Creating quality time for children and families, and better outcomes in the process

Two years ago, the Kinark Outdoor Centre (KOC) partnered with Tri-County Community Support Services and Point in Time Centre for Children, Youth and Parents to create a unique program for families whose children present with complex developmental, behavioural and emotional conditions.

The new program, which is funded for three years by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, combines Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA)-style training for parents with respite services. The goal is to determine whether youth with complex needs experience better outcomes when treatment is paired with parents getting a break (respite). Outcomes are being monitored and results will be compiled at the end of the program.

Since its start in 2016, partner agencies have offered seven five-day sessions for 70 families, including parents, the child in service with one of the three partner agencies, and their siblings. By the end of 2019, the initiative will have served 150 families living in Durham, Kawartha Lakes, Haliburton and Northumberland counties.

“For many parents this is the first that they’ve been away as a family and participated in family activities together,” says KOC Program Director and Business Manager, Jane Isbister.

“To hear families say that they’re having fun together for the first time and learning so much in the parent training is very satisfying. It’s exactly what we were trying to do – to create a unique opportunity for families in our area by bringing together the resources of each individual agency.”

Equally as important, she says, is when children have had such a successful time on their own during the respite component of the program that they jokingly hide under their beds before pick-up so they don’t have to leave. “It’s a true testament to the safe and caring environment our staff creates and, I think, a really neat indication that something new – a positive change – has occurred.”

The five-day program is available to families living in Durham, Kawartha Lakes, Haliburton and Northumberland who have a child in service at any of the three partner agencies. The program includes training at KOC for the whole family, followed by a weekend of respite at KOC for the child.

While parents participate in the clinical ABA training, children with complex needs and their siblings take part in recreational programming provided by KOC staff. After three days of training, parents and siblings head back home, leaving their child in service at KOC.

For details and to register for future sessions, visit KOC’s website.