was on January 5 of this year that Starbright learned that the FCC contract had been awarded to Arc Programs.

“It’s been very upsetting for the Starbright families and staff,” Nelson said. “They are extremely worried.”

One of his main concerns if Starbright were to close is support and services for children up to age six, particularly as they transition into the school system.

“To grow as best they can, to learn the skills they will need.”

She suggested the solution might be a service match, one FCC for children up to six and another for those six and older.

“This solution has been offered by different groups, by families, by other service providers, so we’re hoping.”

Relative Mohini Singh, who is also a councilman, is a strong Starbright supporter.

The organization supported her daughter 17 years ago when she was five.

“The hard work they did helped my daughter, helped me, helped my family. Within a year, she started going to kindergarten,” she explained.

Singh added that she was shocked to learn that Starbright was likely to close.

“A lot of parents go through a lot of anxiety. This center is truly a lifesaver.

Over the years, Singh, along with other members and community groups, including the Kelowna Professional Firefighters Association, have raised money for Starbright to cover the cost of equipment and other items not provided by provincial funding. .

“When I turn to someone for help with Starbright, there’s no doubt because this center is doing such a great job,” she added. “We believed in the success of Starbright.”

Nelson invited Premier David Eby to visit Starbright to see the support and services it offers families.

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Child AdvocateChild CareKelownaProvincial Government


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